Children have just the first five years of life to develop good sleeping habits before they are at risk of adjusting poorly to school and developing learning difficulties, new Queensland research shows.
QUT early education researcher Kate Williams followed 2880 children born in 2004 to seven years of age in her landmark study, finding as many as one in three children at risk.
Dr Williams said these children have an increased risk of developing attention deficit disorders and behavioural issues, as well as emotional outbursts and poor self-regulation in the classroom.
"I analysed parent's reports of behavioural sleep problems from birth to about five years and then looked at any links between those and later school adjustment as reported by the children's teachers," Dr Williams said.
"One in three children have escalating sleep problems and of course not all of those children performed poorly in the adjustment to school, but they were at greater risk of teachers noting they were having troubles adjusting."
The study is one of the largest for a longitudinal sleep study and can give an early prediction of children who may have sleeping or school adjustment issues.
"The study asked parents about children not being able to fall asleep on their own, having very restless sleeps, waking during the night and not being able to resettle themselves.
"Adults need to try and withdraw some of those habits like lying with children, patting them, rocking them to sleep.
"Good sleep hygiene includes things like regular bed times, eliminating screen time, having robust and consistent routines around bed times, and having calming strategies such as reading or soothing music."
Research published in 2015 led by QUT researcher Dr Sally Stanton showed mandatory naptimes at daycare centres had the potential to cause issues as children transitioned to school.
"I do believe there is a role for these daycare and early learning centres to support parents around developing these good sleep practices," Dr Williams said.
"Parents need to be drivers of supporting children's sleep practices and that might mean entering into negotiations with day time carers around what would work best for their family and their child."
Children included in Dr Williams' study were drawn from a sample of 10,000 children included in the Growing Up in Australia study.
The study commenced in 2003 with the aim of examining the impact of "Australia's unique social and cultural environment on children born in the late 1990s and early 2000s".
- Brisbane Times