Childhood analysis

Sleep problems in early childhood linked to behavioral problems later in life

New research is shedding light on how sleep disturbances in early childhood can have a lasting impact on behavioral problems in children aged 10 to 11.

A team, led by Ariel A. Williamson, PhD, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Sleep Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, identified whether distinct trajectories of sleep problems from infancy to infancy were linked to multiple aspects of the well-being of the child at the age of 10 years. 11 years old.


Recent studies have shown that up to 40% of children experience behavioral sleep problems, including difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. These problems often coexist with behavioral health or neurodevelopmental problems, as well as with decreased psychological, social, cognitive, academic and physical well-being.

Specifically, behavioral sleep problems are linked to increased emotional and behavioral problems.

Although there has been research in this area, various knowledge gaps remain.

“For example, few studies have examined the continuity of sleep problems and their association with early childhood developmental outcomes, when behavioral sleep problems are most prevalent,” the authors wrote. “More research is needed to assess the impact of sleep problems from infancy to mid-childhood, especially since the first 10 to 11 years of life are a time of important developmental life. ‘child, with the acquisition of basic psychosocial and cognitive / academic skills and the transition into a formal school setting.

The study

The investigators used data from the first 6 waves of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children — Birth Cohort, which involved 5107 children recruited at birth.

Each caregiver included in the study reported the children’s sleep problems at each point in time and the investigator indexed the results to the well-being of children aged 10 to 11 using a combination of caregiver-reported tasks, reported by the teacher and carried out by the child. Results included emotional and behavioral functioning such as internalizing and externalizing symptoms and self-control, health-related quality of life, cognitive skills, and academic achievement.

They also identified 5 distinct trajectories of sleep problems over time using latent class analysis, including persistent sleep problems through mid-childhood (7.7% of the sample ), limited sleep problems in infants or preschoolers (9.0%), increased sleep problems in mid-childhood (17.0%). ), mild sleep problems over time (14.4%) and no sleep problems (51.9%).

The results show that children with persistent sleep problems had the most significant impairments for different outcomes, other than cognitive skills (perceptual reasoning), with moderate to large effect sizes.

On the other hand, children with increased sleep problems in mid-childhood also exhibited greater internalizing and externalizing symptoms with poorer quality of life. However, there were few academic impairments in this subgroup of patients.

Additionally, participants with limited sleep problems in infants or preschoolers and slight increases over time also showed internalizing issues and a worse quality of life reported by caregivers. These effects were weaker than the other sleep trajectories.

“The links between sleep problems and negative children’s outcomes across the board underscore the importance of early identification and targeted intervention to resolve sleep problems and promote child well-being.” , wrote the authors.

The study, “Longitudinal trajectories of sleep problems are associated with multiple alterations in child well-being, ”Was published online in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

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