Originally published by 2 Minute Medicine® (view original article). Reused on AccessMedicine with permission.

1. This study found that pre-existing sleep patterns amongst children tend to persist into adolescence and adulthood.

2. Furthermore, insomnia symptoms may worsen into adulthood insomnia among short-sleeping children and adolescents.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Insomnia symptoms have detrimental effects on mental and physical health. However, little is known about the duration and progression of insomnia symptoms from childhood. This 15-year longitudinal study investigated the developmental trajectories of insomnia symptoms in children as they enter adulthood, as well as their evolution into adult insomnia.

In this study, 502 school-aged child (median 9 years old) participants were included from the larger Penn State Child Cohort study. After baseline data collection, participants were subsequently studied as adolescents (median 16 years old) and as adults (median 24 years old). Study outcomes assessed for insomnia symptoms (defined as difficulty initiating and/or maintaining sleep) via parent or self-reports at all 3 time points. Additionally, adult insomnia was reported via self-report in young adulthood, as well as objective sleep duration in childhood and adolescence (via polysomnography).

Study results showed that amongst children with insomnia symptoms, the most typical trajectory was persistence (continuation of symptoms into adulthood), followed by remission, and a waxing-and-waning pattern. Among children with normal sleep, persistence was most common, followed by developing insomnia symptoms, and a waxing-and-waning pattern. Interestingly, the results suggest the odds of insomnia symptoms worsening into adulthood insomnia were 2.6-fold amongst children with short sleep duration and 5.5-folds amongst adolescents with short sleep duration. However, this study was limited by the fact that measurements were gathered from one night of sleep and thus may not be representative of habitual sleep at home. Nonetheless, this study was significant in suggesting that early sleep interventions are a health priority, and pediatricians should not expect insomnia symptoms to remit in many pediatric children.

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