Sleep disorders underreported, commonly untreated among patients with cerebral palsy

A recent study conducted at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minn., found children with cerebral palsy may also be affected by sleep disorders. Study results are published online in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology.

According to a press release from Gillette, researchers found children with cerebral palsy (CP) were more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea, especially when their CP was severe or combined with epilepsy. In addition, results showed children with CP were more likely to be accurately diagnosed with a sleep disorder if they were routinely screened with a questionnaire.

The study was led by John Garcia, MD, a sleep medicine specialist at Gillette. Garcia said sleep disorders are underdiagnosed among CP patients, which is a problem because children with sleep disorders who go without proper treatment were more likely to experience seizures, contract respiratory illnesses and have less improvement from treatments.

“This is a vulnerable population to begin with, so the stakes are higher,” Garcia said in the release. “Obstructive sleep disorders make life tough for anybody, but even more so for kids who have CP.”

A patient undergoes sleep disorder screening at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare.

A patient undergoes sleep disorder screening at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.

Source: Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare


Sleep disorders may need to be treated with upper airway surgery or the use of a continuous positive airway pressure device. Treatment can allow patients to experience measurable improvements including fewer seizures, better health and increased mobility, according to the release.

For the Gillette study, Garcia and colleagues distributed a questionnaire to patients with CP and found patients who answered more than one-third of the surveys 20 questions positively had an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea. The questionnaire helped researchers identify the risk of sleep disorders, and they propose sleep disorder screening be conducted for all patients with CP.

 “Anyone who has CP should be screened for a sleep disorder; it should be standard practice,” Garcia said. “We can improve quality of life for our patients.”



Garcia J, et al. Dev Med Child Neurol. 2016;doi:10.1111/dmcn.13091.

Disclosure: The researchers report the study was funded by the Gillette Foundation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.