• behaviour;
  • parent mental health;
  • school-aged children;
  • school-based study;
  • sleep disorders

Aims:  To determine at school entry (i) the prevalence and types of child sleep problems; (ii) sleep difficulties and hygiene practices associated with sleep problems; and (iii) their associations with child health-related quality of life, mental health and parent mental health.

Methods:  We conducted a cross-sectional community-based study at 22 primary schools in Melbourne, Australia. One thousand five hundred and twelve (70%) parents of children in the first 6 months of the child's first year of primary school took part. Parent report of child sleep problems (none, mild, and moderate/severe); sleep difficulties; pre-bedtime activities (television in bedroom, television or electronic games before bedtime, television or electronic games >2 h/day) and caffeine intake; child mental health (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire), health-related quality of life (Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory); and parent mental health (Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21).

Results:  38.6% of children had a parent-reported sleep problem (27.9% mild, 10.8% moderate/severe). Sleep problems were characterised by problematic sleep difficulties but not poor sleep hygiene practices. Moderate/severe sleep problems were associated with poorer child mental health (mean difference −0.8; 95% confidence interval (CI) −1.1 to −0.5, P < 0.001), health-related quality of life (mean difference −9.9; 95% CI −11.9 to −7.9, P < 0.001) and parent mental health (mean difference 9.8; 95% CI 7.7–11.9, P < 0.001).

Conclusions:  In new school entrants, sleep problems are common and associated with poorer child mental health, health-related quality of life and parent mental health. Future research needs to determine if systematically addressing sleep problems improves these outcomes.