If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial. I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length. This is a reference book. Read only the topic of interest to you.
A study by Professor Mindell noted that parental presence at sleep onset is much more common in Asian than English-speaking countries. “Parental presence in the room at bedtime was the most potent predictor in explaining the number of night wakings, longest sleep interval, and total sleep time.” Separately, in another study of 3-year-olds, shorter night sleep duration was linked to parental presence when falling asleep. A third study noted that parental presence until sleep onset was the factor most strongly associated with night awakening at 17 and 29 months.
A 2020 research paper, by Dr. Jacqueline Henderson, prospectively studied parental presence at sleep onset in a group of children at 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months of age, using a 6-day sleep diary. At 6 and 12 months, some infants were classified as “self-sleep regulated (S-R) and some as non-self-sleep regulated (NS-R). The “self-sleep regulated (S-R) infants had earlier bedtimes, longer night sleep, fewer night wakings per night, fewer night wakings per week, less time awake per night waking, less bed-sharing (co-sleeping).” Also, parental presence at sleep onset at 1 month predicted S-R and NS-R status at 6 and 12 months.
One study described Emotional Availability (EA) of the mother at bedtime as follows:
When mothers were more emotionally available. The infants slept more throughout the night. Mothers who were ranked high on EA had infants with lower bedtime and nighttime cortisol (indicating less stress) compared to infants whose mothers ranked low on EA.
A new, 2021, research paper by Professor Bror Ranum, titled “Persistent Short Sleep from Childhood to Adolescence: Child, Parent, and Peer Predictors” studied EA during the day, not at bedtime.
They refer to Parental Emotional Availability as “the ability of parents to demonstrate warmth, consistency, understanding, and positive communication. Typically, parents are children’s most salient and important regulatory scaffold and thus constitute the environmental factor which impacts children’s sleep the most.” They described parental emotional availability as follows:
They studied 800 children and made assessments every 2 years between 6 and 14 years. Sleep duration was measured objectively with hip-strapped monitors and Parent Emotional Availability was measured by coding video recordings of parents (82% mothers) and children during 4 consecutive structured sequences: free play, child led play, parent led play, and a clean-up task. Also, they defined ‘Temperamental Negative Affectivity’ as the tendency to experience negative emotions (sadness, fear, anger, and discomfort) more often, more intensely, and for a longer duration than others.
Conclusion: They identified a subgroup of children (20%) as having persistent short sleep between 6-14 years of age and “Temperament negative affectivity. Low parental emotional availability predicted membership to that group.”
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