"My stuffed animals help me": the importance, barriers, and strategies for adequate sleep behaviors of school-age children and parents

Sleep Health. 2019 Apr;5(2):152-160. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2018.11.003. Epub 2019 Jan 11.


Study objectives: To describe parents' and school-age children's sleep-related cognitions and behaviors.

Methods: Parents (n = 36) and school-age children (n = 40; 6-11 years old) from New Jersey, Florida, and West Virginia participated in focus groups lasting ~60 minutes for parents and ~30 minutes for children. Trained researchers led the focus groups designed using Social Cognitive Theory constructs. Standard content analysis procedures were used independently by 3 trained researchers to analyze focus group data.

Results: A consistent finding across focus groups was that a set bedtime was a typical behavior. Both parents and children recognized the importance of sleep for health and academic success. Technology was highlighted by both groups as a barrier to adequate sleep. The children discussed postbedtime activities of their parents as barriers to sleep. Physical activity along with several healthy sleep practices was identified as strategies to improve sleep. Parents and children stressed the role of parents in promoting healthy sleep behaviors and sleep-conducive environment. Participants did not mention some well-established links between sleep duration and health as well as sleep-promoting behaviors. Several unique factors, not yet reported in the literature, were discussed by the parents and children including the use of stuffed animals for comfort and disruptive behaviors of others in the household.

Conclusions: Many of the cognitions of parents and children coincide with evidence from scientific literature surrounding sleep and sleep hygiene but also demonstrated sleep hygiene knowledge gaps. Study findings can be applied to future sleep education materials targeting parents and school-age children.

Keywords: Bedtime routine; Cognitions; Sleep behaviors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Sleep Hygiene
  • Sleep*