Sleep Behavior Disorder
This fact sheet was developed by our partners at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Children´s Mental Health Division, for use in determining eligibility for early intervention services only.
Sleep Behavior Disorder is a formal mental health diagnosis given to toddlers by a licensed mental health professional using the Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood: Revised Edition (DC:0-3R). Children who qualify for a Sleep Behavior Disorder may experience one of two types of the disorder: Sleep-Onset Disorder (extreme difficulty falling asleep) or Night-Walking Disorder (frequent awakening from sleep that require caregiver intervention). Both diagnoses cannot be given until the child is at least 12 months old where the symptoms have lasted for at least four weeks, with five to seven episodes experienced per week. 1
Impact on Learning and Development
If untreated, young children with Sleep Behavior Disorder may experience delays in development and demonstrate difficulties in their relationships with others. They may also demonstrate difficulties in later school achievement and develop behaviors that require juvenile corrections interventions. 2,3
While the research surrounding effective treatment options is minimal, experts in the field recommend a combination of psychotherapy and parent education. 4 Additionally, as with all interventions targeted toward young children, consistent and frequent communication across all of the systems working with the child (the child's primary care givers, child care providers, primary health care providers, mental health providers, etc.), is essential for optimal success in treatment. 5
1 Zero to Three (2005). Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood: Revised Edition. Washington: ZERO TO THREE Press.
2 Zigler, E., Taussig, C., & Black, K. (1992). Early childhood intervention: A promising preventative for juvenile delinquency. American Psychologist, 47(8), 997-1006.
3 President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. (2003). Goal 4: Early mental health screening, assessment and referral to services are common practice. Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America. 57-66.
4 Minde, K. (1997). Sleep disorders in infants and toddlers. In A. Lieberman, S. Wieder & E. Fenichel (Eds.), DC: 0-3 Case Book (pp.267-284). Washington, D. C.: ZERO TO THREE.
5 Parlakian, P. and Seibel, N.L. (2002). Building Strong Foundations, Practical Guidance for Promoting the Social-Emotional Development of Infants and Toddlers. Washington: ZERO TO THREE Press.