Poor Sleep and Poor Behavior in Children

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Rebecca J. Scharf MD MPH
Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center
Center for Global Health

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Scharf: This study examined data from approximately 8,500 children, born in 2001, who were 4 years old at the time of the study.  These children are representative of the population of the United States.  The main findings of our study were that children with shorter nighttime sleep duration had higher odds of parent-reported externalizing behaviors such as aggression, tantrums, overactivity and anger.

MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Scharf: What was unexpected to us was how consistent the results were.  When run categorically to look for odds of worse behaviors, as well as linearly, children in the shortest sleep categories had higher odds of all the behaviors we examined and as sleep increased, externalizing behaviors decreased.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Scharf: This study showed an association between nighttime sleep duration and tantrums, aggression, anger, overactivity, and annoying behaviors in preschool age children.  When presented with a child in the office who is struggling with behavior, it may be helpful for clinicians to remember to ask about nighttime sleep habits and encourage parents to facilitate healthy sleep patterns for their young children.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Scharf: We are interested in examining this relationship over time, as the children get older.  We would also be interested in examining teacher report of externalizing behaviors.


Nighttime Sleep Duration and Externalizing Behaviors of Preschool Children
Scharf, Rebecca J.; Demmer, Ryan T.; Silver, Ellen J.; Stein, Ruth E.K.

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. 34(6):384-391, July/August 2013.
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e31829a7a0d

Last Updated on July 16, 2013 by Marie Benz MD FAAD