Study: Mums who sleep less are more likely to engage in permissive parenting


A new study out of the University of Illinois has shown just how vital sleep can be - not just for our own wellbeing, but also for our parenting.


Researchers have found that mums of kids in late adolescence tend to engage in permissive parenting (marked by lax or inconsistent discipline) if they take longer to fall asleep or sleep less.


University of Illinois human development and family studies researcher Kelly Tu and her colleagues say this is concerning because permissive parenting has been linked to problematic and risky behaviours in teens.


Tu noted that inconsistent sleep is not unusual for parents, but that the researchers wanted to see how this impacted parenting behaviours:


"Short and disrupted sleep patterns are common among parents, especially parents of young children, and can affect their mental and physical health and daily functioning.



"Extending this work beyond young children, we were curious as to how sleep affects the parenting of adolescents."


She went on to explain to Science Daily, "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.


"We found that when mothers were not receiving enough sleep, or receiving poor quality sleep, it had an effect on their levels of permissiveness with their adolescents. It may be that they're more irritable, experiencing impaired attention, or so overtired that they are less consistent in their parenting."


To measure how much mums of teens slept, 234 women were given actigraphs, worn on the wrist, and had them for seven nights' sleep. These devices marked any movement and disruptions during sleep.



Adolescents, with an average age of 15, answered questionnaires about what they thought of their mum's parenting. The teens rated certain behaviours on a scale of 'likely or not likely to'.


A few of the example behaviour statements would be 'Doesn't check up to see whether I have done what she told me' or 'Lets me off easy when I do something wrong'.


The mums who slept for longer or fell asleep easier has kids who reported lower levels of lax or inconsistent discipline.


The researchers also noted that socioeconomic factors played a part, with mothers from financially disadvantaged households tending to have a lower quality sleep, and thus engaging in permissive parenting more.


Tu observed that the 'day-to-day stressors or challenges' these mums face must be taken into account, as they impact their sleep patterns.



As well, she said that their findings emphasise the importance of self-care and sleep for all mums - a message we're all too happy to embrace!


We're always delighted when someone endorses sleeping more. We hardly need an excuse to get 40 winks in!


"Sleep is an easier point to intervene in terms of changes individuals can make - things like not drinking caffeine or exercising too close to bedtime, establishing a bedtime routine, and thinking about the sleep environment," she said.


"Parents may be thinking about these things when it comes to their children, but it's just as important for parents to get enough sleep as it may impact their family interactions and children's well-being."