May 12, 2015
1 min read

Insomnia at age 4 years increases risk for psychiatric disorders at age 6 years

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Children who experienced insomnia at age 4 years were at increased risk for developing symptoms of psychiatric disorders at age 6 years, according to study findings in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

To assess the relationship between disordered sleeping and symptoms of psychiatric disorders, Silje Steinsbekk, PhD, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and colleagues interviewed 1,250 children and 994 parents in Norway. Children were born in 2003 or 2004 and attended regular community health check-ups at age 4 years. Researchers conducted follow-up two years later when children were aged 6 years.

Silje Steinsbekk, PhD

Silje Steinsbekk

“Previous studies of sleep problems in children have mainly used a questionnaire format, with questions like ‘Does your child have trouble sleeping?’ But what parents define as sleep problems will vary,” Steinsbekk said in a press release. “In the diagnostic interview we ask parents questions until we are confident that we have enough information to assess whether a symptom is present or not. The information we’ve collected is more reliable than information obtained from the questionnaire.”

At age 4 years, approximately 16.6% of children experienced insomnia and of these, 43% experienced insomnia at age 6 years.

When adjusting for initial insomnia levels, experiencing insomnia at age 4 years increased risk for developing symptoms of conduct disorder, major depressive disorder and social phobia.

Children who exhibited symptoms of ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder and major depressive disorder at age 4 years had statistically significantly increased risk for insomnia at age 6 years.

Sleepwalking was a predictor of separation anxiety disorder, while hypersomnia was not associated with symptoms of psychiatric disorders.

“It is common for children to have periods when they sleep poorly, but for some children, the problems are so extensive that they constitute a sleep disorder. 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,” Steinsbekk said. – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.