Risk factors and consequences of early childhood dyssomnias: New perspectives
Dyssomnias are largely under-diagnosed in infants and toddlers. This literature review proposes an integrative model based on empirical data on determinants and consequences of sleep disturbances occurring in early life. This model proposes that parental behaviors that impede the child's autonomy toward sleep periods are primary grounds for the development of dyssomnias, e.g., parental presence until the child falls asleep, and putting an already sleeping child to bed. The model also indicates the serious potential consequences of a modest but chronic loss of sleep in childhood. At least three developmental domains could be directly affected: behavioral/social competence, cognitive performance, and physical condition. Thus, children with short nocturnal sleep duration before age 3.5 years show increased risk of high hyperactivity-impulsivity scores and low cognitive performance at 6 years compared to children who sleep 11 h per night, after controlling for potentially confounding variables. Moreover, persistent short sleep duration in early infancy increased the risk of suffering of obesity at 6 years of age, after controlling for potentially confounding variables. Finally, the importance of allowing the child to sleep at least 10 h per night in early childhood is stressed, as the National Sleep Foundation Poll suggests, for optimal child development.
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