Association Between Night Waking and Child Health During the First 3 Years of Life

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Abstract

Objective:

Night awakening is a common concern for parents and professionals in early childhood and a risk factor for child growth and development. This study examined the concurrent and longitudinal associations of night awakening with child health and illness during the first 3 years of life.

Methods:

Longitudinal data from 1364 infants in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development were used in this study. At ages 6, 15, 24, and 36 months, mothers reported on the frequency of their child's night awakening in the past week, overall health, and occurrences of illness. Information on demographic factors, including child sex and ethnicity/race, maternal education, and family income as well as child breastfeeding status was obtained at 1 month. Structural equation modeling, including latent growth curve modeling, was performed.

Results:

Age-related changes in weekly frequency of night awakening and overall child health were characterized by curvilinear patterns between 6 and 36 months. Although more frequent night awakenings were associated with poorer health at 6 months, a faster decline in night awakenings was associated with a slowed health decline over time. Furthermore, more frequent night awakenings were concurrently associated with more occurrences of illness at ages 6, 15, and 24 months. The association between night awakening and illness dissipated by 36 months.

Conclusion:

Night awakening is concurrently and longitudinally associated with poorer health and more illnesses in early childhood.

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