Children with depressive, anxiety disorders have more sleep problems

June 09, 2008

WESTCHESTER, Ill. - For some children, sleep problems may result purely from poor sleep habits and inadequate sleep hygiene. However, for a small percentage of children, sleep problems might represent a pre-cursor or early symptom of a more serious emotional disorders, including anxiety and depression, according to a research abstract that will be presented on Monday at SLEEP 2008, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).

The study, authored by Flavia Giannotti, MD, of Center of Pediatric Sleep Disorders at the University of Rome La Sapienza in Italy, was conducted on 122 children between seven and 11 years of age, who had a major depressive disorder. All patients underwent a systematic psychiatric, cognitive and sleep evaluation. All children were medication-free. Depressed children, as well as those presenting a comorbid anxious disorder, entered the study, and their results were compared to those of 200 healthy peers.

According to the results, 82 percent of the depressed children reported a problematic sleep, compared to five percent of healthy controls. In the depressed group, 42 percent of comorbid children showed a significantly higher frequency of sleep onset insomnia, compared to 29 percent of the non-comorbid group. They scored significantly higher on the "bedtime difficulties", "sleep anxiety", and "sleep duration" portions of the Children's Sleep Habits Questionnaire than the non-comorbid group. Comorbid and non-comorbid depressed children showed a significant tendency to a later bedtime (50 minutes) and a more markedly fragmented sleep than controls (35 minutes). Twenty percent of comorbid depressed children shared their parents' bed (20 percent), compared to 17 percent of non-comorbid and five percent of healthy controls.

"Sleep problems are very common in typically developing children. Even though they are more frequent in toddlers and preschoolers, they affect also school-aged children. What was most interesting about this study was the finding that certain types of comorbid conditions might be especially disruptive on sleep. Therefore, in childhood, considerable attention needs to be paid to the interrelation between sleep patterns and emotional disorders. To ensure the most effective care, parents of sleep-disturbed children are advised to first consult with the child's pediatrician, who may issue a referral to a sleep specialist for comprehensive testing and treatment," said Dr. Giannotti.

It is recommended that school-aged children get between 10-11 hours of nightly sleep.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers some tips to help your child sleep better: It is important to make sure that your child gets enough sleep and sleeps well. The value of sleep can be measured by your child's smiling face, happy nature and natural energy. A tired child may have development or behavior problems. A child's sleep problems can also cause unnecessary stress for you and the other members of your family.
-end-
More information about children and sleep is available from the AASM at http://www.SleepEducation.com/Topic.aspx?id=8.

The annual SLEEP meeting brings together an international body of 5,000 leading researchers and clinicians in the field of sleep medicine to present and discuss new findings and medical developments related to sleep and sleep disorders.

More than 1,000 research abstracts will be presented at the SLEEP meeting, a joint venture of the AASM and the Sleep Research Society. The three-and-a-half-day scientific meeting will bring to light new findings that enhance the understanding of the processes of sleep and aid the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea.

SleepEducation.com, a patient education Web site created by the AASM, provides information about various sleep disorders, the forms of treatment available, recent news on the topic of sleep, sleep studies that have been conducted and a listing of sleep facilities.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine

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