Sleep, Affect, and Social Competence from Preschool to Preadolescence: Distinct Pathways to Emotional and Social Adjustment for Boys and for Girls
BACKGROUND Night-time fears are very common in preschool and early school years. However, to date, the links between night-time fears and sleep have not been assessed systematically. The aim of this study was to evaluate natural sleep patterns in children with night-time fears, and to assess the association between parental fear-related strategies and children's sleep disruptions. METHODS Sleep was assessed in a sample of 109 preschool children (64 boys and 45 girls) aged 4-6 years suffering from significant night-time fears, and in 30 healthy controls using actigraphy and parental reports. RESULTS Controls slept significantly better than the children with night-time fears. The disrupted sleep patterns of the children with night-time fears were reflected in a higher number of actigraphic night wakings, shorter periods of continuous sleep, shorter true sleep time, and a lower percentage of actual sleep time. Similar findings were manifested in sleep measures reported by the parents. Parental fear-management strategies were found to be linked to impaired actigraphic sleep measurements. CONCLUSIONS Children with night-time fears are at risk for developing poor sleep quality, which may further compromise their psychological well-being.