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Sleep across early childhood: Implications for internalizing and externalizing problems, socioemotional skills, and cognitive and academic abilities in preschool


Background: Sleep is thought to be important for behavioral and cognitive development. However, much of the prior research on sleep’s role in behavioral/cognitive development has relied upon self-report measures and cross-sectional designs. Methods: The current study examined how early childhood sleep, measured actigraphically, was developmentally associated with child functioning at 54 months. Emphasis was on functioning at preschool, a crucial setting for the emergence of psychopathology. Participants included 119 children assessed longitudinally at 30, 36, 42, and 54 months. We examined correlations between child sleep and adjustment across three domains: behavioral adjustment (i.e., internalizing and externalizing problems), socioemotional skills, and academic/cognitive abilities. We further probed consistent associations with growth curve modeling. Results: Internalizing problems were associated with sleep variability, and cognitive and academic abilities were associated with sleep timing. Growth curve analysis suggested that children with more variable sleep at 30 months had higher teacher-reported internalizing problems in preschool and that children with later sleep timing at 30 months had poorer cognitive and academic skills at 54 months. However, changes in sleep from 30 to 54 months were not associated with any of the domains of adjustment. Conclusions: Findings indicate that objectively measured sleep variability and late sleep timing in toddlerhood are associated with higher levels of internalizing problems and poorer academic/cognitive abilities in preschool. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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