Do sleep problems in early childhood predict performance at school?

Do sleep problems in early childhood predict performance at school?

A study published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology looks at whether problems with sleep and self-regulation might be used to predict how children settle in at school.

The study involved 2,880 children from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Child sleep problems and emotional self-regulation were assessed via reports from mothers at three time points between birth and age five. Child attentional regulation was assessed by the mothers at two time points, and school adjustment was measured by teacher reports of classroom self-regulation and social, emotional, and behavioral adjustment at school, when the children were aged 6-7 years.

Three profiles were found. A normative profile (69% of children) had consistently average or higher emotional and attentional regulation scores and sleep problems that steadily reduced from birth to five. The remaining 31% of children were members of two non-normative profiles, both characterized by escalating sleep problems across early childhood and below mean self-regulation. Children in the non-normative group were associated with higher teacher-reported hyperactivity and emotional problems, and poorer classroom self-regulation and prosocial skills.

The researchers conclude that early childhood profiles of self-regulation that include sleep problems offer a way to identify children at risk of poor school adjustment. Children with escalating early childhood sleep problems could be an important group for interventions to support transition into school.

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