Aims: To evaluate the frequency of sleep problems in Australian children aged 4.5–16.5 years, and to determine whether the frequency of sleep problems on questionnaire predicts the reporting of sleep problems at consultation.
Methods: Parents of 361 children (aged 4.5–16.5 years) attending their general practitioner for "sick" visits were asked to assess their child's sleep over the previous six months using the Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children, from which six sleep "disorder" factors and a total sleep problem score were obtained.
Results: The percentage of children with a total sleep problem score indicative of clinical significance (T score >70 or >95th centile) was 24.6% (89/361). Despite this high frequency, parents only addressed sleep problems in 4.1% (13/317) of cases and reported that GPs discussed sleep problems in 7.9% (25/317) of cases. Of the 79 children who reported total sleep problem T scores in the clinical range, only 13.9% (11/79) discussed sleep with their general practitioner within the previous 12 months. Regression analyses revealed an age related decrease in problems with sleep-wake transition and sleep related obstructive breathing; sleep hyperhydrosis, initiating and maintaining sleep, and excessive daytime sleepiness did not significantly decrease with age. No significant gender differences were observed.
Conclusions: Results suggest that chronic sleep problems in Australian children are significantly under-reported by parents during general practice consultations despite a relatively high frequency across all age groups. Given the impact on children and families, there is a need for increased awareness of children's sleep problems in the community and for these to be more actively addressed at consultation.