February 13, 2017 / 3:20 PM / 8 months ago

Preteens in chaotic households may miss out on sleep

(Reuters Health) - Kids in homes with fewer rules and routines are more likely to be kept up at night by noise from other family members’ activities, according to a recent study.

Even in homes where parents enforced kids’ sleep rules, that wasn’t enough to prevent kids from being kept awake when other people were doing things like watching TV or having friends over, the study showed.

“Research indicates that the home environment is important in influencing persons’ sleep,” said lead author James Spilsbury of the Center for Clinical Investigation at Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Efforts to improve adolescents’ sleep are likely strengthened if all family members participate, Spilsbury told Reuters Health by email.

To determine what activities might be keeping kids up at night, the study team recruited 26 preteen and parent pairs from the Cleveland, Ohio area.

Over a two-week period, the 11- and 12-year-olds noted each night at bedtime whether their family members did anything to keep them awake or make it harder to sleep.

The parents of the preteens assessed their household’s level of organization with a questionnaire, which asked how much they were aware of their children’s daily activities and friends, and whether their children followed routines.

Parents also noted whether they enforced sleep rules such as having a set bedtime, lowering household noise around the child’s bedtime, and rules against using technology or snacking after bedtime.

Overall, kids in more chaotic households were more likely to say household members made it hard to fall asleep, according to a report in the journal Sleep Health.

Compared to kids with more organized home lives, preteens in disorganized homes were 80 percent more likely to be disturbed by family members watching TV or listening to music and 70 percent more likely to be kept awake by relatives texting or talking on the phone.

Youth in chaotic homes were also 60 percent more likely to be kept awake by family members having friends or relatives over.

Compared to kids in chaotic households, children in more ordered homes were more likely to report that nothing kept them awake or made sleep more difficult.

Having sleep rules enforced by parents was not linked to fewer sleep-disturbing behaviors of family members.

The study was small and only included African American or mixed race families, so it is hard to say if the findings apply to other groups, Spilsbury noted.

But in general, he said, households with less organization or structure are probably more likely to exhibit these types of behaviors at night when a child is trying to sleep.

“Too often, sleep is considered as an individual behavior, devoid of its social context,” Wendy Troxel, a senior behavior and social scientist at the RAND Corporation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, told Reuters Health by email.

The stakes are high when considering youth sleep habits, said Troxel, because “sleep problems in adolescents can predict a host of negative outcomes, ranging from poor academic functioning, to increased risk of suicide, physical health problems, and motor vehicle crashes.”

Troxel, who studies sleep habits but was not involved in the current research, said consistent bedtime routines, limiting technology use at bedtime, and the emotional climate of the family are linked to healthier sleep.

“Families can support healthy sleep by creating home environments that are characterized by warmth, low conflict, and predictable routines (including regular bedtime routines),” she advised.

“Think of improving children’s sleep as a team effort. What can everyone in the household do to make the environment more ‘sleep friendly’ for children,” said Spilsbury.

SOURCE: bit.ly/2kYsmgj Sleep Health, online January 23, 2017.

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