Washington, April 8 : Children who get less sleep are more likely to suffer from symptoms of anxiety, depression and aggression later in life, a new study has found.
Among 2,076 children studied, the researchers found that those who had sleep problems when they were 4 to 16 years of age scored higher on measures of anxiety, depression and aggressive behaviour when they were 18 to 32 years of age.
"Sleep problems are risk indicators of later emotional difficulties in childhood and adolescence and in adulthood," according to background information in the article.
"For knowledge concerning links between sleep problems and later emotional and behavioural difficulties to be maximally beneficial to the physician, clarification of which particular sleep problems are associated with later difficulties is paramount."
Alice M. Gregory, Ph.D., of the University of London, and colleagues collected sleep data on 2,076 children who were ages 4 to 16 at the beginning of the study.
Parents rated their children's sleep and behaviours on various scales and children later reported their own emotional and behavioural symptoms at ages 18 to 32.
Children having parental reports of sleeping less than others had high scores on scales measuring anxiety, depression and aggressive behaviour, the team found.
"There was some (albeit less robust) support for links between other reported sleep difficulties [such as overtiredness and trouble sleeping] and later problems," the authors said.
"Parental reports of sleeping more than others and nightmares were not associated with later difficulties.
"The results suggest that children reported to sleep for short periods may be at risk for later difficulties.
"Physicians should inquire about sleep problems during child development and should be aware that some, but perhaps not others, may constitute risk indicators of later difficulties," they added.
The study appears in the April issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, a theme issue on children and sleep.