Washington: A new study has recently revealed that preterm children have more medical sleep problems like nocturnal movement, restlessness during the night and breathing problems than full-term children.
A premature birth is one that occurs before the start of the 37th week of pregnancy. The sleep problems are linked to negative emotionality and lower attention.
The results showed that preterm children displayed more medical sleep problems such as nocturnal movement, restlessness during the night and breathing problems, compared with those born at full term.
"Preterm children needed less support to fall asleep and fell asleep more often alone in their own bed compared to those born at full term," said principal investigator Dr Barbara Caravale from Sapienza University in Rome, Italy.
"However, the preterm children showed more frequent sleep difficulties, such asrestlessness and breathing problems during the night," Caravale added.
The team analysed 51 preterm children with normal cognitive, language, and motor development, and 57 full-term children.
Their average age was 21 months.
The mothers completed a series of questionnaires to assess the sleep-related difficulties, sleep habits and child temperament.
They found no differences between the two groups of children in bedtime, rise time or sleep duration.
However, Caravale noted that the sleep problems reported by the parents of preterm may have resulted in sleep disruption, which could help explain significant differences in attention and emotionality.
"We observed a link between sleep pattern and temperament in preterm children," Caravale stated.
They also found that the sleep problems were related to increased negative emotionalityand decreased attention.
According to the authors, these results are consistent with previous studies demonstrating that children born preterm are at risk of attention and learning problems as well as emotional difficulties.
For this reason, it is important that pediatricians screen for sleep problems more rigorously in preterm children, especially with respect to sleep-related breathing disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and sleep-related movement disorders.
The research appears in journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine....