Your child’s sleeplessness could be an early warning sign of future mental health problems, according to a new study.

Researchers have warned that children who suffer from disturbed sleep are more likely to develop other problems in the future.

The researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London and Tel Aviv University say that disturbed sleep could be a sign of issues such as anxiety, depression or schizophrenia.

The researchers reviewed several scientific studies and believe that insomnia and nightmares are associated with a greater likelihood of developing mental health problems in later childhood or adulthood.

Dr Alice Gregory of Goldsmiths told the Daily Mail that “disorders typically start early in life, so it’s negligent to ignore the childhood and adolescence period when trying to understand the development of psychopathology.

“Sleep can be assessed very early in life and has found to constitute an early risk indicator of later problems.”

She also suggested that these early warning signs could prove to be very useful, as it is easier to deal with sleeping problems than with mental illness.

“Parents and young people might find that discussing sleep is easier compared to other difficulties, so it can act as a gateway to better communication about those difficulties,” she said.

The researchers point out the relationship between nightmares and psychotic episodes, suggesting that it could be a sign for later development of schizophrenia. They also suggest that children who are diagnosed with bi-polar disorder later in life were also found to have irregular sleeping patterns.

So what can be done to combat the issue before it leads to future problems?

Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that improving sleep was the main way to help lessen the effects of future issues. They claim “sleep hygiene” can be bettered by improving bedtime routines — for example, ensuring that no drinks containing caffeine are drunk near bedtime and that there are set rules surrounding the time your child goes to sleep.

Waking up a child during their night terrors can also be a handy way to prevent an ongoing restless night, allowing them to return to a more relaxed sleep.

The research has exposed the complex relationship between sleep and mental illness, and considering what a hot topic sleep (or the lack thereof) seems to be at the moment, it’s a relationship that’s likely to be explored in further studies.

How do you help your child sleep soundly? Share your tips in the comments below!