Study Shows Sleep Deprivation Affects Parenting

Sleeping woman

Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep may affect your parenting-- new research shows the relationship between sleep and permissive parenting.

The study, published in Journal of Sleep Research, looked at the link between maternal sleep and permissive parenting during late adolescence. Mothers who don't get enough sleep or who take longer falling asleep tend to engage in permissive parenting.

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According to the research results, sleep quality may be especially important for mothers from socioeconomically disadvantaged households. Researcher Kelly Tu also explained that there is a link between permissive parenting and adolescents' vulnerability to problematic or risky behaviours.

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Those risky behaviours during adolescence could include affiliation with delinquent peers, vandalism or substance use and abuse. "Given that permissive parenting may heighten the risk of adolescents' risky behaviours, we wanted to take a step back to ask what's driving these permissive parenting behaviours, and to see if sleep could be a contributing factor," the researcher said.

The study found that when mothers were not receiving enough sleep, it had an effect on their parenting. "It may be that they're more irritable, experiencing impaired attention, or so over-tired that they are less consistent in their parenting," Tu said.

"But on the plus side, we also find that mothers who are receiving adequate sleep are less likely to be permissive with their adolescents," Tu added. Actigraphs were used to examine maternal sleep duration and quality in 234 mothers at bedtime for seven consecutive nights. The actigraph detects movement throughout the night and determines whether there is a disruption in sleep. Information about race or ethnicity and socioeconomic status of the mothers was also collected.

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Adolescents, averaging 15 years of age, then completed questionnaires about how they perceived their mothers' parenting. They rated behaviour on a scale of "likely or not likely to." Example statements included, "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 answers indicated  that mothers who had longer durations of sleep or who were able to fall asleep easily had adolescents who reported lower levels of permissive parenting.

The study also showed that race or ethnicity and socio-economic status emerged as significant factors in linking sleep quality with permissive parenting. African-American mothers and mothers from lower socioeconomic households who experienced higher quality sleep had lower levels of permissive parenting. Yet, for these same mothers, poorer sleep quality resulted in higher levels of permissive parenting.

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