Sleep Difficulties Common Among Toddlers With Mental Disorders

Toddler sleeping

A study conducted at the Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island has found that sleep difficulties in toddlers were very common among those with psychiatric disorders. The study has been published online in the journal Child Psychiatry & Human Development.

"The most common sleep difficulties reported nationally for toddlers and preschoolers are problems of going to bed, falling asleep and frequent night awakenings – collectively, these problems are referred to as behavioral insomnias of childhood," said John Boekamp, Ph.D., clinical director of the Pediatric Partial Hospital Program at Bradley.

The research was conducted to answer questions about cause and consequence for sleep disruption and behavior disorders. The belief is that the two issues create a cycle in which the sleep disorder leads to worsening behavioral symptoms which leads to more sleep disruption.

This study examined the nature and prevalence of diagnostically defined sleep disorders, including Sleep Onset Insomnia (SOI) and Night Waking Insomnia (NWI), in a group of 183 young children admitted to the program. Sleep disorders, particularly SOI, were quite common, exceeding previous estimates obtained in community settings. Overall, 41 percent of children in the study also met diagnostic criteria for a sleep disorder. These were especially common in children with disruptive behavior including attention and anxiety problems.

"This study is a great reminder that it's critical for mental health providers working with young children and their families to ask about children's sleep," said Boekamp.

From: Boekamp JR, Williamson LR, Martin SE, Hunter HL, Anders TF. Sleep Onset and Night Waking Insomnias in Preschoolers with Psychiatric Disorders. Child Psychiatry & Human Development. 2014.


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