Understanding Your Child's Sleep Patterns: A Guide for Parents
As parents, we all know how essential sleep is for our children's development and well-being. But did you know that children's sleep patterns can vary widely from one child to another? A recent study has shed light on the different sleep trajectories in children aged 1 to 5.5 years and the factors that influence these patterns. In this blog, we'll break down the key findings of this study in easy-to-understand language, helping you better understand your child's sleep and how to support healthy sleep habits.
Researchers conducted a study to identify various sleep trajectories in children from ages 1 to 5.5 years and the factors that play a role in these patterns. They collected information from parents, including family dynamics, maternal characteristics, and details about the child's sleep at different ages, such as nighttime sleep duration (NSD), daytime sleep duration (DSD), night waking (NW), and sleep-onset difficulties (SOD). Data was collected through phone interviews when the children were 2 months old and at 1, 2, 3.5, and 5.5 years old.
Five Distinct Sleep Groups:
The study identified five distinct sleep trajectory groups among the 9273 children included in the study.
a. "Good Sleepers" (31.6%): These children had low night waking and low sleep-onset difficulties, shorter nighttime sleep, but longer daytime naps.
b. "Long Sleepers" (31.0%): Similar to "Good Sleepers," this group also had low night waking and sleep-onset difficulties. However, they had longer nighttime sleep and shorter daytime naps compared to "Good Sleepers."
c. "Good Sleepers but Few SOD" (10.3%): These children had long nighttime sleep and long daytime naps, but they experienced a peak in sleep-onset difficulties at age 3.5 years.
d. "Improving NW and SOD" (9.6%): This group displayed a pattern of short nighttime sleep that increased over time to reach a plateau. They also had high night waking and sleep-onset difficulties, which decreased as they got older.
e. "Persistent NW and SOD" (17.5%): These children consistently had high levels of night waking and sleep-onset difficulties throughout the study.
The study found that certain factors during a child's early life were associated with these different sleep patterns. Some of these factors include:
- Maternal depression during pregnancy.
- Sleep habits at age 1, such as parental presence or feeding to fall asleep, and sleeping away from their own bed.
Understanding your child's sleep patterns and the factors that influence them is crucial for providing the right support and intervention when needed. This study has identified various sleep trajectory groups in preschoolers, shedding light on the complexity of children's sleep.
The good news is that many of the factors associated with the most disordered sleep patterns are modifiable.
This means that as parents, you have the power to make positive changes to improve your child's sleep habits. Whether it's establishing a consistent bedtime routine, creating a comfortable sleep environment, removing sleep associations and teaching your child to settle to sleep independent of you, or seeking professional help for persistent sleep problems, there are steps you can take to ensure your child gets the rest they and you need.
Remember that every child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Observing your child's sleep patterns, staying attuned to their needs, and making changes based on temperament is key to successful sleep training.
Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the Block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education.
Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you
Mihyeon Kim, Danielle Saade, Marie-Noëlle Dufourg, Marie-Aline Charles, Sabine Plancoulaine, Longitudinal sleep multi-trajectories from age 1 to 5.5 years and their early correlates: results from the Étude Longitudinale Française depuis l’Enfance birth cohort study, Sleep, 2023;, zsad236, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsad236