In a sample of 183 children aged 19 months to 6 years who were admitted to an early childhood psychiatric day treatment program at Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island, 41% had serious sleep problems, according to a study in Child Psychiatry & Human Development.
The sleep-disordered children “demonstrated longer latency to sleep onset, longer and more frequent night awakenings, less total sleep, and lower sleep efficiency than non-sleep disordered participants,” reported the authors. “Such sleep deprivation is of significant clinical concern, given the associations between sleep disruption and behavioral disturbance, cognitive impairment, and deficits in attentiveness.”
“It is important for families to be aware of how important sleep is to the behavioral adjustment and wellbeing of young children,” said lead author John Boekamp in a press release. “Sleep disorders may be unrecognized and under-diagnosed in young children, particularly when other behavioral or emotional problems are present.”
At the time of their admission to the Bradley Hospital program, 18% of the children were being prescribed one or more psychiatric medications, including stimulants, alpha agonists, antidepressants, and Melatonin. The authors emphasized “the need to assess and treat early childhood sleep problems, even when such problems are not the primary presenting clinical concern.” They did not discuss specific treatments.
Sleep difficulties common among toddlers with psychiatric disorders (Lifespan Press Release on ScienceDaily, October 23, 2014)
(Abstract) Sleep Onset and Night Waking Insomnias in Preschoolers with Psychiatric Disorders (Boekamp, John R. et al. Child Psychiatry & Human Development. October 2014. DOI: 10.1007/s10578-014-0505-z)