Sleep problems, common in infancy, have been associated with emotional and behavioural issues in early childhood. However, it is unknown whether such mental health risk persists into middle childhood. To study this, researchers used data from a longitudinal study of 1,460 first-time mother–infant pairs. Infants were clustered into three profiles: persistent/severe sleep problems (19.4%), moderate/fluctuating sleep problems (56.0%), or settled (24.7%).
Infants in the moderate/fluctuating sleep problem group also had elevated risk for separation anxiety compared with the settled group.
Infant sleep problems can unsettle the whole family. Parents often develop suboptimal habits (e.g., cosleeping, lying in bed with child, use of media to soothe) to manage a poor sleeper, and this might lead to a child not being able to cope emotionally without the parent's presence.