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BACKGROUND: Sleep problems in childhood have been found to be associated with memory and learning impairments, irritability, difficulties in mood modulation, attention and behavioral problems, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Short sleep duration has been found to be associated with overweight and obesity in childhood. This paper describes the protocol of a behavioral intervention planned to promote healthier sleep in infants. METHODS: The study is a 1:1 parallel group single-blinded randomized controlled trial enrolling a total of 552 infants at 3 months of age. The main eligibility criterion is maternal report of the infant's sleep lasting on average less than 15 h per 24 h (daytime and nighttime sleep). Following block randomization, trained fieldworkers conduct home visits of the intervention group mothers and provide standardized advice on general practices that promote infant's self-regulated sleep. A booklet with the intervention content to aid the mother in implementing the intervention was developed and is given to the mothers in the intervention arm. In the two days following the home visit the intervention mothers receive daily telephone calls for intervention reinforcement and at day 3 the fieldworkers conduct a reinforcement visit to support mothers' compliance with the intervention. The main outcome assessed is the between group difference in average nighttime self-regulated sleep duration (the maximum amount of time the child stays asleep or awake without awakening the parents), at ages 6, 12 and 24 months, evaluated by means of actigraphy, activity diary records and questionnaires. The secondary outcomes are conditional linear growth between age 3-12 and 12-24 months and neurocognitive development at ages 12 and 24 months. DISCUSSION: The negative impact of inadequate and insufficient sleep on children's physical and mental health are unquestionable, as well as its impact on cognitive function, academic performance and behavior, all of these being factors to which children in low- and middle-income countries are at higher risk. Behavioral interventions targeting mothers and young children that can be delivered inexpensively and not requiring specialized training can help prevent future issues by reducing the risk to which these children are exposed. TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT02788630 registered on 14 June 2016 (retrospectively registered).

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Psychiatry

Publication Date





Child development, Child growth, Sleep, Child Development, Child, Preschool, Clinical Protocols, Directive Counseling, Female, House Calls, Humans, Infant, Infant Care, Mothers, Self-Control, Single-Blind Method, Sleep, Sleep Hygiene, Surveys and Questionnaires, Time Factors