OBJECTIVES. Our aim for this study was to determine the prevalence of dyssomnias and various parasomnias in early childhood and to describe their temporal evolution, gender differences, and correlates.
METHODS. This research is part of a longitudinal study of child development. A randomized, 3-level, stratified survey design was used to study a representative sample of infants who were born in 1997–1998 in the province of Quebec (Canada). When the children were 2.5 years of age, 1997 families agreed to be interviewed. The presence of dyssomnias or parasomnias was obtained from a self-administered questionnaire that was completed by the mother at each round of measures.
RESULTS. The percentage of children with frequent night wakings decreased steadily from 36.3% at age 2.5 to 13.2% at age 6. Similarly, the percentage of children who had difficulty falling asleep at night decreased significantly from 16.0% at ages 3.5 and 4 to 10% at age 5 and to 7.4% at age 6. The overall prevalence of each parasomnia for the period studied was as follows: somnambulism, 14.5%; sleep terrors, 39.8%; somniloquy, 84.4%; enuresis, 25.0%; bruxism, 45.6%; and rhythmic movements, 9.2%. Persistent somnambulism at age 6 was significantly correlated with sleep terrors and somniloquy. Persistent sleep terrors at age 6 were also correlated with somniloquy. Finally, persistent sleep terrors at age 6 were correlated with frequent night wakings. Separation anxiety was associated with persistent night wakings and with somnambulism, bruxism, sleep terrors, and somniloquy.
CONCLUSIONS. There is a high prevalence of night wakings and sleep-onset difficulties in preschool children. Parasomnias are highly prevalent in early childhood and are associated with separation anxiety. However, they have little impact on sleep duration.