Asthma Linked To Lack of Sleep, Bad Grades
by Zoe Camp
For the 7.1 million children in the U.S. living with asthma, life can be miserable: the coughing, the wheezing, the shortness of breath.
It’s reasonable that this discomfort might translate into difficulty at school and play.
A new Brown University study confirms that the troubling symptoms of asthma can have a negative impact on a child’s ability to get a good night’s sleep and perform well in school.
The study, which will be presented at the American Thoracic Society’s 2013 International Conference, included data on 170 parent-child pairs from African-American, Latino, and non-Latino white backgrounds, living in the Providence, RI metropolitan area.
Using spirometry (a measurement of the amount and speed of air exhaled from the lungs) and written records maintained by the parent-child pairs, the researchers assessed the children’s asthma symptoms over three 30-day monitoring periods.
At the same time, they also monitored sleep quality and academic performance, through the use of actigraphy (a measurement of motor activity used to estimate sleep levels) and teacher reports, respectively.
Observations of the study
When the Brown researchers compared the asthmatic children alongside their non-asthmatic peers according to these criteria, they observed some significant changes.
According to teacher reports, children with poorly-controlled asthma did not do as well on their assignments, and made more careless errors in their work.
The scientists hypothesize that this may be due to poorer sleep quality; the children suffering from asthma reported higher levels of sleep onset latency (in other words, took longer to fall asleep), creating a sleep deficiency that proved detrimental to their studies.
The study suggests an urgent need to extend effective asthma treatment programs to urban and ethnic minority children, who often lack the same quality of care as suburban, non-minority youths.
"Urban and ethnic minority children are at an increased risk for high levels of asthma morbidity and frequent health care utilization due to asthma," said Daphne Koinis-Mitchell, the study’s lead researcher and an associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics research at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island.
"Given the high level of asthma burden in these groups, and the effects that urban poverty can have on the home environments and the neighborhoods of urban families, it is important to identify modifiable targets for intervention."
The experiment emphasizes the importance of a collaborative effort when it comes to tackling asthma and its negative impact on school, sleep, and life in general.
As Alexandra Sifferlin points out in a TIME magazine article on the subject:
Parents can help by monitoring their child's symptoms regularly, communicating with their children, and consulting a health care professional if their condition worsens to the point that it interferes with their academic performance. Teachers, too, can play a key role in the process, by reaching out to the parents of pupils who appear to be dozing off in class or struggling with their symptoms.
Through the combined efforts of parents, teachers, kids, and researchers, asthma need not interfere with a child’s right to a good night’s sleep, a good education, and most importantly, a good childhood!
About the Author: Zoe Camp
Zoe Camp is an avid blogger for justnebulizers.com and a student at Columbia University who spends her time researching and writing about health care, specifically pulmonary health issues and pediatric news.