Consistent use of bedtime parenting strategies mediates the effects of sleep education on child sleep: secondary findings from an early-life randomized controlled trial

Sleep Health. 2019 Oct;5(5):433-443. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2019.03.002. Epub 2019 May 20.


Objective: Using data from a randomized controlled trial, this study investigated whether parent's consistent use of recommended bedtime strategies with infants was a mediating mechanism for improved child sleep.

Methods: Expectant mothers were allocated to 4 groups: usual care (Control); additional support regarding Food, (physical) Activity, and Breastfeeding (FAB); advice on infant sleep through 1 group educational session during the antenatal period and 1 home visit when the child was 3 weeks of age (Sleep), or both FAB and Sleep interventions (Combination). An index relating to parent's consistent use of strategies to encourage infant sleep self-settling was developed from data collected when infants were 4 and 6 months of age. Child sleep self-control was measured at 3.5 years of age through a behavior rating scale. Child overnight sleep duration was measured using accelerometers at 1, 2, 3.5, and 5 years of age. Analyses examined whether any association between intervention group and child sleep self-control or sleep duration was mediated by consistent use of bedtime strategies at 4 and 6 months.

Results: Compared to Controls, Sleep group parents had significantly higher odds of using more intervention strategies consistently (1.63; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.14-2.33), as did Combination group parents (1.45; 95% CI 1.01-2.07). Consistent strategy use was significantly associated with a decrease in child bedtime behavioral difficulties (0.97; 95% CI 0.95-0.98) and increased sleep duration (0.152; SE = 0.017). Sleep group assignment reduced child sleep self-control difficulties and improved sleep duration indirectly via parent's consistent use of bedtime strategies.

Discussion: Consistent use of appropriate bedtime strategies in infancy is an important factor that influences child sleep self-control in later development.

Trial registration: NCT00892983.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Sleep*

Associated data