Docherty co-authored a 2003 paper on sleep in children with JRA. She also was part of a research team that found that children with JRA had less slow wave sleep than kids without arthritis.

“Slow-wave sleep is a restorative type of sleep where children get their rest and rejuvenation, and physiological functioning is renewed that affects their growth and development,” she says.

A person’s emotional state can also affect their sleep. Carol Landis, RN and professor at the University of Washington School of Nursing in Seattle is leading a study comparing sleep quality of children ages 6 to 11 with active arthritis to those with inactive arthritis.

“We’ll be looking at relationships between sleep quality, depression and anxiety,” says Landis. “It may be the kids who are more emotionally distressed that have worse sleep.”

Teens with many challenging high school classes and lots of homework or after school activities are at particular risk of not getting enough sleep. Dr. Klein-Gitelman sees some of her teen patients get into a cycle where they come home from school exhausted, take a two or three hour nap, then stay up late and don’t get enough sleep.

Huge Potential Impacts

Whatever fatigue’s origin, it can exact a large toll on a child’s quality of life. Fatigue can lead to daytime sleepiness, and trouble concentrating and staying awake in school. Landis’ study will look at how sleepy kids are during the day and how they perform in cognitive tests.

“If you’re fatigued you’re going to be irritable. You’re not going to interact with your friends or family as well. It’s harder to participate in athletics, your favorite hobbies and after-school activities, and to get your homework done. It just becomes this huge thing that sort of prevents you from being the person you are. So it really does affect every level of your day,” concludes Dr. Klein-Gitelman.

Talk to Your Doctor

If fatigue interferes with your child’s day-to-day functioning, you should bring it up to your rheumatologist. Depending upon the cause(s) of your child’s fatigue, here are some measures that may help:

Take control. First, address the arthritis. Perhaps making a change in medication or treatment plan can help. Talk with your doctor about options. Reduced inflammation may also lessen pain.