Sleep Disturbance in School-Aged Children with Atopic Dermatitis: Prevalence and Severity in a Cross-Sectional Sample

J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2021 Aug;9(8):3120-3129.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2021.04.064. Epub 2021 May 12.


Background: Atopic dermatitis (AD) causes sleep disturbance but the epidemiology is not known.

Objective: To estimate the US prevalence of sleep disturbance and its impact on psychological and neurocognitive function.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 180 parent-child dyads with AD using stratified sampling based on disease severity (Patient Oriented Eczema Measure: mild [n = 30), moderate (n = 75) or severe (n = 75]), age, and race (White or Black or African American or other). Symptoms of sleep and psychologic health were assessed using the Patient-Reported Outcome Measurement Information System. To estimate the prevalence of sleep disturbance, we calculated weights using poststratification adjustment making marginal frequencies of AD severity, race, and age similar to marginal frequencies in the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health. Unweighted regression models examined associations with sleep disturbance.

Results: In children age 5 to 17 years with AD, we estimated that sleep disturbance occurred in 66.9% (95% confidence interval, 53.3% to 80.5%; 3,116,305 children). The odds of severe sleep disturbance (worse than 95% of US children) were highest in moderate to severe versus mild AD (2.03 [1.00-4.10]; P = .0495; compared with 8.68 [1.82-41.49]; P = .0068). Predictors of parent proxy-reported sleep disturbance were itch intensity (adjusted β [95% confidence interval] 1.33 [0.62-2.04]) and low income (<$50,000: 6.64 [2.05-11.23]; and $50,000 to less than 100,000: 4.75 [0.35-9.14]). Controlling for disease severity, itch intensity, and significant sociodemographics-parent-proxy, reported sleep disturbance was associated with increased severity of sleep-related impairment, depression, fatigue, and anxiety, in addition to worse inattention and impulsivity. In fully adjusted models, children who self-reported sleep disturbance (T-score ≥60) had increased odds of sleep-related impairment (1.20 [1.11-1.29]), depression (1.13 [1.03, 1.24]), fatigue (1.28 [1.06-1.54]), and anxiety (1.16 [1.02-1.31]).

Conclusions: Sleep disturbance is a common symptom of AD. It affects about 3 million US children and is associated with neuropsychiatric impairment, including depression, anxiety, and inattention. Clinicians should screen for these symptoms in school-aged children, particularly those with moderate to severe AD.

Keywords: Anxiety; Atopic dermatitis; Attention; Depression; Mental health; Neurocognitive function; PROMIS; Pediatric; Quality of life; Sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dermatitis, Atopic* / epidemiology
  • Eczema*
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Schools
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep