Depression, sleep problems in children – the latest updates



baby-feet2More and more reports are coming on regarding depression among children that it just makes you as parent well – depressed. Below I summarized the latest studies on depression and sleep problems in children:

Study # 1:

15% of preschoolers have “atypically high levels of depression and anxiety“, according to Canadian and French researchers. The researchers looked at 1,758 children in Quebec  and followed them up from age 5 months to five years. The family members were also monitored and interviewed.
The researchers found that some kids are more at risk of developing depression than others and indicators are also evident as early as 5 months. The predictors are:

  • 1st : Difficult temperament as a baby
  • 2nd: Lifetime maternal depression

According to senior author Sylvana M. Côté of the Université de Montréal’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine

“Our study is the first to show that infant temperament and lifetime maternal depression can lead to a high trajectory of depressive and anxiety problems before school entry. It is critical that preventive interventions be experimented with infants who risk developing depressive and anxiety disorders.”

Study # 2:

Another indicator of depression and anxiety among young children is sleep problems. Although in many cases, poor sleep is mainly due to bad habits and poor sleep hygiene,  in some cases it is an indication of emotional disorders. Italian researchers looked at 322 children between 7 and 11 years old. 112 of the participants have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder but were not taking any medication. 200 of the children did not suffer from depression.

The results of the study showed that 82% of children with depression have sleep problems. Only 5% of children in the control group have similar problems. Specific problems reported were:

  • Insomnia
  • Bedtime difficulties
  • Sleep anxiety
  • Fragmented sleep
  • Tendency to co-sleep with parents

According to author Dr. Flavia Giannotti of Center of Pediatric Sleep Disorders at the University of Rome

“Sleep problems are very common in typically developing children. Even though they are more frequent in toddlers and preschoolers, they affect also school-aged children. What was most interesting about this study was the finding that certain types of comorbid conditions might be especially disruptive on sleep. Therefore, in childhood, considerable attention needs to be paid to the interrelation between sleep patterns and emotional disorders. To ensure the most effective care, parents of sleep-disturbed children are advised to first consult with the child’s pediatrician, who may issue a referral to a sleep specialist for comprehensive testing and treatment.”

Study # 3:

British researchers report that early treatment of sleep disorders in children can actually prevent depression. Results from the twin study suggest that sleep problems are mainly due to genetic factors. In the case of depression however, the role of genetic factors diminishes as the child grows older but the environmental factors take a more important role.

According to author Alice Gregory of the department of psychology at Goldsmiths College in London

“We reported in a study previously, that genes were the most important factor in explaining the association between sleep problems and depression in eight year olds. However, when we examined this issue at age 10, we found that genes were less important in explaining the association and that environmental influences had become more important. This could be because environmental experiences are becoming more relevant as children grow older and could therefore play a role in both sleep problems and depression.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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