Infants and toddlers who exhibit sleep problems--a common issue, any parent will tell you--may have a greater risk of developing sleep disorders later in life, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. The study reports that one in 10 infants and toddlers fall into the risk category, and urges pediatricians to screen for sleep issues and signs of potential problems, chiefly regular snoring that can signal later onset of obstructive sleep apnea.
The findings also challenged a widespread notion that children who have sleep troubles early on tend to outgrow them. In the study, children who had one or more sleep problems at any point in early childhood were three to five times as likely to have a sleep problem later on.
"The data indicate that sleep problems in children are not an isolated phenomenon," said Dr. Kelly Byars, an associate professor at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and an author of the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics. "If you have it early and it's not remedied, then it's likely to continue over time."
The warning signs of a disorder can vary widely. But some indicators of a potential problem in children are loud snoring several nights a week, frequent bouts of getting up in the middle of the night, nightmares or night terrors, and routinely taking longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep.
Image: Infant crying in crib, via Shutterstock.