Actigraphy-measured sleep concordance, night-wakings, intraindividual sleep variability in parents and their children—Associations with childhood sleep disturbances

Prerna Varma, Melinda L. Jackson, Moira Junge, Russell Conduit

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The relationship between the sleep of parents and their children has primarily been studied using self-reported measures, but data using objective sleep assessments are limited. In particular, objective assessments of sleep disturbance and night-wakings in parents in relation to their children's night-wakings is underexamined. This pilot study employed actigraphy to determine concordance in sleep–wake patterns between parents and their children, and examine temporal links between their wakings lasting five min or longer. The study also explored individual variability in parents' sleep based on parent-reported sleep disturbances in children. A total of 20 parents and children (aged 2–12 years, no co-sleepers) contributed actigraphy data for the 14-night study, totalling 280 nights of data. Parents reported their sleep quality using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, and children's sleep using the Children Sleep Habits Questionnaire. Concordance analysis of actigraphy data revealed an average of 70.6% match in sleep/wake state between parents and children. Parents were three times more likely to have an awakening within 10 min of their child waking than vice versa. Parent-reported sleep disturbances in children were associated with poorer actigraphic sleep outcomes for both the parent and child. Parents of poorly sleeping children demonstrated greater variability in their bedtime, and wake after sleep onset. Further examination of temporal links between parent–child sleep can improve our understanding of factors that predispose or precipitate sleep disturbances across families. Given the high concordance in parent–child sleep and poorer actigraphy sleep outcomes in parents of children with sleep disturbances, there is a need to deliver efficacious sleep interventions at the family level.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13773
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • child development
  • family
  • insomnia
  • mental health
  • sleep quality

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