HealthDay News — Persistent severe sleep problems during the first postnatal year are associated with an increased risk for anxiety problems and emotional disorders at age 10, according to a study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Fallon Cook, PhD, from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Parkville, Australia, and colleagues conducted a prospective community cohort study to examine the impact of severe persistent infant sleep problems on mental health in middle childhood. Mothers completed questionnaires/interviews at 15 weeks of gestation, during the first year postpartum (3, 6, 9, and 12 months), and when their child turned 4 and 10 years. Data were included for 1460 mother-infant dyads.

The researchers found that 19.4, 56.0, and 24.7% of infants had persistent severe sleep problems, had moderate/fluctuating sleep problems, and were settled, respectively. The likelihood of reporting emotional symptoms at age 4 years was increased for infants with persistent severe sleep problems (adjusted odds ratio, 2.70); they were also more likely to meet diagnostic criteria for an emotional disorder at age 10 years (adjusted odds ratio, 2.37). Elevated symptoms of separation anxiety, fear of physical injury, and overall elevated anxiety were also seen at age 10 years for infants with persistent severe sleep problems (adjusted odds ratios, 2.44, 2.14, and 2.20, respectively).

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“Infants with persistent severe sleep problems should be monitored for emerging mental health difficulties during childhood,” the authors write.

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