Lead researcher Avi Sadeh from Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel said, "Many parents feel that, after a night without enough sleep, their infants are not at their 'best.' But the real concern is whether infant sleep problems - fragmented sleep, frequent night wakings - indicate any future developmental problems. The fact that poor infant sleep predicts later attention and behavior irregularities has never been demonstrated before using objective measure.,"
The research team assessed the sleep patterns of 87 one-year-old children and their parents. They used wristwatch-like devices to objectively determine sleep patterns at the age of one, and in the follow-up visits when the infants were three to four years old, they used a computerized attention test to assess attention problems. The team also referred to parental reports to determine signs of behavioral problems.
The results suggested that infant sleep are linked to toddler attention regulation and behavior problems. Sadeh said, "There may be genetic or environmental causes adversely affecting both the children's sleep and their development in other domains. Our findings, however, support the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of sleep problems in infants and young children."
The study was published in Developmental Neuropsychology.