Parents of children with sleep problems are more likely to have sleep-related problems themselves, including more daytime sleepiness, according to a new study by researchers at the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center and Brown Medical School.
"While most parents can testify that having a child with sleeping problems affects their own sleep, few scientific studies have looked at the relationship between children's and parents' sleep," says lead author Julie Boergers, PhD, with the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center and Brown Medical School, and co-director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic of Hasbro Children's Hospital
The authors studied 107 families seeking treatment for their children aged 2 to 12 at a pediatric sleep disorders clinic, and found a link between children's and parents' sleep problems. For both parents, having a child with more than one sleep disorder was associated with greater parental daytime sleepiness. Children in the study had a broad range of sleep problems, including obstructive sleep apnea, sleep terrors, insomnia, and bedtime refusal.
The study appears in the March 2007 issue of the Journal of Family Psychology.
They also found that the link between parental and child sleep was particularly apparent for mothers. That is, within families, mothers of children with sleep disorders had significantly greater daytime sleepiness than fathers, even though they reported about the same number of hours of sleep per night.
"We think this might be because mothers tend to bear more responsibility for responding to children's sleep problems during the night, and this may disrupt their sleep to a greater extent than fathers' sleep," says Boergers.
Prior studies have shown that approximately 20 to 30 percent of preschool and school-aged children have sleep disturbances, and in turn, 53 percent of parents say they are awakened by their child at least once a week, according to a recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation.
Getting a good night's sleep can have an enormous impact on quality of life, both for children and parents, Boergers says, so parents need to recognize that their children's sleep problems can take a toll on them, as well.
"Anecdotally, we have found that parents of children whose sleep disorders are successfully treated show great improvements in their own sleep and daytime functioning. Clinicians who treat sleep problems should be attentive to the possible presence of sleep problems or daytime sleepiness in other members of the family," says Boergers.
Founded in 1931, Bradley Hospital (http://www.bradleyhospital.org) was the nation's first psychiatric hospital operating exclusively for children. Today, it remains a premier medical institution devoted to the research and treatment of childhood psychiatric illnesses. Bradley Hospital, located in Providence, RI, is a teaching hospital for Brown Medical School and ranks in the top third of private hospitals receiving funding from the National Institutes of Health. Its research arm, the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center (BHCRC), brings together leading researchers in such topics as: autism, colic, childhood sleep patterns, HIV prevention, infant development, obesity, eating disorders, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and juvenile firesetting. Bradley Hospital is a member of the Lifespan health system.
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