Childhood Sleep Disorders Linked to Long-Term Mental Health Problems

by Dr. Trupti Shirole on May 8 2015 7:45 AM

Childhood Sleep Disorders Linked to Long-Term Mental Health Problems
Children who suffer from insomnia have problem falling asleep and frequent waking. Other types of sleep disorders are hypersomnia, i.e. an extreme urge to sleep, and various cases of parasomnia, such as nightmares, night terrors and sleepwalking.
Revealing a clear correlation between sleep problems and psychiatric issues in children, a new study has found that serious sleep disorders in young children can have long-term consequences on them. The study revealed that four-year-old children with sleep disorders have a higher risk of developing symptoms of psychiatric problems as six-year-old kids, compared with children who sleep soundly.

Silje Steinsbekk, associate professor and psychologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), said, "Our research shows that it is important to identify children with sleep disorders, so that remedial measures can be taken. Sleeping badly or too little affects a child’s day-to-day functioning, but we are seeing that there are also long term repercussions."

The NTNU researchers conducted diagnostic interviews with the parents of the children who were participating in the study. The interview was based on the DSM-IV diagnostic manual, which contains the official diagnostic criteria of mental disorders. Over 1,000 four-year-old chidlren participated in the study and parents of around 800 of these children were interviewed again two years later.

A child who shows signs of anxiety or a behavioral disorder may easily end up in a vicious cycle, where conflict with adults triggers anxiety and in turn leads to trouble falling asleep. Steinsbekk said, "Given that so many children suffer from insomnia, and only just over half outgrow it, it is critical for us to be able to provide thorough identification and good treatment. The early treatment of mental health problems can also prevent the development of sleep disorders, since psychiatric symptoms increase the risk of developing insomnia."

The study is published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.


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