Parents of children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) may have impaired sleep compared to parents of children without DMD, according to a new study published in Sleep Health.

The researchers found that parents of children with DMD had worse sleep efficiency (mean, 84.47%) than parents of controls (mean, 87.79%; P =.048). The lower efficiency seen in the group with DMD was mostly due to a longer amount of time awake at night compared to the control group.

Both groups had similar average times or nocturnal awakenings, but the group with DMD had an average of 1.5 more awakenings per night than the control group. The difference between groups was also still observed in regression analysis after controlling for the parent’s age, child’s age, and average child awakenings.

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A regression model incorporating those 3 terms as well as which group (DMD or control) was also found to be significant (P =.048) with 38% of the variance accounted for by the variables. Parents in the group with DMD also scored as “poor sleepers” more frequently based on their scores on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

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As high as 50% of patients in the group with DMD had a score above 5 on the PSQI compared to only 23% of the control group. The difference between the 2 groups was strong but not statistically significant (P =.116; odds ratio =3.33).

“Upon finding significantly poorer sleep efficiency in parents of children with DMD, a difference that is sustained after controlling for key variables like age and child nocturnal awakenings, we highlight the importance of addressing parental sleep as an aspect of their standard of care,” the authors said.

“Caring for the parent not only improves their health, but also positively impacts the health and happiness of the child and family.”

A total of 41 parents were initially consented to the study, however, 1 parent withdrew for medical reasons and 2 parents did not complete data collection and were therefore excluded from the study. A total of 25 parents of children with DMD were included and 13 parents of children without DMD.

During the study, the parents and children were asked to wear a device to measure actigraphy for at least 1 month during usual sleeping hours. Parents were also asked to complete the PSQI to measure their self-reported sleep quality.


Hartman AG, McKendry S, Bendixen R. Comparing contributors of parental sleep health in families with and without a child with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Sleep Health. Published online December 16, 2021. doi:10.1016/j.sleh.2021.11.003