Sleep Difficulties in Preschoolers with Psychiatric Diagnoses

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Nov 14;16(22):4485. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16224485.


Background: Sleep problems among preschoolers are highly prevalent. Given the impact of poor sleep quality on development, this relationship is particularly relevant in vulnerable populations but is less documented. This study aims to document parental perception of sleep problems in preschoolers assessed in a psychiatric clinic, as a function of diagnosis type. Methods: Children (14-71 months, n = 228) were evaluated by a psychiatrist, and diagnoses were pooled into four categories: behavioral disorders, relational disorders/psychosocial problems, developmental coordination disorder (DCD), and communication disorders. Sleep problems were measured using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Results: In this clinical sample of preschoolers, 21.6% of children were identified as having a sleep problem by their parents. Behavioral disorders and communication disorders were associated with increased parental report of sleep problems (respectively, trouble falling asleep and nighttime awakenings), while DCD was associated with lower parental report of sleep problems (fewer nighttime awakenings and less difficulty falling asleep) (p < 0.05). Relational disorders were not associated with parental reports of sleep difficulties (p > 0.05). Moreover, some psychiatric categories were associated with specific sleep symptoms (such as difficulty falling asleep and night awakenings). Conclusion: Parents of preschoolers with behavioral disorders and communication disorders are more likely to report sleep problems in their children than parents of preschoolers with DCD and relational disorders. Since different categories of psychiatric disorders are associated with specific types of sleep complaints, screening, and treatment should be adapted accordingly.

Keywords: child psychiatry; preschoolers; psychiatric disorders; sleep problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications*
  • Parents / psychology
  • Perception
  • Prevalence
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / complications*