Prenatal origins of poor sleep in children

Anu Katriina Pesonen, Katri Räikkönen, Karen Matthews, Kati Heinonen, Juulia E. Paavonen, Jari Lahti, Niina Komsi, Sakari Lemola, Anna Liisa Järvenpää, Eero Kajantie, Timo Strandberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


Study Objectives: We examined whether small body size at birth and prenatal tobacco or alcohol exposure predict poor sleep and more sleep disturbances in children. Design: An epidemiologic cohort study of 289 eight-year-old children born at term. Measurements and results: Sleep duration and efficiency were measured by actigraphy for 7 consecutive nights (mean = 7.1, SD = 1.2). We used both continuous measures of poor sleep and binary variables of short sleep and low sleep efficiency (≤ 10th percentiles). Parents completed the Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children. Lower birth weight and shorter length at birth were associated with lower sleep efficiency. For every 1-SD decrease in weight and length at birth, the odds for low sleep efficiency increased by 1.7 fold (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.1 to 2.7) and 2.2 fold (95% CI: 1.3 to 3.7), respectively. For every 1-SD decrease in ponderal index at birth, the risk of parent-reported sleep disorders increased by 1.4 fold (95% CI: 1.0 to 2.0). Moreover, children exposed prenatally to alcohol had a 2.9-fold (95% CI: 1.1 to 7.6) and 3.6-fold (95% CI: 1.3 to 10.0) increased risk for having short sleep and low sleep efficiency, respectively. The associations were not confounded by sex, gestational length, prenatal and perinatal complications, body mass index at 8 years, asthma, allergies, or parental socioeconomic status. Conclusions: Poor sleep in children may have prenatal origins. Possible mechanisms include alcohol consumption during pregnancy and other conditions associated with small body size at birth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1086-1092
Number of pages7
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Actigraphy
  • Alcohol
  • Body size at birth
  • Epidemiological
  • Tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)

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