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Some babies' sleep problems may last through the toddler years

January 06, 2012|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Some babies who have trouble sleeping in infancy may still have problems later on, a study finds.
Some babies who have trouble sleeping in infancy may still have problems… (Rick Wood / MCT )

Some children who have sleep problems in infancy might still have trouble sleeping when they're older, a study finds.

A study published online this week in the journal Pediatrics looked at the sleeping habits of children from infancy through age 3. Researchers surveyed 359 mothers about their children's sleeping habits when the kids were 6 months old and again when they were 12, 24 and 36 months old. Questions asked included how long it takes the child to get to sleep, how many times he or she wakes up during the night, and how often the child talks during sleep.

At any given time point, about 10% of parents reported some type of sleep problem. Specific sleep problems were linked with certain ages: From infancy through 24 months, sleep problems were associated with waking during the night and shorter sleep periods. From 24 through 36 months, nightmares and restless sleep were reported.

Among children who didn't have sleep problems, 6% to 8% developed one later. However, among children who did have sleep problems in early childhood, 21% to 35% had sleep problems one to 2.5 years later.

Sleep problems were linked with snoring only at 12 months, and with sleep location only at 24 months. Nap frequency or sleeping during the day wasn't notably associated with sleep problems.

The information should help guide pediatricians about lingering sleep problems in children, the authors wrote. To make sure that important sleep issues aren't overlooked, they recommended that "sleep problems be screened by using a flexible family-centered approach while addressing specific sleep behaviors and symptoms that have known clinical significance."

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