A long-term study has found that toddlers who slept less than 10 hours a night or woke frequently at night tended to have more emotional and behavioural problems at age five.
The researchers had expected to see a link between sleep and emotional and behavioural problems but were surprised "that the risks were so strong and consistent," said lead author Borge Sivertsen of Uni Research Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Bergen.
The new results come from an ongoing study of 32,662 pairs of mothers and children in Norway supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Health. The mothers filled out questionnaires when they were 17 weeks pregnant, when the child was 18 months old and again when the child was five years old.
Mothers rated 99 child behaviours on a scale from "not true" to "very true" and reported how long the child slept in a 24-hour period and how often he or she woke up during the night.
The researchers accounted for mother's age, education level, duration of pregnancy and number of other children and for the child's birth weight and sex, and found that those who slept less than ten hours per night and those who woke three or more times per night at 18 months were more likely to have emotional or behavioural problems at age five.
If you have trouble getting your child off to sleep, here are some tips from our sleep expert Dr. Nerina:
Good nutrition helps them to make the sleep hormone Melatonin. Ensure that your child eats breakfast every day and ideally within about 30 minutes of getting out of bed
If your child wakes at the slightest noise it might be worth experimenting with a white noise machine or smells such as lavender or eucalyptus
If your child is a very sensitive sleeper, and tends to engage with information very readily, minimise time spent at the computer or TV. Allow at least 60 to 90 minutes of technology-free time before bed
For more sleep tips visit our Sleep Toolkit