Dexamethasone alters sleep and fatigue in pediatric patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Pamela S. Hinds, Marilyn J. Hockenberry, Jami S. Gattuso, Deo Kumar Srivastava, Xin Tong, Heather Jones, Nancy West, Kathy S. McCarthy, Avi Sadeh, Monica Ash, Cheryl Fernandez, Ching Hon Pui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND. Dexamethasone improves the cure rate of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) but causes physical and behavioral adverse events. The objective of the current study was to determine the effect of dexamethasone exposure on sleep and fatigue in pediatric patients with ALL. METHODS. One hundred pediatric patients with low-risk or standard-risk ALL were enrolled on 1 of 3 protocols (St. Jude Total XV Children's Oncology Group [COG] 9904, or COG 9905) at 3 institutions. The mean age of the cohort was 9.24 ± 3.23 years (range, 5.03-18.14 years). The majority of patients were white (79%) males (62%) with standard-risk ALL (63%). The cohort was divided into 4 subgroups: St. Jude low-risk, St. Jude standard-risk, COG low-risk, and COG standard-risk. Patients wore a wrist actigraph to monitor sleep activity during 2 consecutive 5-day periods: During the first period, they did not receive dexamethasone; and, during the second period, they did. Patients and their parents completed fatigue instruments on Days 2 and 5 of each period, and parents completed sleep diaries. RESULTS. Actual sleep minutes, sleep duration, total daily nap minutes, and fatigue increased significantly during the dexamethasone treatment for 3 to 4 of the subgroups. Total daily nap minutes increased significantly for both standard-risk groups during the dexamethasone treatment. Parents reported significant increases in their child's nighttime awakenings, restless sleep, and nap time during dexamethasone treatment. CONCLUSIONS. Dexamethasone treatment during continuation therapy for childhood ALL significantly and adversely altered sleep and fatigue, confirming that sleep and fatigue are behavioral responses to dexamethasone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2321-2330
Number of pages10
Issue number10
StatePublished - 15 Nov 2007


  • Actigraphy
  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • Dexamethasone
  • Fatigue
  • Pediatric sleep
  • Sleep diary


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