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Sleep, baby, sleep: Infants’ sleep difficulties could signal future problems

When you're a new parent - or heck, even a veteran one - nothing is worse than a child who won't sleep. The ensuing sleep deprivation (for the parent) can feel soul-crushing, and there are moments when one would do anything for just a few hours of uninterrupted nighttime quiet. (If only babies took bribes.)

Now, research is showing that a baby's sleep problems might lead to something other than bleary-eyed, grumpy parents: In a study of 359 children, those who had trouble sleeping as an infant appeared to have a greater risk of developing a sleep disorder when they were older. As reported on Well today:

The new research is a rare look at a problem that many parents and even pediatricians sometimes fail to notice. The study, which looked at children ages 6 months to 3 years, found that sleep problems were common in this age group. But parents did not always perceive red flags like loud and frequent snoring — which can be a risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially serious breathing disorder — as problems that warranted mentioning to their pediatricians.

The findings also challenged a widespread notion that children who have sleep troubles early on tend to outgrow them. In the study, children who had one or more sleep problems at any point in early childhood were three to five times as likely to have a sleep problem later on.

The research, which appears in Pediatrics, shouldn't panic parents - but instead serve as a reminder of the importance of looking for warning signs of a more serious sleep problem (listed here as things like frequent loud snoring, night terrors and taking a long time to fall asleep) and talking to one's pediatrician. Also from Well:

[Study author Kelly Byars, PsyD] said the best way parents can distinguish a true sleep disorder from a phase is to be on the lookout for problems that persist over time, and to raise any concerns with a pediatrician. “If a child has problems across two consecutive well-child visits” — at the 6-month checkup, for example, then again at 12 months, “then that is likely an indicator that this is a problem that should be addressed, as opposed to saying that it’s a problem the child will grow out of,” he said.

Previously: Lack of sleep can increase a young child’s obesity risk
Photo by poppymaher

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