Posted by & filed under Child Development, Consciousness, Disorders of Childhood, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, Uncategorized.

Description: There may be a reciprocal relationship between sleep disorders in toddlers and psychological problems both concurrently and in the future. The research discussed in this article suggests that causality may go both ways with sleep issues giving rise to psychological problems and vice verse. The relationship is likely complex and other factors may be involved in causing both of these conditions. Sorting them out and designing appropriate developmental intervention strategies are very important.

Source: The ShrinkRap: Children’s sleep and Mental Health are Related

Date: May 7, 2015

Toddlers sleep and mental health

Photo Credit: The ShrinkRap


Parents will tell you that a sleepless night caused by a sleepless child is nerve racking. Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20 to 40% of young children have some difficulties sleeping but the questions of how many of them may have some form of sleep disorder and how many of them either have co-occurring mental health issues or may go on to develop mental health issues is very difficult to address. The researchers who conducted the study discussed in this article started with 1000 4 year olds and followed them up after 2 years (gathering additional data for 800 of the original sample). The researchers conducted detailed diagnostic interviews with the children’s parents (rather than just sending them questionnaires) and as such were confident they gathered clearer data about children’s sleep issues and related mental health problems.

Insomnia in 4-year-olds was related to increases in the risk for symptoms of anxiety, depression, ADHD and behavioural problems when they were six years old. But as well, children who show symptoms of anxiety, depression, ADHD and behavioural disturbances as four-year-olds have a greater risk of developing insomnia as six-year-olds. While not clear on whether there is a typical pattern of causation in these areas the authors of the research article suggest that early treatment of both sleep issues and mental health matters will reduce the number and seriousness of later developmental outcomes for preschoolers.
Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the relationship (are the relationships) between sleep issues and psychological problems among preschoolers?
  2. What does this study suggest that parents and child psychologists ought to do with regards to both of these issues?
  3. What sorts of study or studies should be done next to make the relationship(s) between these issues and related issues and problems clearer?

References (Read Further):

Steinsbekk, S., & Wichstrøm, L. (2015). Stability of Sleep Disorders From Preschool to First Grade and Their Bidirectional Relationship with Psychiatric Symptoms. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 36(4), 243-251.