Sleep -®
The link between sleep and early school success
Still battling to settle your toddler at night? New research by QUT reveals it's important to sort your children's sleep problems as soon as possible to improve their ability to settle at school.

The study, which examined the long-term impact of sleep on early school behaviour, revealed that one in three children have escalating problems sleeping across birth to five years which increased their risk of emotional and behavioural issues at school and put them at risk of attention deficit disorders.

Dr Kate Williams from QUT's School of Early Childhood analysed the sleep behaviour of 2880 children born in 2004 until they reached the age of six-seven years and said it is vital to get children's sleep behaviours right by the time they turn five.

"We now know 70 per cent of children are regulating their own sleep by five years but for the remaining third it may be detrimental to them developmentally over time," she said.

The large scale study used reports by both parents and teachers; parents provided information on the children's sleep problems and any emotional or attention challenges from birth to five years while the teachers supplied information on the children's emotional adjustment to school.

Dr Williams said she was surprised by the high number of children identified as having escalating behavioural sleep problems across birth to five years and this was associated with higher teacher-reported hyperactivity, poorer classroom self-regulation and emotional outbursts.

"If these sleep issues aren't resolved by the time children are five years old then they are at risk of poorer adjustment to school," she said.

With more than 85 per cent of families using child care or preschool services, Dr Williams said there was an opportunity for better awareness about good sleeping practices before children started school.

"Parents can withdraw some habits, like lying with children over and over, letting them into their bed, it's really important to give children a sense of skill so they can do these things themselves," she said.

Dr Williams also said sleep intervention strategies were extremely effective.

"Sleep problems can be sorted out long before a child reaches school age provided parents, carers and child care works are aware and supported. Prevention is the key," she said.
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