Objective: Children's sleep problems are associated with poorer student functioning in the school environment, including impairment in peer relationships; yet, no studies have examined sleep functioning in relation to the student-teacher relationship. The objective of this study was to examine whether child-rated total sleep problems or specific sleep problem domains (bedtime problems, nighttime problems, or daytime sleepiness) were associated with teacher-rated student-teacher closeness and conflict after controlling for student mental health symptoms known to be associated with both greater sleep problems and poorer student-teacher relationship quality. The study also examined whether age moderated the relation between sleep problems and student-teacher relationship quality.
Participants: Participants were 175 children (81 boys and 94 girls) in the first to sixth grades (age = 6-13 years) and their teachers.
Methods: Children completed the Sleep Self-Report. Teachers completed a measure of student mental health symptoms (ie, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, and anxiety/depression) and a measure of their relational closeness and conflict with each student.
Results: Total sleep problems were associated with greater student-teacher conflict, after controlling for child mental health symptoms and demographic factors. This association was moderated by age such that sleep problems were associated with conflict for younger children but not older children. Notably, daytime sleepiness specifically was associated with less student-teacher closeness.
Conclusions: This is the first study to demonstrate a relation between student sleep functioning and the student-teacher relationship. Results of the study suggest that sleep may be an important component of school-based screening and evaluation efforts, as sleep is an important malleable factor related to school success.
Keywords: Daytime sleepiness; Mental health; School; Student–teacher relationship.
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