Parents’ Sleep Health Behaviors May Affect Children’s Sleep

New research has found that family-based interventions for treating sleep deprivation in children may be the most beneficial way to address this concern. Sleep duration in children is likely influenced by their parents’ sleep duration and confidence, the researchers note.

Findings of a parental survey showed that higher confidence in their ability to help their kids get plenty of sleep was directly linked to increased sleep duration in the children by 0.67 hours each night.  This was after controlling for things like parent education, child gender, race/ethnicity, and age.  The survey indicated that about 57% of parents feel ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ confident in their ability to help their child get adequate sleep.  This survey noted that the children’s sleep duration was increased by 0.09 hours/night for every additional hour in the parent’s sleep duration.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Corinna Rae, who is also the pediatrics instructor at Harvard Medical School and a Boston Children’s Hospital attending physician, notes that these results suggest two possible additions to intervention.  Parent education about their own sleep, while boosting their confidence in handling their children’s sleep habits through pediatric programs, will go a long way to improving children’s sleep duration.

These results were published and discussed in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has recommended 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night on a regular basis for children between 6 and 12 years of age, which is ideal for optimal health.  Getting less than the recommended number of hours on a regular basis has been linked to problems with behavior, attention, and learning.  Additionally, sleep deprivation increases health and safety risks.

Furthermore, this study reviewed the relationship between parent behaviors and practices, like screen time and physical activity, and the child’s sleep duration.  After findings were adjusted for demographics, the behaviors did not prove notable differences in the child’s sleep duration.

Dr. Rea explained that these results indicate that while regular behaviors do not really show a family lifestyle, parental sleep duration is directly connected to their child’s sleep behaviors, regardless of the other behaviors.

This research included 790 parents with an average age of 41 years.  The children were aged between 6 and 12 years, and they were part of a controlled randomized obesity trial.  Several research assistants administered a phone survey to the parents, with 92% of respondents being mothers.  The average sleep duration for parents was 6.9 hours, and 9.2 hours for children.

The authors of the study note that the format and platform of the study did not allow for analysis of causality; however, they do note that there were several mediators that could be playing a role in both parent and sleep duration.  For instance, a child’s sleep duration may be influenced by parents behaving as role models and providing encouragement and support for healthy choices, while also creating a regular bedtime family routine.


Rachael Herman is a professional writer with an extensive background in medical writing, research, and language development. Her hobbies include hiking in the Rockies, cooking, and reading.

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