Elevated lead levels and sleep disturbance in young children: Preliminary findings

J. Owens-Stively, A. Spirito, M. Arrigan, A. Alario, A. Sadeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To examine the association between an elevated lead burden, as measured by venous blood lead levels, and parent-reported sleep disturbances in young children between the ages of 12 and 72 months. Design: Cross-sectional assessment study. Setting: Primary care clinic and pediatric lead clinic in a children's teaching hospital. Sample: Seventy-five patients, aged 12-72 months, were consecutively selected during appointments for primary care/well child care at a primary care clinic (n = 56) or pediatric lead clinic (n = 19) in a children's teaching hospital over a three month period. Subjects were divided into low (venous lead ≤ 10 μg/dl) and moderate/high (venous lead > 10 μg/dl) groups according to two criteria: mean lead level during 12-36 months of age, and peak lifetime lead level. Measurement: The subjects' medical records were reviewed and all venous lead levels and Hgb/Hct levels were recorded. Parents completed a standardized 22 item questionnaire, the Children's Sleep Behavior Scale (CSBS), assessing sleep disturbances in children. Results: After controlling for a history of anemia, there were significant differences between a moderate/high and low mean 12-36 month lead level on the total CSBS score, as well as the subscale with items reflecting night wakings. Conclusions/clinical implications: An elevated lead burden during the period of 12-36 months of age was clinical implications associated with sleep disturbances, especially night wakings, identified up to four years later. If these preliminary findings are confirmed in a prospective, longitudinal study, clinicians should be alert to possible sleep problems in preschoolers exposed to lead at a young age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-229
Number of pages9
JournalAmbulatory Child Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Children
  • Lead
  • Parasomnias
  • Sleep disturbance


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