OBJECTIVES: (i) to assess the presence of sleep disorders in a population of very preterm children (ie, with a gestational age [GA] ≤ 31 weeks) of preschool age with no history of neurological disabilities using a questionnaire standardized for this age group and (ii) to identify possible differences in a control group of term-born children.
METHODS: A total of 146 low-risk preterm children (mean gestational age 28 weeks; range: 25-30), were assessed at a preschool age (mean age 3.8 years; range 3-6 years) using the sleep disturbance scale for children (SDSC) to assess sleep problems. As controls, 146 typically developing children matched for age and gender were also evaluated using the SDSC.
RESULTS: An abnormal total sleep score (>70) was found in 7% of preterm children, while 21% had an abnormal score on at least one SDSC factor. No significant differences were reported according to the age of assessment or gestational age. The preterm group reported higher significant median scores on SDSC total, sleep-disordered breathing, sleep hyperhidrosis and difficulty in initiating and maintaining sleep factors.
CONCLUSIONS: Low-risk very preterm children showed only a slightly higher incidence of sleep disorders than term-born peers at preschool age, with higher scores in specific sleep factors. These data could be useful to clinicians for screening those preterm children at risk for sleep disorders who need a more detailed assessment for a conclusive diagnosis and treatment.