Sleep Problems in Urban Minority Children

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

This episode focuses on sleep problems in urban, minority early school-aged children.

We are featuring a journal article this week titled Sleep problems in urban, minority, early-school-aged children. The authors used 160 mostly Latino parents that lived in urban areas and asked them about the level of sleep problems their 5 to 6 year old children were experiencing. They found that 94% of the parents reported that their child had sleep problems which was four times greater than children who lived in suburban and rural areas.

In addition to overall sleep problems, the authors looked at the most common sleep issues that these children experienced. About half of the children experienced parasomnia which is partial arousal during sleep and includes restless legs and teeth grinding. Other issues that roughly half of the children experienced included higher levels of bedtime resistance, spending less time sleeping at night, having anxiety about sleep, and having more daytime sleepiness.

The authors cited previous research that indicates minority children nap more frequently, take longer naps, and continue napping at much older ages than white children. Minority children also have later bedtimes yet wake up at the same time as white children. This means that minority children get less sleep during the night. Children who sleep less at night, despite taking naps are more likely to act out during the day and display externalizing behaviors.

The takeaway is that minority children living in urban environments have a high likelihood for disordered sleep. This has far reaching implications regarding the children’s academic achievement and behavior at school. Health professionals and educators should make concerted efforts to ask parents about their child’s sleep habits and develop interventions to help ensure that these children receive the quality and quantity of sleep they need to succeed in school.

That concludes this webcast of the School Mental Health Minute. Come back next week and thanks for watching.


Sheares, B.J., Kattan, M., Leu, C, Lamm, C.I., Dorsey, K.B., & Evans, D. (2013). Sleep problems in urban, minority, early-school-aged children more prevalent than previously recognized. Clinical Pediatrics, 52 (4), 302-309.

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