Children who sleep less may be more likely to report symptoms of anxiety, depression and aggression later in life, according to a report in the April issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, a theme issue on children and sleep.
"Sleep problems are risk indicators of later emotional difficulties in childhood and adolescence and in adulthood," according to background information in the article. "For knowledge concerning links between sleep problems and later emotional and behavioral difficulties to be maximally beneficial to the physician, clarification of which particular sleep problems are associated with later difficulties is paramount."
Alice M. Gregory, Ph.D., of the University of London, and colleagues collected sleep data on 2,076 children who were ages 4 to 16 at the beginning of the study. Parents rated their children's sleep and behaviors on various scales and children later reported their own emotional and behavioral symptoms at ages 18 to 32.
Children having parental reports of sleeping less than others had high scores on scales measuring anxiety, depression and aggressive behavior. "There was some (albeit less robust) support for links between other reported sleep difficulties [such as overtiredness and trouble sleeping] and later problems," the authors note. "Parental reports of sleeping more than others and nightmares were not associated with later difficulties."
"The results suggest that children reported to sleep for short periods may be at risk for later difficulties," the authors conclude. "Physicians should inquire about sleep problems during child development and should be aware that some, but perhaps not others, may constitute risk indicators of later difficulties."
(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008;162:330-335. Available pre-embargo to the media at www.jamamedia.org.)
Editor's Note: Dr. Gregory was supported by a grant from the University of London Central Research Fund. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.