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A Systematic Review of Sleep Associations in Parents and Children

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Abstract

This systematic review aimed to examine sleep associations in a) typically developing children and their parents, and b) children with neurodevelopmental disorders and their parents. Literature search was conducted on PubMed, PsycINFO, EMBASE and Scopus databases for articles examining sleep associations between parents and children. Thirty studies were included in the final review. Based on the first aim, sleep associations between parents and typically developing children were observed for sleep quality, sleep duration and sleep efficiency. However, evidence for associations between sleepiness levels in parents and children and sleep schedules related to bedtime or waketime was limited. Based on the second aim, children with neurodevelopmental disorders and their parents reported greater sleep disturbances in comparison to typically developing children and their parents. The review concluded that sleep in parents and children is interrelated across a number of sleep parameters. It also revealed some preliminary evidence on bidirectionality in parent-child sleep, which warrants further examination. The review highlights the need to examine the mediating role of environmental factors on the interactions between parent-child sleep. Rigorous, longitudinal designs should be employed to explore the pathways through which parents may impact their children’s sleep and functioning and vice-versa.

Highlights

  • Sleep quality, insomnia symptoms and objectively measured sleep duration and sleep efficiency are associated between parents and their children.

  • Children’s sleep disturbances are linked to poor sleep quality, greater insomnia symptoms and increased pre-sleep arousal in parents.

  • Daily fluctuations in children’s sleep can have an impact on their mothers’ sleep and vice-versa, indicating potential bidirectionality in mother and child sleep.

  • Parents of children with neurodevelopmental disorders have greater sleep disturbances than parents of typically developing children.

  • Future research should consider the importance of family context when examining sleep disturbances in adults and children.

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Varma, P., Conduit, R., Junge, M. et al. A Systematic Review of Sleep Associations in Parents and Children. J Child Fam Stud 30, 2276–2288 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-021-02002-5

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