Almost all parents have concerns about their child's sleep habits --that's partly why there are hundreds of books in print on getting children to fall asleep. But here's a fact that'll wake you up: Though it's common for children to suffer from either insufficient or disrupted sleep, bedtime battles are not necessarily normal and children may not outgrow them. A growing body of research suggests that childhood sleep disturbances are associated with obesity, cognitive problems, irritability, moodiness, oppositional behavior, and behavior that resembles Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD, called ADD when hyperactivity is not involved). The encouraging news is that doctors are doing more than ever to unearth the causes and best treatments for sleep problems.
"Lately there's been a dramatic boom in pediatric sleep research," says Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., associate director of The Sleep Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and coauthor of Take Charge of Your Sleep: The All-in-One Resource for Solving Sleep Problems in Kids and Teens .
What's contributed to this need is the growing realization that some parents don't recognize that their children are suffering from poor sleep. A study conducted last year at Tel Aviv University in Israel found that although nearly 18% of children were considered poor sleepers based on overnight sleep studies, their parents were not aware that their children were sleep-deprived.
In the meantime, doctors continue to uncover important -- and startling -- findings about the effects of poor sleep on children's health, development, and behavior.