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The importance of the topic of child sleep patterns for children, parents and health professionals is highlighted by the paper by Thorpe et al.1 This systematic review assesses the effects of napping on child development and health in preschool children. The limited amount of good-quality evidence makes it difficult to draw conclusions about any effects beyond the fact that, after the age of 2 years, the evidence suggests that napping may be associated with changes in night sleep, of later sleep onset and reduced sleep quality and quantity.
Attention to this topic is warranted given the growing evidence that insufficient and/or poor-quality sleep negatively impacts a range of child outcomes including physical health, mental health, cognitive function and behaviour as well as aspects of parental functioning including stress, mood and overall family functioning. It is possible that some relationships between child sleep patterns and both child and parent functioning might not be directly causal (eg, aspects of both child sleep and child cognition could reflect underlying maturational processes or any difficulties in both the parent and the child might be due to environmental factors or shared genetic influences). However, experimental work does support the idea that there are certainly, frequently bi-directional and reciprocal, causal relationships between child sleep patterns and aspects of both child and parent neurobehavioural functioning and health. As such, trying to optimise sleep and sleep practices for children is essential in terms of optimising outcomes for all members of the family unit.
The topic is also highly relevant for clinicians. …