Washington, June 11 : Prenatal drug exposure is linked to greater sleep problems in children, according to a new study.
The study, authored by Kristen Stone, PhD, of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, also found that nicotine has a unique effect, and early sleep problems predict later sleep problems.
For the study, the team investigated reports across time of 139 mothers regarding the sleep of their children - from 18 months to nine years of age.
Of these children, 23 had no prenatal drug exposure, 55 were exposed to cocaine alone or in combination with other drugs, and 61 were exposed to drugs other than cocaine.
According to the results, children with prenatal drug exposure - nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, opiates, or some combination of these - experienced greater difficulty sleeping than unexposed children.
Analyses revealed that prenatal nicotine exposure predicted difficulty sleeping above and beyond the other substances. Early sleep problems also predicted later sleep problems.
"Studying the effects of prenatal drug exposure on sleep may provide clues regarding how drugs affect the developing brain and may explain some of the effects of prenatal drug exposure on other outcomes, such as behavior and attention," said Dr. Stone.
"For example, studies show that adolescents with prenatal nicotine exposure are more likely to start smoking earlier than their peers, but we don't know what other factors, such as sleep, might be involved in that relationship."
The study was presented at SLEEP 2008, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).