Babies and toddlers whose parents are in unhappy relationships have more disrupted sleep patterns. The study looked at 357 adopted children and their families in the US, and appears in the journal Child Development. The adopted children were chosen to eliminate any role genetics might play.
Sleeping problems in children are thought to affect brain development and lead to further problems in later life.
“Regulated sleep is essential during infancy for healthy brain and physical development. Disrupted sleep can affect brain development and result in early temperament problems, leading on to a cascade of social, behavioral and academic problems,” Professor Gordon Harold, from the University of Leicester, said.
“This study suggests that children who have increased anxiety levels, for example, due to exposure to parental marital conflict, are more susceptible to sleep problems,” said Dr Jon Goldin, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at Great Ormond Street hospital.