Inadequate sleep is associated with daytime sleepiness, less optimal pre-school adjustment and problems of irritability, hyperactivity and attention, the study noted.

"Essentially, these young children might be caught in a cycle, with sleep disruption affecting their psychiatric symptoms and psychiatric symptoms affecting their sleep-wake organization," explained John Boekamp from Bradley Hospital, Rhode Island in US.

"The most common sleep difficulties reported nationally for toddlers and pre-schoolers are problems of going to bed, falling asleep and frequent night awakenings collectively, these problems are referred to as behavioural insomnias of childhood," Boekamp added.

Sleep problems in young children frequently co-occur with other behavioural problems, with evidence that inadequate sleep is associated with daytime sleepiness, less optimal pre-school adjustment, and problems of irritability, hyperactivity and attention.

This study examined the nature and prevalence of diagnostically defined sleep disorders, including Sleep Onset Insomnia and Night Waking Insomnia, in a group of 183 young children.

Sleep problems were especially common in children with disruptive behaviour, attention, anxiety and mood problems.

"It is important for families to be aware of how important sleep is to the behavioural adjustment and well being of children," Boekamp pointed out.

The study was published online in the journal Child Psychiatry & Human Development.

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