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Children's Sleep Quality May Be Linked to Mother's Sleep Pattern

Children’s Sleep Quality May Be Linked to Mother’s Sleep Pattern

Emerging research suggests children are at a greater risk of sleeping poorly if their mothers suffer from insomnia symptoms.

Experts say attention to sleep challenges is an important health issue as sleep plays an essential role for adults’ and children’s well-being.

In the study, investigators from the University of Basel and the University of Warwick assessed sleep characteristics among nearly 200 school-aged children and their parents.

Researchers focused on the relationship between parents’ insomnia symptoms and their children’s sleep. Short sleep and poor sleep quality may affect mental health, learning, memory, and school achievement in children. In Switzerland and America, around 28 percent of adult women and 20 percent of men suffer from disturbed sleep.

Sleep was measured in healthy 7-12-years old children by in-home electroencephalography (EEG); around half of the children were born pre-term. In addition, parents reported their own insomnia symptoms and their children’s sleep problems.

As reported in the journal Sleep Medicine, researchers discovered children of mothers with insomnia symptoms fall asleep later, get less sleep, and spend less time in deep sleep as measured by EEG. However, there was no association between the fathers’ sleep problems.

It is possible that mothers’ sleep is more closely related to children’s sleep than fathers’ sleep. Researchers posit that this may occur because mothers on average still spend more time with their children than fathers. Therefore, the mother’s sleeping behavior has a stronger influence on the child.

When parents reported their children’s sleep, both mothers and fathers with sleep problems more often reported that their children had difficulties getting into bed and did not sleep enough.

Investigators note that several mechanisms could account for the relationship between parents’ and children’s sleep:

  1. Children may learn sleep habits from their parents.
  2. Poor family functioning could affect both parents’ and children’s sleep. For instance, family fights in the evening before bedtime may prevent the whole family from a good night’s sleep.
  3. It is possible that parents suffering from poor sleep show “selective attention” for their own as well as their children’s sleep problems leading to increased monitoring of sleep. It is possible that increased monitoring and attempts to control sleep may negatively affect sleep quality.
  4. Finally, children may also share genes with their parents that predispose for poor sleep.

Source: University of Basel

Children’s Sleep Quality May Be Linked to Mother’s Sleep Pattern

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Children’s Sleep Quality May Be Linked to Mother’s Sleep Pattern. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 1 Sep 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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