Does the maturation of early sleep patterns predict language ability at school entry? A Born in Bradford study

Publication authors

Victoria C. P. KNOWLAND, Sam BERENS, M. Gareth GASKELL, Sarah A. WALKER and Lisa-Marie HENDERSON


Children’s vocabulary ability at school entry is highly variable and predictive of later language and literacy outcomes. Sleep is potentially useful in understanding and explaining that variability, with sleep patterns being predictive of global trajectories of language acquisition. Here, we looked to replicate and extend these findings. Data from 354 children (without English as an additional language) in the Born in Bradford study were analysed, describing the mean intercepts and linear trends in parent-reported day-time and night-time sleep duration over five time points between 6 and 36 months-of-age. The mean difference between night-time and day-time sleep was predictive of receptive vocabulary at age five, with more night-time sleep relative to day-time sleep predicting better language. An exploratory analysis suggested that socioeconomic status was predictive of vocabulary outcomes, with sleep patterns partially mediating this relationship. We suggest that the consolidation of sleep patterns acts as a driver of early language development.