Insomnia begins in childhood and continues through life

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Summary: Children and teens from racial and ethnic minority groups, especially Black children, are more likely to suffer from insomnia that begins in childhood and persists into adulthood.
Key Facts: Black children are 2.6 times more likely to experience chronic insomnia symptoms from childhood through young adulthood compared to their white peers.
The findings underscore the need to identify insomnia symptoms early and intervene with age-appropriate treatment.
Yet, when it comes to sleep and children, insomnia symptoms aren’t always taken seriously.
The researchers found that 23.3% of participants had persistent insomnia symptoms, with symptoms present at all three time points, and 16.8% developed insomnia symptoms in young adulthood.
“Racial/ethnic disparities in the trajectories of insomnia symptoms from childhood to young adulthood” by Julio Fernandez-Mendoza et al.
Sleep Abstract Racial/ethnic disparities in the trajectories of insomnia symptoms from childhood to young adulthood Study Objectives To examine differences in the longitudinal prevalence of childhood insomnia symptoms across black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, and non-Hispanic white groups.
Insomnia symptoms were defined as parent-reported (childhood) or self-reported (adolescence and young adulthood) moderate-to-severe difficulties initiating/maintaining sleep.


In summary, children and teenagers belonging to racial and ethnic minority groups, particularly Black children, have a higher likelihood of experiencing insomnia that starts during childhood and lasts until adulthood. The findings emphasize that insomnia symptoms are chronic, beginning at a young age, and that they are associated with serious health problems, such as mental health disorders and cardiometabolic illnesses.

This study, which included more than 500 members of the Penn State Child Cohort, found that 23.3% of participants across all maturation stages reported having persistent insomnia symptoms, with Black and Hispanic/Latino youths having higher rates. These results highlight how critical it is to identify and treat children’s insomnia symptoms as soon as possible in order to avoid negative long-term health effects.

Important Information:.

Compared to their white peers, black children have a 2:6 higher chance of having chronic insomnia symptoms from childhood into early adulthood.

Because of the long-term nature of the condition and its possible health risks, the study found that 23.3% of participants had persistent symptoms of insomnia.

For children with insomnia, early intervention and treatment are essential to reducing the long-term effects on health, especially for minority groups who are more vulnerable.

Source: University of Pennsylvania.

Most people have had one or two sleepless nights where they couldn’t sleep at all, tossing and turning and never being able to get comfortable. However, some people experience sleep disturbances on a regular basis, starting as early as childhood.

Researchers from Penn State led the team that discovered children and teenagers from racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately impacted by persistent symptoms of insomnia that start in childhood and last into early adulthood.

To be more precise, Black children had a 26-fold higher chance than White children of developing these persistent sleep issues. The results highlight the importance of early detection of insomnia symptoms and age-appropriate treatment interventions.

According to Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, a professor at Penn State College of Medicine and the study’s senior author, insomnia is a public health issue. The study was just released in the journal SLEEP.

“We’ve found that a higher number of individuals than we previously believed suffer from childhood-onset insomnia, which is characterized by chronic symptoms that persist into early adulthood. “.

Cardiometabolic illness, depression, and anxiety are a few issues that are associated with poor sleep quality. Still, symptoms of insomnia in children are not always taken seriously when it comes to sleep. Most people, according to Fernandez-Mendoza, believe that kids will outgrow their inability to fall and stay asleep.

Unlike sleepwalking or night terrors in childhood, insomnia is not the same. For many children, it won’t go away with puberty and maturation, according to Fernandez-Mendoza.

He clarified that because childhood-onset insomnia exposes a person to chronic sleeplessness, it increases the likelihood of health issues. Due to differences in sleep patterns that start at an early age, Black and Hispanic/Latino children may be at higher risk than non-Hispanic White children.

519 individuals from the Penn State Child Cohort, a random, population-based study started in 2000, were monitored by the researchers. Assessments were conducted on participants as adolescents and young adults at the mean ages of 9, 16, and 24, respectively. Initially, participants were recruited as school-age children, between the ages of 5 and 12.

Every time point corresponds to a distinct developmental and maturational stage. At every phase, participants—or their childhood parents—reported having trouble falling or staying asleep, and they underwent an in-lab sleep study similar to the one used to identify sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.

Subsequently, this longitudinal data was employed to ascertain the state of sleep during this particular lifespan span. Did childhood-onset insomnia go away with age, or does it continue? This was the question the researchers sought to answer.

According to Fernandez-Mendoza, the study fills a vacuum in the research literature by being among the first to examine how the symptoms of childhood insomnia change over time and examine how the course of insomnia varies amongst racial and ethnic groups.

The researchers discovered that 16 points 8 percent of participants experienced insomnia symptoms in their early adulthood, and 23 points 3 percent of participants had persistent insomnia symptoms that persisted throughout all three time points.

When participants were categorized by race and ethnicity, Black people accounted for the largest proportion of those with chronic insomnia symptoms, followed by youth who identified as Hispanic or Latino.

Specifically, Black individuals had a 2:6 higher likelihood of persistent insomnia symptoms into young adulthood when compared to non-Hispanic White participants. Furthermore, compared to their non-Hispanic white counterparts, Black participants had a 3 point 44 times higher chance that their insomnia symptoms would continue after childhood rather than go away.

This indicates that there is a lower likelihood that Black children whose symptoms persisted into adolescence and adulthood will have a resolution to their symptoms. Compared to white participants, participants who identified as Hispanic or Latino had an 11.8-fold higher likelihood of experiencing persistent symptoms of insomnia.

“We shouldn’t wait until a patient who has had trouble sleeping their entire life visits the clinic as an adult. Insomnia symptoms in kids and teenagers require more attention, according to Fernandez-Mendoza.

Professor emeritus Edward Bixler, professor Alexandros Vgontzas, assistant professor Kristina Lenker, associate professor Susan Calhoun, and sleep medicine specialist Raegan Atha are among the other Penn State authors on the paper. They are all affiliated with the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Penn State College of Medicine. Faculty members in the Penn State College of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences include Jiangang Liao, Fan He, and Duanping Liao.

Chandra Jackson, senior investigator, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Rupsha Singh, postdoctoral fellow, National Institute on Aging are the other authors.

The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the NIH, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and the NIH Intramural Programs provided funding for this work.

About this news on sleep and neurodevelopment research.

Christine Yu wrote this.

Pennsylvania State is the source.

Penn State’s Christine Yu can be reached.

Image: Neuroscience News is credited with this image.

Exclusive access to original research.

Julio Fernandez-Mendoza et al.’s article “Racial/ethnic disparities in the trajectories of insomnia symptoms from childhood to young adulthood”. Get some rest.


Disparities in the progression of insomnia symptoms from childhood to early adulthood based on race and ethnicity.

Research Goals.

to compare the longitudinal prevalence of childhood insomnia symptoms among non-Hispanic white, black/African American, and Hispanic/Latinx populations.


Participants were 519 children from the Penn State Child Cohort (baseline [V1] from 2000–2005), who were followed up with as young adults (S3) and adolescents (V2) eight and fifteen years later, respectively. At S3, the average age was 24.01 ± 2.07 years. 76.1 percent identified as Hispanic/Latinx, 12.9% as black or African American, 35.5 percent as “other” race/ethnicity, and 76.5 percent as non-Hispanic white. A parent’s or a young adult’s self-reported moderate-to-severe difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep was the definition of insomnia symptoms in childhood. Three time points were used to identify longitudinal trajectories of insomnia symptoms, and the odds of each trajectory were compared across racial/ethnic groups after controlling for sex, age, overweight, sleep apnea, periodic limb movements, psychiatric/behavioral disorders, and use of psychotropic medications.

End results.

In comparison to non-Hispanic Whites, Black/African Americans had significantly higher odds (OR = 2.58, 95 percent CI [1.29, 5.14]) of having a persistent trajectory that began in childhood and continued into young adulthood, whereas Hispanics/Latinos had nonsignificantly higher odds (OR = 1.81, 95 percent CI [0.77, 4.25]) of having the same trajectory. For remitted and waxing-and-waning trajectories since childhood or incident/new-onset trajectories in young adulthood, no statistically significant racial/ethnic differences were found.


Findings show that differences in sleeplessness symptoms between African American and Black communities and, to a lesser degree, Hispanic and Latinx groups begin in early childhood and continue into early adulthood. To directly address these disparities and avoid their detrimental health consequences, it is necessary to identify and intervene upon the upstream determinants of racial/ethnic insomnia imbalances.

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