Inadequate and irregular sleep in infancy can lead to emotional and behavioural problems in early childhood, says a study published in BMJ Paediatrics Open (March). For the study, University of Birmingham, UK, researchers collected information from 1,700 parents on the sleep habits of their children at ages three, eight, 18 and 24 months. The study result highlights that infants who sleep for shorter periods of time, take longer to fall asleep and wake up more frequently during the night and are more likely to experience problems in regulating their behaviour and emotions at 24 months. This prompts disruptive behaviour such as temper tantrums.
“It’s likely that sleep quality in the early months and the development of self-regulation — the ability to control our behaviour — are closely intertwined,” says lead researcher Isabel Morales-Munoz who adds that sleeping problems of infants may be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors.