Objectives. In a community sample of children aged 3 to 4 years with previous infant sleep problems, we aimed to 1) establish proportions with recurring, persisting, and resolving sleep problems; 2) identify early predictors of later sleep problems; and 3) identify comorbidities of persistent or recurrent sleep problems at age 3 to 4 years.
Methods. A follow-up community survey was conducted of mothers of children aged 3 to 4 years who had, as 8- to 10-month-old infants with identified sleep problems, participated in a community-based, randomized, controlled trial of a brief sleep intervention from 3 middle-class local government areas in Melbourne, Australia. Infant sleep problems (standardized maternal questionnaire), maternal well-being (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale), child behavior problems (Child Behavior Check List for ages 1.5 to 5 years), marital satisfaction (Dyadic Adjustment Scale), and family functioning (General Functioning Scale, McMaster Family Assessment Device) were measured.
Results. Seventy-three percent (114 of 156) of mothers responded, 36 (32%) of whom reported a current problem with their child’s sleep. Current sleep problems were similar regardless of infant sleep intervention. Twelve percent (14 of 114) reported that their child’s sleep problem had persisted, and 19% (21 of 113) reported that it had recurred. Children with current sleep problems were more likely still to be nursed to sleep by an adult and had slightly higher mean scores on Child Behavior Check List subscales for Aggressive Behavior (54 vs 52) and Somatic Problems (55 vs 53). Their mothers had higher Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale scores (median: 8 vs 5) and more difficulties with their partner undermining the management of their child. However, early depression did not predict current sleep problems. Families of children with sleep problems were functioning as well as those without sleep problems.
Conclusions. Persistence or recurrence of infant sleep problems in the preschool years is common and is associated with slightly higher child behavior problems and maternal depression scores. Results suggest that depressive symptoms are a result rather than cause of sleep problems. Despite this, families of children with sleep problems are functioning well.