Sleep health and sleep problems in early childhood: What role does childcare play? (2017–2021)

Early childhood is a critical time in neurodevelopment and one in which developing sleep patterns play a significant role in health, behaviour and learning. Sleep patterns at this time also impact on family functioning and parent health. Childcare settings are increasingly a part of young children¿s lives and an environment that can influence sleep patterning and quality. This study will examine the impact of childcare environments on children¿s sleep health and their contribution to sleep problems, sleep-associated behavioural difficulties and their resolution. The focus is children aged below 3 years, whose diverse sleep needs present complex demands in group-care settings. We ask: (1) Do childcare environments influence children¿s sleep patterns and behaviours? (2) Does consistency between sleep practices in childcare and at home influence the regularity of children¿s sleep patterns? (3) What contribution does observation in the childcare setting provide in the detection of clinically significant sleep, and attendant behavioural, difficulties. The research program employs a longitudinal cohort and nested case-control design. Objective measurement of children¿s sleep-wake patterns is made via actigraphy, while state-of-the-art observation techniques are employed to measure sleep practices and child behaviours within the childcare context. The study will deliver the first international population based evidence on the role of childcare in supporting sleep health in the early years of life and provide much needed guidance for National Quality Standards that legislate for appropriate provision for sleep and rest. The candidate brings to this project unique research expertise and relationships with the childcare sector and is supported by two supervisors across the 4 year period; the first an expert in developmental science, the second a developmental paediatrician with expertise in paediatric sleep medicine.
Grant type:
NHMRC Early Career Fellowships
Funded by:
National Health and Medical Research Council