Tired parents are more likely to believe their children also have trouble sleeping—even when the kids don’t, according to a new study.
Researchers in Finland studied 100 young children (ages 2-6) and their parents, comparing sleep habits the parents reported for themselves and their children with the kids’ actual sleep patterns as recorded by motion-detection actigraphs. Parents were asked if their children had trouble falling or staying asleep, if they experienced excessive daytime sleepiness and similar questions.
During the weeklong study, the actigraphs showed children typically slept about 8.5 hours each night, but parents who themselves weren’t sleeping well reported in their diaries that their children also had sleep difficulties—that’s known in the scientific world as an observational bias.
“Parents who are stressed out and have poor sleeping quality are more disturbed themselves by little noises and awakenings of their children during the night than those parents who sleep better,” says senior study author Dr. Helena Lapinleimu, a pediatrics researcher at the University Hospital of Turku in Turku, Finland, told Reuters.
The research was published online March 24 in the journal Pediatrics.