The role of sleep in early childhood development

13 May 2016

A new educational resource from the Research Review team gives health professionals the lowdown on infant sleep.

It highlights the fact that sleep is linked to key areas in childhood development including brain maturation, learning, memory and social skills.

However, the resource notes that between 20 to 30% of children experience sleep problems in the first three years of life which are associated with daytime behaviour problems and parental distress.

The review notes that sleep plays an important role in a baby’s :

  • Brain maturation, learning and memory

  • Language learning

  • Social skills.

It notes that there is increasing evidence that inadequate sleep quality and quantity may be associated with obesity and metabolic consequences, as well as impacting on behavioural and cognitive development, including academic performance.   

In addition, sleep problems in young children can also have negative impacts on the mother’s wellbeing and the family’s functioning.

The resource provides a review of studies which examine:

  • Physiology and the importance of sleep

  • Sleep problems in early childhood

  • Sleep behaviour management.

It also includes expert comment from Dr Jacob Twiss, a respiratory paediatrician and sleep specialist at Starship Hospital and Dr John Widger a paediatric respiratory and sleep physician at the Sydney Children’s Hospital.

You can read the Research Review Educational Series: The Role of Sleep in Early Childhood Development here.