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Background: The persistence of sleep problems has been documented in several studies and it has been found that early sleep problems may predict emotional and behavioral problems at later ages. Despite growing interest in the epidemiological study of mental health in the pediatric population, there are no studies in Latin America that have addressed the coexistence of sleep disturbances and psychopathological problems in children and adolescents seeking primary health care services.
Objective: Determine the frequency of reports of sleep disturbances, their diagnostic efficiency and association with other psychopathological symptoms and syndromes in a cohort of the clinical population of children and adolescents seeking treatment at a primary health care center in Mexico City.
Method: Information was obtained from 846 consecutive attendants aged 4 to 16 years. Subject to their informed consent, the children’s parents answered the Brief Screening and Diagnostic Questionnaire as an initial evaluation of a follow-up study. The report of frequent sleep problems and frequent nightmares were asked in the questionnaire. Logistic regression analyses were used to study the strength of the association between the two symptoms of sleep problems and the rest of the symptoms investigated using the questionnaire as well as for the psychopathological syndromes obtained through the questionnaire.
Results: A robust association was found between sleep disturbances and caseness. Sleep disturbances were associated with other non-specific manifestations such as irritability and physical complaints without a medical diagnosis, and mainly with anxiety syndromes. Nightmares on pre-puberal age may be indicative of possible (severe) early onset affective disorders.
Conclusion: Sleep symptoms throughout the pediatric age should be subject to clinical monitoring since their presence is associated with potential neuro-developmental disorders and other central nervous system conditions.