Study Finds Sleep Helps Protect Small Children from Injuries

February 27, 2008

Every child is different. By understanding the role sleep plays in childhood injuries, we can come up with new and better ways to empower parents and prevent accidents from happening.

Lack of sleep can lead to increased injuries among preschool children, research from the University of Rochester School of Nursing has found. The study, published in the March/April issue of Public Health Nursing, shows that children who, according to their mothers, lack an adequate amount of sleep, are twice as likely to sustain injuries as compared to their well-rested peers.

Although ample research has shown a correlation between lack of sleep and unintended injuries in adults and adolescents, similar research on young children is sparse. Injury is the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the United States and one of the 10 Leading Health Indicators being tracked over the next decade by the United States Public Health Service. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that children three to six years of age get at least 11 hours of sleep each day.

The study, conducted by Christina Koulouglioti, Ph.D., R.N., and colleagues, Robert Cole, Ph.D. and Harriet Kitzman, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., of the University of Rochester School of Nursing, found that children who get an adequate amount of sleep, as reported by their mothers, sustain fewer injuries. The increased risk of injuries associated with inadequate sleep was significant regardless of both the child’s temperament and the mother’s age, level of education, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.

“What this study tells us is that sleep has a critically important role in preventing injuries in young children and in our study mothers’ judgment of whether their children are getting enough sleep, was the best predictor,” said Koulouglioti. “Every child is different. By understanding the role sleep plays in childhood injuries, we can come up with new and better ways to empower parents and prevent accidents from happening.”

Data for the study was collected from nearly 300 mothers and their preschool children from four pediatric practices in Rochester, N.Y., over the course of 2.5 years. Mothers reported on their child’s sleep, with injury data collected through maternal reports and children’s medical records. Data was collected on children at three years of age and again at four years of age.

The study was funded by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

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