Aim: Problematic behaviour and deficient academic performance have been reported in children with sleep problems, but whether sleep problems are common among children presenting with primary behavioural and performance concerns in remedial programmes is not well studied. We studied this possibility in 80 Australian school children aged 6–15 years and then compared 15 of these children from mainstream schools to 15 demographically matched children in specialist behavioural programmes for problematic behaviour and academic difficulties.
Methods: Parents completed the Child Behaviour Checklist and the Sleep Disorders Scale for Children. Questionnaires assessed behaviour, academic performance and symptoms of diverse sleep disorders, expressed as T-scores (mean (SD) = 50 (10)). Teachers rated students' academic performance (A, B, C, D, E).
Results: When compared with the 15 controls, the 15 index children had significantly more sleep problems, in addition to parental concerns about school performance. In the total sample (n = 80), poor sleep including symptoms of daytime sleepiness, parasomnias, behavioural sleep problems and combined sleep problems was associated with poor academic performance and daytime behavioural issues.
Conclusions: This preliminary study suggests that children in remedial school programmes may have poor sleep compared with those in mainstream schools. Sleep problems were associated with problematic behaviour and poor academic performance. If sleep disturbances worsen daytime behaviour, then diagnosis and treatment of underlying sleep disorders could offer a novel therapeutic opportunity.