Early childhood sleep problems linked with young adult psychosis
The Sector > Research > Early childhood sleep problems linked with young adult psychosis

Early childhood sleep problems linked with young adult psychosis

by Freya Lucas

May 20, 2024

Children who experience chronic lack of sleep from infancy may be at increased risk of developing psychosis in early adulthood, new research shows.


The work of researchers from the University of Birmingham, the study found that children who persistently slept fewer hours between the ages of six months and seven years of age were more than twice as likely to develop a psychotic disorder in early adulthood, and nearly four times as likely to have a psychotic episode.


While previous research has highlighted links between sleep problems and psychosis at specific time points, this is the first study to show that persistent lack of sleep is a strong predictor of psychosis.


“It’s entirely normal for children to suffer from sleep problems at different points in their childhood, but it’s also important to know when it might be time to seek help,” Lead author Dr Isabel Morales-Muñoz said. 


“Sometimes sleep can become a persistent and chronic problem, and this is where we see links with psychiatric illness in adulthood.”


The good news, researchers said, is that it is possible to improve sleep patterns and behaviours. While persistent lack of sleep may not be the only cause of psychosis in early adulthood, the research suggests that it is a contributing factor, and it is something that parents can address.


Researchers used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which includes records of 12,394 children from 6 months to 7 years, and 3,889 at 24 years old to reach their conclusions.


While the association between lack of sleep in childhood and psychosis in early adulthood was robust in the study, the team has not proven a causal link and other factors associated with both childhood sleep and psychosis need to be explored.


To access the study in full please see here

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