To determine the feasibility of screening for child sleep problems and the efficacy of a behavioral sleep intervention in improving child and parent outcomes in the first year of schooling.
A randomized controlled trial was nested in a population survey performed at 22 elementary schools in Melbourne, Australia. Intervention involved 2 to 3 consultations that covered behavioral sleep strategies for children whose screening results were positive for a moderate/severe sleep problem. Outcomes were parent-reported child sleep problem (primary outcome), sleep habits, psychosocial health-related quality of life, behavior, and parent mental health (all at 3, 6, and 12 months) and blinded, face-to-face learning assessment (at 6 months).
The screening survey was completed by 1512 parents; 161 (10.8%) reported a moderate/severe child sleep problem, and 108 of 136 (79.2% of those eligible) entered the trial. Sleep problems tended to resolve more rapidly in intervention children. Sleep problems affected 33% of 54 intervention children versus 43% of 54 control children at 3 months (P = .3), 25.5% vs 46.8% at 6 months (P = .03), and 32% vs 33% at 12 months (P = .8). Sustained sleep-habit improvements were evident at 3, 6, and 12 months (effect sizes: 0.33 [P = .03]; 0.51 [P = .003]; and 0.40 [P = .02]; respectively), and there were initial marked improvements in psychosocial scores that diminished over time (effect sizes: 0.47 [P = .02]; 0.41 [P = .09]; and 0.26 [P = .3]; respectively). Better prosocial behavior was evident at 12 months (effect size: 0.35; P = .03), and learning and parent outcomes were similar between groups.
School-based screening for sleep problems followed by a targeted, brief behavioral sleep intervention is feasible and has benefits relevant to school transition.