Kids’ Sleep and Parents’ Health

Sleep problems in babies, toddlers, and preschool kids are common. So are mental health problems, such as depression, in parents. Postpartum depression in mothers gets the most attention, but when a mother is depressed, up to 50 percent of fathers will be as well. And depression is not restricted to the postpartum period. It’s also common among preschool parents. What is the link between kids’ sleep and parents’ health?

We know that sleep problems in children can lead to depression in mothers, which can improve as the child’s sleep improves. A study of about 10,000 Australian infants and preschool children and their families was published in the May 2007 Pediatrics. The results showed a clear connection between poor sleep in the children and general health issues in both mothers and fathers (as well as specific mental health issues in mothers), even after taking into account other risk factors for these health problems.

The authors conclude that solving children’s sleep problems can help improve mothers. mental health and the general health of both parents.

This makes sense to me, and is worth making a priority. It also makes sense to me that parents. addressing their own physical health issues may help their children to sleep better. The study shows a link, but does not show which causes which. I suspect that they both affect each other, in what can be an upward or downward spiral. Each step forward could have rippling positive effects.

What’s your experience? What would you recommend to other parents?

Martin, J., Hiscock H., Hardy, P., Davey, B., and Wake, M. “Adverse Associations of Infant and Child Sleep Problems and Parent Health: An Australian Population Study.” Pediatrics. May 2007, 119, pp. 947-955.

Published on: May 02, 2007
About the Author
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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