Effect of childhood eczema and asthma on parental sleep and well-being: a prospective comparative study

Br J Dermatol. 2006 Mar;154(3):514-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2005.07082.x.


Background: The psychological impact of childhood atopic eczema on parents and carers is poorly quantified. Objectives To compare the impact of caring for a child with atopic eczema vs. asthma on parents' sleep and well-being.

Methods: Ninety-two parents of 55 children who had moderate to severe atopic eczema or asthma took part in this prospective, questionnaire-based study. It was conducted at regional eczema and asthma outpatient clinics within a U.K. tertiary paediatric hospital. The main outcome measures were the number and duration of parents' sleep disturbances, as well as their anxiety and depression scores.

Results: Mothers caring for children with atopic eczema lost a median of 39 min of sleep per night and fathers lost 45 min sleep per night. This compared with a median of 0 min sleep lost by parents who had children with asthma (P < 0.001). These differences were independent of the age of the children, and whether the child came from a single-parent or two-parent family. There was a direct correlation between the severity of sleep disturbance and the level of maternal anxiety (rho = 0.58; P = 0.002) and depression (rho = 0.73; P < 0.001), as well as the level of paternal anxiety (rho = 0.59; P = 0.01).

Conclusions: Compared with looking after a child with chronic asthma, caring for a child with chronic atopic eczema was associated with greater parental sleep disturbances. Disruption to parental sleep correlated with anxiety levels and, in the case of mothers, depression scores.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Asthma / nursing*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Depression / etiology
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / nursing*
  • Family Health*
  • Female
  • Home Nursing / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology*