How sleep problems can affect a child's well-being.
Up to 40% of children will experience sleep problems, such as difficulty with falling or staying asleep, (Mindell et al, 2006 cited in Williamson et al, 2020).
Carrying on with the theme from my last post I would now like to discuss how sleep problems can affect a child's well-being. Research that consisted of a longitudinal study of children in Australia has demonstrated how having sleep problems in early childhood can cause multiple impairments in a child's well-being at age 10-11 years old, (Williamson et al, 2020). The study examined five different sleep trajectories. They found that the children that had limited sleep problems in infancy or preschool only showed small impairments with internalising symptoms such as anxiety or low mood. However, children who demonstrated persistent sleep problems and sleep problems in middle childhood had moderate impairments in their ability to self-control. Goldstein and Walker, 2014, cited in Williamson et al, 2020, showed that sleep can play a significant role in emotional regulation and processing which is critical for a child's psychosocial development. The quality of life for all children with sleep problems was significantly worse than those whose care-givers reported that they had no sleep problems. In regards to school achievements, children with persistent sleep problems showed lower scores than children in the other trajectories. This may be because a lack of consistent sleep can play a part in affecting their ability to concentrate in class.
This study shows that sleep problems at any age can cause impairments in a lot of areas in a child's well-being when they are in middle childhood. Addressing behavioural sleep problems can help with emotional and behavioural issues. This can be in the form of training care-givers in sleep strategies which can be found by reaching out to community support, such as a health visitor or a GP.
I have found with my children that consistency with the bedtime routine is the key to them having a healthy attitude to sleep. However, I am fully aware that every child is different and what works for my family may not work for yours so if you are struggling with your child's sleep please seek support and help. The NHS site has healthy sleep tips for children which can be found here.
Williamson, A, A, Mindell, J, A, Hiscock, H and Quach, J. (2020) 'Longitudinal sleep problem trajectories are associated with multiple impairments in child well-being', The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 61:10, pp 1092-1103. Doi: 10.1111/jcpp.13303