The price of pruritus: sleep disturbance and cosleeping in atopic dermatitis

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005 Aug;159(8):745-50. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.159.8.745.


Background: Atopic dermatitis is a common skin disorder that most often begins in infancy. Sleep disturbances in children with atopic dermatitis are likely due to itching and scratching and not only impact the afflicted child but may also affect the entire family. Sleep characteristics in young children with atopic dermatitis and their families have not been thoroughly investigated.

Objective: To evaluate sleep disturbance and cosleeping in young children with atopic dermatitis and evaluate the association between sleep characteristics and features of the disease.

Design and methods: Parents of 300 children ranging in age from birth to 6 years with atopic dermatitis responded to 4 questions about sleep characteristics of their child and family. Analyses determined the prevalence of reported sleep disturbance and cosleeping, and their association with features of the patients and disease severity.

Results: Sleep disturbance attributed to atopic dermatitis was common; most parents (> 60%) reported that the dermatitis affected how well they or their child slept. Cosleeping because of the skin condition was reported by 30% of families, and most of these parents (66%) were bothered by the cosleeping. Sleep disturbance and cosleeping were directly associated with severity of atopic dermatitis and with the degree to which parents reported that the atopic dermatitis affected the child and family's happiness.

Conclusions: Sleep disturbances were more common in children with atopic dermatitis than have been reported in children overall. These results demonstrate important sequelae of a very common childhood condition that warrant further investigation and the development of intervention strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / physiopathology*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / psychology
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Quality of Life
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires