Background Adequate sleep duration in childhood has important implications for social, mental, and physical well-being. Recent evidence has demonstrated declining sleep durations in children; therefore effective interventions to improve sleep measures are needed. Despite some trials suggesting that multi-behavioural interventions promoting bed-time routines may be beneficial, the effectiveness of such interventions has not been adequately quantified. Moreover, specific themes and strategies which increase sleep duration, and by how much, have not been formally quantified.
Methods We carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis to quantify the effectiveness of sleep interventions to improve sleep duration in children within community settings (PROSPERO ID CRD42019160089). Studies involving infants under 1 year, those using medications, and targeting children with behavioural problems were excluded. We screened 11621 randomised control trials (RCT), after carrying out a search using combined text words and MeSH criteria in CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PSYCHINFO, Web of science, clinicaltrials.gov, and WHO trials databases. Full text screening of 341 studies identified 39 studies for data extraction. All screening was carried out independently by two reviewers using a web-based platform for systematic reviews.
Results Studies were categorised by age as follows: 20% in >1–5 years of age, 25% >5–10 years, 33% >10–15 years, 22% >15 years. The mode of delivery of most interventions was face to face (74%). The intervention setting was most commonly school based (54%), with 21% based at home. Intervention duration was less than one month in 49% of studies. Qualitative data to describe each intervention was collected using a framework based on the TIDieR checklist. We are mapping this onto behavioural frameworks (COM-B, theoretical domains framework), to categorise interventions. Our initial analysis, from 9911 participants (4719, intervention, 5192 control) from 33 studies, suggests that mean differences in interventions increase sleep duration by 11 minutes (95% CI 6, 17 mins). However, caution is needed in interpreting this overall effect size (pooled using random effects) given the considerable heterogeneity across studies (I2 = 91%). The influence of study design characteristics in explaining heterogeneity (including age of participants, duration and type of intervention) will be outlined.
Conclusion This review furthers our understanding of the most effective interventions to improve sleep duration in children and provides a platform to develop population level health interventions to improve sleep. Given challenges assimilating data, an overarching aim is to develop approaches that could be used to homogenise reporting in future RCTs in order that evidence can be summarised more easily.
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