If your child is suffering from a sleep disorder, there is more at stake than just their sleep. According to a new study, serious sleep disorders in children may affect their mental health in the long term.
Four-year-olds are at a higher risk of developing symptoms of psychiatric problems by the time they turn six, as compared to children who sleep soundly.
"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," said Silje Steinsbekk, associate professor and psychologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
Interviews of parents conducted by the researchers were on the basis of DSM-IV diagnostic manual, which contains the official diagnostic criteria for mental disorders.
The study looked at over 1000 participants, all four-year-olds and parents of around 800 of these children were interviewed again two years later.
A child who shows signs of anxiety or a behavioural disorder may easily end up in a vicious cycle, where conflict with adults triggers anxiety and in turn leads to trouble falling asleep.
“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,” Silje pointed out.
“The early treatment of mental health problems can also prevent the development of sleep disorders, since psychiatric symptoms increase the risk of developing insomnia,” Silje stressed.
Children who suffer from insomnia struggle with falling asleep and frequent waking.
Examples of 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. The study can be found in Journal of Development & Behavioral Pediatrics.
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