When It Comes to Sleep Duration, Parents’ Health Behaviors Count

Posted 01/04/2017 | By HealthCorps

Your kids are watching you.  They watch how you interact with others, what you eat and drink, what you watch on TV, whether or not you exercise (or complain about exercise), whether you are happy (or not) with your body and looks.  A new study now confirms that your child’s “sleep duration” may be influenced by your own sleep duration and confidence.

This study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine involved 790 parents with an average age of 41.  Their kids were between the ages of six and twelve.  They were participating in a randomized controlled obesity study.  Trained research assistants interviewed the parents by phone.  Approximately 92% of the interviewees were mothers.  They shared that on average, daily sleep duration was 6.9 hours for the parents (moms) and 9.2 hours for the kids.  They also revealed that:

  • The higher the parent “confidence” in helping the child to get enough sleep, the longer the child’s sleep duration. (an extra .67 hours per day)
  • Overall, 57% of the parent respondents “felt very or extremely confident” that they could help their child to get sufficient sleep.
  • For each one hour increase in a parent’s sleep duration, a child’s sleep duration was 0.09 hour per day longer.

The researchers felt the findings suggest that educating parents about their own sleep health habits and promoting confidence in their ability to help their kids to get adequate sleep would be potential areas of intervention to help increase children’s sleep time.  These interventions could occur through formal programs or even during a pediatrician’s office visit.

Current guidelines suggest that kids between the ages of six and twelve should sleep nine to twelve hours per 24 hours in order to achieve optimal health.  Sleeping fewer hours on a regular basis is associated with lowered attention span, behavior and learning problems, and it also increases health and safety risks.  The researchers also found that parental sleep is directly linked to a child’s sleep, irrespective of other (parent) health behaviors.

If there’s one clear message it’s that parents can guide kids to get sufficient sleep, and kids will definitely follow your behaviors and the messaging you relay to them.

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