BACKGROUND: Survivors of childhood brain tumors are prone to sleep and neurocognitive problems. Effective interventions to improve neurocognitive functioning are largely lacking. In general, sleep problems are negatively related to neurocognitive functioning, but this relationship is unclear in survivors of childhood brain tumors. Therefore, the occurrence of sleep problems, potential risk factors, and the relation between sleep and executive functioning were evaluated.
PROCEDURE: Baseline data of a randomized controlled trial on the effectiveness of neurofeedback were used. Childhood brain tumor survivors 8-18 years of age with parent-reported neurocognitive complaints ≥2 years after treatment were eligible. Parents completed the Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children. Executive functioning was assessed by parents and teachers (Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning). Multiple linear regression analyses were used to examine sociodemographic and medical characteristics and emotional difficulties and hyperactivity/inattention (Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire) as potential risk factors for sleep problems, and to assess the association between sleep and executive functioning.
RESULTS: Forty-eight percent of survivors (n = 82, 7.0 ± 3.6 years post diagnosis, age 13.8 ± 3.2 years) had sleep problems and scored significantly worse than the norm on the subscales Initiating and Maintaining Sleep, Excessive Somnolence, and the total scale (effect sizes 0.58-0.92). Emotional problems and/or hyperactivity/inattention were independent potential risk factors. Sleep problems were associated with worse parent-reported executive functioning.
CONCLUSIONS: Sleep problems occur among half of childhood brain tumor survivors with neurocognitive problems, and are associated with worse executive functioning. Future studies should focus on the development of sleep interventions for this population, to improve sleep as well as executive functioning.