We all know that getting the recommended eight hours of sleep per day is crucial to your health. It helps prevent dementia, reduces the risk of depression and other emotional disorders, and makes you less likely to suffer from obesity, insomnia, substance abuse, and ADHD. Now, a new study published in the Journal of Sleep Research says that it also helps you be a better parent.
Kelly Tu, a human development and family studies researcher at the University of Illinois, and her colleagues asked 234 mothers to wear an actigraph on their wrists for seven consecutive nights, in order to determine their average quality of sleep.
They also gave a questionnaire to their teenage children, whose average age was 15, asking them to evaluate the parenting skills of their mothers. Prompts included statements like “Lets me off easy when I do something wrong,” “Can’t say no to anything I want,” or “Doesn’t check up to see whether I have done what she told me.” The results found that the less a mother slept, or the more disrupted her sleep schedule was, the more she was likely to let her kids get away with bad behavior or fail to make sure they’re OK.
“We found that when mothers were not receiving enough sleep, or receiving poor quality sleep, it had an effect on their levels of permissiveness with their adolescents,” Tu said in a university newsletter. “It may be that they’re more irritable, experiencing impaired attention, or so over-tired that they are less consistent in their parenting. But on the plus side, we also find that mothers who are receiving adequate sleep are less likely to be permissive with their adolescents”
It’s an important finding, given that research has previously found that children with permissive parents are more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as substance abuse and skipping school.
This was particularly true of African-American mothers and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, the latter of which tend to be especially tired and saddled with tasks that prevent them from looking out for their children enough.
“Studies have documented sleep disparities among ethnic minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals, and our findings are consistent with that. For socioeconomic status, we may need to consider the day-to-day stressors or challenges that these mothers are facing,” Tu said. “Mothers from lower socioeconomic households may be encountering additional stressors or financial hardships that could be affecting their sleep and/or parenting. But what’s exciting is that we also find positive effects of high-quality sleep on parenting behaviors for ethnic minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged mothers.”
The findings conclude that parents need to be as strict with their own bedtimes as they are with those of their children.
“Sleep is an easier point to intervene in terms of changes individuals can make—things like not drinking caffeine or exercising too close to bedtime, establishing a bedtime routine, and thinking about the sleep environment,” Tu said. “Parents may be thinking about these things when it comes to their children, but it’s just as important for parents to get enough sleep as it may impact their family interactions and children’s well-being.”
For more tips on how to achieve a reasonable sleep routine, check out 70 Tips For Your Best Sleep Ever.
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