Associations between Sleep and Social-Emotional Development in Early Years Children

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Visser, Carson B.
Sleep , Social-Emotional Health , Early Years , Preschoolers , Childhood Development
Background: The early years are a critical period of life for social-emotional health and poor social-emotional development could have negative downstream effects later in life. It is well known that sufficient sleep is important for healthy growth and development in young children. However, sleep has been studied as individual sleep characteristics in this age group, rather than as a collective that considers the multidimensionality of sleep. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between individual sleep characteristics and sleep profiles and indicators of social-emotional health in early years children. Methods: 588 preschoolers (3-4.9 years old) and 202 early school-aged children (5-6.6 years old) participants from the Sleep and Activity Database for the Early Years (SADEY) were studied. Sleep characteristics (duration, quality, timing, consistency, and naps) were measured using actigraph GT3X+ accelerometers. Cluster analysis was used to create sleep profile clusters representing different types of sleepers. The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) was used to measure hyperactivity, emotional regulation, conduct problems, peer problems, prosocial behaviour, and a total SDQ score. General linear models were used to compare differences in SDQ scores between sleep profile clusters and to determine the association between individual sleep characteristics and SDQ scores. Results: Three sleep profile clusters were identified in preschool children and in early school- aged children. In preschoolers, Cluster 1 had a short nap duration, Cluster 2 had a short sleep duration and late sleep timing, and Cluster 3 had a long sleep duration and early sleep timing. Peer problem scores were significantly lower in Cluster 1 compared to Cluster 3 (p < .05). There was a positive linear relationship between nap duration and peer problems and a negative relationship between later sleep timing and prosocial behaviour (p < .05). In early school-aged children, Cluster 1 had a short sleep duration and nap duration, Cluster 2 had a long sleep duration and late sleep timing, and Cluster 3 had an early sleep timing. SDQ scores did not differ across these sleep clusters. There was a negative relationship between sleep duration and conduct problems (p < .05). All other group differences and associations for preschoolers and early school-aged children that are not reported here were non-significant (p > .05). Conclusion: Few associations existed between sleep and social-emotional health and development in this study of early years children.
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