A study of the association between sleep habits and problematic behaviors in preschool children

Chronobiol Int. 2008 Jul;25(4):549-64. doi: 10.1080/07420520802261705.


This preliminary study examined the association between sleep habits and problematic behaviors in healthy preschool children using an internationally standardized method. Two groups of 4-6-yr-old healthy Japanese children were recruited. Children in Group A (n=68) met one or more of the following three conditions: they went out from their home with adults after 21:00 h two or more times a week, they went to bed after 23:00 h four or more times a week, and they returned home after 21:00 h three or more times a week, while those in Group B (n=67) met none of these conditions. Sleep-wake logs and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL)/4-18 were completed daily for two weeks. The CBCL consists of questions with 113 items categorized into eight subscale items: (I) Withdrawn, (II) Somatic complaints, (III) Anxious/depressed, (IV) Social problems, (V) Thought problems, (VI) Attention problems, (VII) Delinquent behavior, and (VIII) Aggressive behavior. Internalizing (I+II+III), externalizing (VII+VIII), and total scale scores were also derived. Generally, the higher the score, the greater the likelihood of problematic behaviors in that scale. We compared both the CBCL scores and distribution of the CBCL score-determined clinical classification of behavior (normal, borderline, and abnormal) between the groups. Correlation coefficients between CBCL scores and each of the seven indices of the studied sleep habits (wake-up times, bedtimes, nocturnal sleep duration, nap duration, total sleep duration, and range of variation in wake-up and bedtime) were also assessed. Group A children showed significantly shorter average nocturnal sleep, nap, and total sleep duration, significantly later average bedtimes and wake-up times, and a significantly greater range of variation in bedtimes and wake-up times than Group B children. The CBCL score of the total scale was significantly higher in Group A than Group B children. The distribution of the clinical classifications of behavior between the two groups showed no significant differences. Although nocturnal sleep, nap, and total sleep duration did not correlate with total CBCL score, it showed a high positive correlation with wake-up times, bedtimes, and ranges of variation in both wake-up and bed times. The distribution of the clinical classification for the total scale showed significant differences between early and late risers, and also between regular and irregular sleepers. The number of children classified as normal for the total scale score was higher in early risers and regular sleepers than in late risers and irregular sleepers. Preschool children of Group A, late risers, late sleepers, irregular risers, and irregular sleepers were likely to show problematic behaviors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Behavior
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / complications
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / complications
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / epidemiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / complications
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Sleep*
  • Social Behavior