Sleep health literacy in head start families and staff: Exploratory study of knowledge, motivation, and competencies to promote healthy sleep

Karen A. Bonuck, Barbara Schwartz, Clyde Schechter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Context: Healthy child development requires sufficient, quality sleep. Sleep problems in early childhood impair social-emotional and cognitive function and increase obesity risk. From a health literacy framework, "sleep health literacy" denotes the knowledge, motivation, and competencies to promote healthy sleep and to recognize a sleep problem. Design: To explore the untapped potential of early childhood education (ECE) programs to promote sleep health literacy, we surveyed staff (n = 63) and parents (n = 196) in Head Start about sleep-related knowledge, attitudes/beliefs, sleep hygiene, and sleep problems. Head Start is the largest ECE program in the United States. Results: Most parents believed that their child had healthy sleep habits (81%); few believed that he or she had a sleep problem (10%). Yet, unhealthy bedtime practices and insufficient sleep for age were reported in 50% and 33% of children, respectively. Between 10% and 12% of children had 1 or more sleep onset or awakening problems. Every unhealthy bedtime practice but one was associated with a sleep problem; parental presence at bedtime was associated with the most problems. Insufficient sleep was significantly associated with unhealthy sleep practices. More children with late vs early bedtimes (48% vs14%, P <.01) and frequent vs less frequent parental presence at bedtime (50% vs 26%-30%, P <.02) failed to obtain sufficient sleep. Staff members are more comfortable discussing healthy sleep with parents (87%) than counseling them (45%). Conclusion: Among parents, there is a "disconnect" between actual and perceived sleep hygiene. Similarly, staff perceived a gap between their competencies to promote healthy sleep in families and their capacity to address sleep problems. US health literacy goals include the need to embed accurate, accessible, and actionable health information in ECE programs. Study findings strongly support the need to work toward sleep health literacy in ECE programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-24
Number of pages6
JournalSleep Health
Volume2
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

Keywords

  • Early childhood education
  • Health literacy
  • Sleep
  • Sleep health literacy
  • Sleep problems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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