Is a sleepy parent a worse parent?

27 April, 2020 / Mateusz

It is no secret to anyone that raising young children is overcome by fatigue, especially in the first stages of a baby’s life. Parents often feel frustrated, irritable and have a very strong yearning for uninterrupted, restorative sleep. But what happens when parents of older children and teenagers suffer from sleep disorders? Does it affect their ability to happily raise their children? Turns out it does.

Controlled sleep

How sleep affects our health and behavioural mechanisms has been the subject of research for many years. Researchers have delved into this topic again with the focus on the effectiveness of raising parents of children in the 11-18 age group. 234 mothers participated in the research trial of the University of Illinois, who wore actigraphs for 7 nights in a row, i.e. devices recording their movements during sleep. The depth and quality of their rest were assessed on these findings. In the final phase of the experiment, the race and socioeconomic conditions of each mother were also taken into account.

Then, their children (average age is 15) filled in simple questionnaires to show how they perceive their mother’s upbringing methods. The scale began with ‘very inclined’ and ended with ‘not at all inclined’ in the types of behaviour.

Sleepless parent, unattended child

The conclusions of the study are extremely interesting. It turned out that the children of mothers who slept well and had no problem falling asleep were more often brought up in a stress-free manner.  In turn, sleepy mothers got irritated faster, were unable to focus attention on their activities or were too tired to be consistent in adhering to previously established rules. Factors of race and socioeconomic situation also affected the propensity to use specific educational models.

African-American mothers and descendants from homes with lower economic status, whose sleep quality was high, were less likely to be permissive parents while maintaining a healthy dose of sleep. Similarly, when their sleep quality decreased, the likelihood of permissive behaviour increased.

A healthy parent, a healthy child

Parents’ lifestyle, including their sleep patterns, affects not only their children’s behaviour but also their health. The latest research conducted on 200,000 volunteers and published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology showed that children of long-lived parents also enjoy a long life and their hearts are in a very good condition.

The study was conducted on people aged 55-73, whose health was monitored for 8 years. After analysis, specialists came to the conclusion that the participants of the experiment, whose parents lived at least 80 years old, had a 20% less chance of suffering from heart disease. The study compared the child’s health condition with the health of each parent individually, but the results were identical, although they did not accumulate. The study showed that genetics, and thus the parents’ health condition, also affect blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI, and children’ s propensity to smoke. All these factors have a large part in increasing the risk of developing heart disease. 

Stressed parent, naughty child

Did you know that how your child will behave can be influenced at the level of foetal life? If a pregnant mother was under a lot of stress, her baby was twice as likely to exhibit behavioural disorders in the future as compared to unstressed mothers. Such observations were made by scientists from the University of Ottawa, and the results of their research were published in the scientific journal Biological Psychiatry.

The starting point for the study was the thesis suggesting that a mother’s stress and irritability during pregnancy has a negative impact on the child’s development and future behavioural mechanisms. To investigate this problem, data was collected from 10,000 mothers and children from Great Britain – from pregnancy until reaching the age of 16. As it turned out, the frequency of stressful situations in the life of mothers greatly influenced the development of their children at a later age. About twice as often ADHD was found, i.e. symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as other behavioural disorders.