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Poor Infant Sleep Patterns Linked to Negative Toddler Behavior

New research has linked poor sleep in infants to behavior and attention problems in toddlerhood.

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Sleep irregularities during infancy (broken sleep patterns, frequently waking, etc.) may predict problematic behavior in toddlerhood, new research suggests.

The study, which is published in Developmental Neuropsychology, found that 1-year-olds who slept poorly were more likely to have compromised attention and display behavioral issues at 3 and 4 years old.

The study focused on a small sample of 87 individuals. The 1-year-old infants' sleep was examined through a wrist device that tracked sleeping patterns. The same individuals were then reexamined when they were between 3 and 4, but this time their behavior was assessed through a computerized attention test. Self-reports from parents were also analyzed.

Although misbehavior and inattention are not uncommon for toddler-aged children, this research suggests that fragmented sleep may be a red flag for future problems, in which case early intervention is key.

"Our findings...support the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of sleep problems in infants and young children," noted Avi Sadeh, lead author and professor of Tel Aviv University's School of Psychological Sciences, in the study's press release. "Early interventions for infant sleep problems, very effective in improving sleep quality, could potentially improve later attention and behavior regulation."

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn.

Baby and Children Sleep Chart