Sleep duration and problem behaviour in 8-year-old children in the Childhood Obesity Project

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2022 Mar;31(3):519-527. doi: 10.1007/s00787-021-01731-8. Epub 2021 Feb 24.


There is growing evidence that insufficient sleep has negative effects on the mental health of children. The aim of this study is to examine the associations between device-measured sleep duration and internalizing and externalizing problems in 8-year-old children. The study is a secondary analysis of data from the Childhood Obesity Project conducted in five European countries. Nocturnal sleep duration was measured with the SenseWear™ Armband 2. Parents rated their child's internalizing and externalizing problems on the Child Behaviour Checklist. Behaviour scores were dichotomized at the 90th percentile based on sex- and country-specific z-scores. Logistic regression models were applied to test the associations between sleep duration and behaviour. Data were available for 406 8-year-old children. The average sleep duration was 9.25 h per night (SD: 0.67) with 1464 nights measured in total. The sleep duration recommendation of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine for school-aged children (9-12 h) was met by 66.7% of children. One hour of additional sleep per night significantly reduced the risk of having internalizing problems (adjusted OR = 0.51; 95% CI 0.29-0.91). Children who adhered to the sleep duration recommendation had a lower risk for internalizing problems (adjusted OR = 0.45; 95% CI 0.21-0.99). Sleep duration and externalizing problems showed no significant association. Longer sleep duration was associated with a reduced risk of having internalizing problems but not externalizing problems. Results highlight that it is important to ensure adequate sleep duration throughout primary-school years for the optimal emotional health of children. Trial registration number: NCT00338689. Registered: June 19, 2006.

Keywords: Behavioural problems; Child Behaviour Checklist; Emotional health; Schoolchildren; Sleep quantity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Study

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Child Behavior Disorders* / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pediatric Obesity* / complications
  • Pediatric Obesity* / epidemiology
  • Problem Behavior* / psychology
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Wake Disorders* / psychology

Associated data