Objective: The aim of this study was to longitudinally characterize in children with epilepsy the objective and subjective sleep quality and the relationship between increased physical activity and sleep as well as measures of psychosocial well-being.
Methods: Baseline physical activity and sleep were established in children with epilepsy over four weeks, prior to a 12-week exercise intervention (weekly meeting with exercise counselor). Participants continuously wore a wrist pedometer (Fitbit Flex®) to capture daily number of steps, sleep efficiency, and total sleep time. The Early Childhood Epilepsy Severity Scale (E-Chess) assessed baseline epilepsy severity. Subjective sleep quality (Children’s Sleep Habits Questionnaire, CSHQ), quality of life (KIDSCREEN-27; Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory, PedsQL™, 4.0 Core), fatigue (PedsQL™ Multidimensional Fatigue Scale), depression (Children’s Depression Inventory-Short), and anxiety (Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children) were assessed pre- and post-interventions.
Results: Our cohort of 22 children with epilepsy aged 8-14 years was similarly active to peers (11,271 ± 3189 mean steps per day) and displayed normal sleeping patterns (mean sleep efficiency: 87.4% ± 3.08 and mean total sleep time: 521 ± 30.4). Epilepsy severity assessed by E-Chess was low to moderate (median baseline E-Chess score of 6, interquartile range: 5-7). Study outcomes did not change with the intervention. Older children and those with lower baseline activity were more likely to increase their activity during the intervention. Changes in physical activity were not associated with changes in sleep outcomes when accounting for age, sex, and baseline E-Chess score. Subjective sleep quality marginally improved with the intervention (CSHQ total score: 44.5 ± 5.8 at baseline and 41.6 ± 7.2 at the end of study, p = 0.05). Quality of life, fatigue, depression, and anxiety did not change with the intervention (p = 0.55, 0.60, 0.12, and 0.69, respectively).
Significance: Children with epilepsy who are as active as peers without epilepsy have good objective measures of sleep despite self-reported fatigue and parent-reported sleep problems. The physical activity of initially less active and older children with epilepsy may benefit from an exercise counseling intervention.
Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute