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Kids with Skin Rashes Tend to Wake More During the Night - and Not Just to Scratch, Study Finds

If your kid is susceptible to allergic skin rashes, you're used to hearing him or her scratching themselves during the night while they're trying to sleep. But, according to a new Israeli study, those scratching fits make up just a fraction of the interruptions to the child's sleeping pattern.
According to the study, reported in the March issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, children with atopic dermatitis - skin rashes - are about 60% more prone to be aroused or awoken from sleep than those who aren't afflicted. And through direct observation, video monitoring and scratch electrodes, only about 15% of the allergic kids' awakenings during the night are for scratching fits - the remainder are for a variety of interruptions such as sudden jerks, apnea or other problems.
The children in the study were monitored in two ways: through self-reported questionnaires filled out by their parents and by a night in a sleep lab with direct observation and use of electrodes. Fourteen kids were in the group a history of the skin disorder but who were diagnosed as having gotten over it, and nine others were in the control group.

The researchers say the children with atopic dermatitis interrupted their sleep as many as 19 times to scratch. Most scratching is done at the onset of sleep and during the less intense Phases I and II. In several instances, the researchers believe, the children were motivated to wake up by an itch similar to that of when there's a need to scratch, but not intense enough to actually scratch.

The researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel, say the two groups of children had similar sleep times and sleep efficiency. But they say the increased number of interruptions may be a factor in increased afternoon napping and during-the-day drowsiness of children with the affliction. Those problems can, in turn, lead to learning disabilities and daytime behavioral problems .

Treating the skin problems, and not the sleep problems, is favored by the researchers. They believe medications to improve sleep onset and continuity have not shown long-term effect. They also believe more study is needed to determine the exact relationship between the skin condition, sleep patterns and daytime functioning.

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