Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)’s Department of Psychology have found that serious sleep disorders in toddlers can have long-term consequences.
About 1,000 toddlers were interviewed for the study, which showed that 4-year-olds with sleep disorders have a higher risk of developing symptoms of psychiatric problems as 6-year-olds, compared with children who sleep well, according to a ScienceNordic article.
As to whether poor sleep causes psychiatric problems or psychiatric problems cause poor sleep, the findings from the study suggest that the relationship goes both ways, the article notes.
“It is common for children to have periods when they sleep poorly, but for some children, the problems are so extensive that they constitute a sleep disorder. 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,” says Silje Steinsbekk, an associate professor and psychologist in NTNU’s Department of Psychology. Results also showed that the correlation between sleep disorders and psychiatric disorders develops over time.
NTNU researchers conducted diagnostic interviews with the parents of the children participating in the study. Parents of about 800 of these children were interviewed again two years later. The comprehensive study is part of a longitudinal study in Trondheim that examines the incidence, progression and risk factors for the development of mental health problems in children. The project conducts follow-up visits with the children and their parents every other year.
Researchers engaged in more detailed interviews rather than simply using questionnaires, as has been the case with previous studies of children’s sleep disorders. “In the diagnostic interview, we ask parents questions until we are confident that we have enough information to assess whether a symptom is present or not. The information we’ve collected is more reliable than information obtained from the questionnaire,” says Steinsbekk.