Researchers have discovered strong evidence to suggest that children who develop good sleep behaviour before the age of five are more likely to settle in at school.
The study, entitled Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), was undertaken by Dr Kate Williams of Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Faculty of Education. The study incorporates a sample of 2,880 children.
The findings reveal that one in three children have increasing issues with sleep from birth to the age of five, which heightens the risk of emotional and behavioural issues at school, as well as putting the at risk of attention deficit disorders.
Dr Williams highlights the fact that “it’s 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.”
Analysing the sleep behaviour of children born in 2004 until the age of six or seven, Dr Williams asked motheers to report on any sleep, emotional and attention problems, while teachers were asked to report on social-emotional adjustment in the school environment.
The research is therefore unique in its scope and sample size examined.
The results found that children found to have escalating sleep problems in early childhood were more like to have teacher-reported hyperactivity, poorer classroom self-regulation and emotional outbursts.
According to Dr Williams, more than 85 per vcent of families use a child care or preschool service, which represents an opportunity to create better awareness about good sleep behaviour before children start 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.
The findings build on prior QUT research that linked mandatory daytime naps in child care centres to sleep problems later on.