Few data currently exist concerning the sleep problems of preadolescents. A parent report questionnaire concerning sleep habits and problems was developed. The questionnaires were completed by the parents of 1000 unscreened elementary school children attending the third, fourth, and fifth grades. The schools were randomly selected from an urban area. Of the 1000 questionnaires, 972 were completed and could be used for statistical analysis. Among the parents, 24% reported sleeping poorly and 12% regularly relied on sedatives to induce sleep. Sleep difficulties lasting more than 6 months were present in 43% of the children. In 14% (132 of 972), sleep latency was longer than 30 minutes, and more than one complete arousal occurred during the night at least two nights per week. The following variables were seen among the poor sleepers: lower parental educational and professional status, parents who were more likely to be divorced or separated, and more noise or light in the rooms where they slept. They also presented a higher incidence of somnambulism, somniloquia, and night fears (nightmares and night terrors) than the children who slept well. Boys who slept poorly were significantly more likely to have insomniac fathers (P < .010). Regular use of sedatives was described in 4% (5 of 132) of the children who slept poorly. Among the "poor sleepers," 21% (33 of 132) had failed 1 or more years at school. School achievement difficulties were encountered significantly more often among the poor sleepers than among the children without sleep problems (P = .001). Of the families with children suffering from sleep problems, 28% expressed a desire for counseling. This preliminary study suggests the need for more systematic attention by the pediatrician to the possible presence of chronic sleep problems in apparently normal preadolescents. Pediatricians could contribute to the alleviation of parental anxiety and help to limit the use of sleep medications in children.

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