Poor infant sleep may indicate attention problems later

New York, Oct 12 (IANS) One-year-olds who experience frequent night wakings are more likely to have difficulties concentrating and to exhibit behavioural problems at three and four years of age, says a new study.

“Many parents feel that, after a night without enough sleep, their infants are not at their ‘best.’ But the real concern is whether infant sleep problems — fragmented sleep, frequent night wakings — indicate any future developmental problems,” said lead researcher Avi Sadeh from Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel.

“The fact that poor infant sleep predicts later attention and behavior irregularities has never been demonstrated before using objective measures,” Sadeh noted.

The team assessed the sleep patterns of 87 one-year-olds and their parents.

The researchers used wristwatch-like devices to objectively determine sleep patterns at the age of one, and in the follow-up visits when the infants were three to four years old, they used a computerised attention test to assess attention problems.

They also referred to parental reports to determine signs of behavioural problems.

The results showed that infant sleep are linked to toddler attention regulation and behaviour problems.

“There may be genetic or environmental causes adversely affecting both the children’s sleep and their development in other domains,” Sadeh said.

“Our findings, however, support the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of sleep problems in infants and young children,” Sadeh noted.

The findings suggest that early interventions for infant sleep problems could potentially improve later attention and behaviour regulation.

The study was published in the journal Developmental Neuropsychology.

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