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Sleep and mental health in childhood

Publication year 2022
Published in Child and adolescent psychiatry and mental health
Authors Desi Kocevska, Elisabet Blok, M Elisabeth Koopman-Verhoeff, Daniel P Dickstein, Jared Saletin, Annemarie I Luik, Jolien Rijlaarsdam, Manon Hillegers, Tonya White, Henning Tiemeier,

BACKGROUND: Sleep problems, altered sleep patterns and mental health difficulties often co-occur in the pediatric population. Different assessment methods for sleep exist, however, many studies only use one measure of sleep or focus on one specific mental health problem. In this population-based study, we assessed different aspects of sleep and mother-reported mental health to provide a broad overview of the associations between reported and actigraphic sleep characteristics and mental health.

METHODS: This cross-sectional study included 788 children 10-11-year-old children (52.5% girls) and 344 13-14-year-old children (55.2% girls). Mothers and children reported on the sleep of the child and wrist actigraphy was used to assess the child’s sleep patterns and 24 h activity rhythm. Mental health was assessed via mother-report and covered internalizing, externalizing and a combined phenotype of internalizing and externalizing symptoms, the dysregulation profile.

RESULTS: Higher reported sleep problems were related to more symptoms of mental health problems in 10-11- and 13-14-year-old adolescents, with standardized ß-estimates ranging between 0.11 and 0.35. There was no association between actigraphy-estimated sleep and most mental health problems, but earlier sleep onset was associated with more internalizing problems (ß = - 0.09, SE = 0.03, p-value = 0.002), and higher intra-daily variability of the 24 h activity rhythm was associated with more dysregulation profile symptoms at age 10-11 (ß = 0.11, SE = 0.04, p-value = 0.002).

DISCUSSION: Reported sleep problems across informants were related to all domains of mental health problems, providing evidence that sleep can be an important topic to discuss for clinicians seeing children with mental health problems. Actigraphy-estimated sleep characteristics were not associated with most mental health problems. The discrepancy between reported and actigraphic sleep measures strengthens the idea that these two measures tap into distinct constructs of sleep.

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