Babies (and mobiles) can lead to ‘daytime dysfunction’

Parents of infants with sleep trouble have increased risk of daytime dysfunction, including work and driving performance.

New Flinders research has also measured the effects of sleep disruption from waking up regularly to deal with text messages during the night.

The research was among the key presentations at the national Sleep DownUnder 2019 conference – and international World Sleep 2019 Conference in Vancouver.

Poor infant sleep deprives parents

The study found sleep-deprived parents are three times at risk of experiencing daytime dysfunction compared to the parents of infants without sleep problems.

Further, as infants continue to have sleep problems, the likelihood of parents reporting daytime dysfunction increases by 14% per month.

Daytime dysfunction can impede activities including driving and occupational performance and, with sleep problems prevalent in 20-30% of infants, potentially impacts a significant portion of parents.

Flinders University sleep researchers partnered with New York-based tech company Nanit for this new sleep research study that links infant sleep troubles and daytime dysfunction among parents.

The paper – titled “Are parents of infants with sleep problems at risk for daytime dysfunction?”, by lead author Meg Pillion from Flinders University – was presented at the World Sleep 2019 Conference.

The study used Nanit’s smart baby monitors to track infant sleep quality across 619 families and automatically analyse the data with its computer vision algorithm.

A Brief Infant Sleep Questionnaire was then used to measure the presence of infant sleep problems as reported by parents. To measure parents’ daytime dysfunction, researchers utilised a sub-component of the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

Co-author Professor Michael Gradisar, Clinical Psychologist at the Child and Adolescent Sleep Clinic at Flinders University, says using the Nanit camera system and AI allows for objective measurement of both the infants’ sleep quality and parents’ behaviour.

“This is going to give researchers insights that we’ve not had on this scale before. It will ultimately lead us to provide parents with the best advice to improve their infant’s sleep health,” says Professor Gradisar.

Flinders University and Nanit are collaborating on another study to provide objective evidence demonstrating the link between parental involvement and deficient infant sleep, finding that parental night-time visits were more frequent for younger infants, as well as for infants with poorer sleep quality.

“We have so many questions that can now be answered by leveraging Nanit’s technology,” says Dr Michal Kahn, a co-author on the study and a postdoctoral fellow at Flinders University.

“We’re looking forward to doing many more innovative projects together.”

One in five Aussies wake to text

Meanwhile, researchers at the Adelaide Institute of Sleep Health at Flinders University have found Australians routinely wake up to send and receive texts messages long after lights out.

After questioning 2044 adults about their use of electronic devices after going to sleep, the research found late-night texting and emailing regularly disturbs the sleep of Australians from adolescence and beyond.

“We found that one in five adults reported waking or being woken to send and receive emails and messages on social media 2-3 nights or more in the past week,” says lead researcher Dr Sarah Appleton. “One in 20 did this most or every night.”

These people were two to six times more likely to report adverse daytime functional outcomes  due to sleepiness or a sleep problem including having or nearly having a motor vehicle accident, work absenteeism and errors, falling asleep on the job and missing social activities.

“We also found an increased likelihood of having mood, motivation, and concentration problems in those frequently using their technology,” Dr Appleton says.

These outcomes were not limited to young adults, with adults 55 years and older experiencing device disturbance. The research team called for new public health strategies aimed across the age spectrum to encourage people to switch off, turn down or relocate their electronic devices or phones to another room at bedtime.

The research will be presented at Sleep DownUnder 2019, the annual conference of the Australasian Sleep Association, held October 17-19 at the International Convention Centre, Sydney.


Asleep on the job (photo Australian Sleep Health Foundation)

For this Adelaide Institute of Sleep Research paper, and other  research presentations, go to the conference website abstract list in a special issue (Vol 28, Issue S1) of the Journal of Sleep Research: Sleep DownUnder 2019, 31st ASM of Australasian Sleep Association and the Australasian Sleep Technologists Association, 16-19 October 2019, Sydney, Australia.

‘Technology use at night, sleep quality and daytime disturbances: a screenshot of Australian adults’ by Dr Sarah Appleton, Dr Amy Reynolds, Dr Tiffany Gill, Dr Yohannes Adama Melaku and Professor Robert Adams, which received funding from the Sleep Health Foundation.

Introduction: Technology/light emitting electronic device use and its relationship with health are well described in children and adolescent populations.

In adult populations, this is less well described. We determined demographic correlates of technology use during the night, in addition to associations with sleep quality and daytime disturbances in a representative sample of Australian Adults.

Methods: A cross-sectional national online survey of sleep health was conducted 2019 (n=2044, age range 18-90).  The sample demographic profile closely matched ABS estimates. Survey questions were derived from the 2002 US and 2016 Australian Sleep Health Foundation Surveys.  Technology use was assessed by: “In the past seven days, how often did you wake from sleep or were woken to send or receive text messages, emails or other electronic communications?” Responses were categorised as not at all, one night, two or three/most or all nights.

Results: Electronic communications during the night were reported by 31.4% of adults, with 12.7% (n=251) reporting one night, and 18.7% (n=371) responding two or three or most/all nights. Bedroom technology included: computer (25%), mobile phone/phone (72%), tablet/iPad (33%) and television (43%). Technology-related activities in the hour before sleep conducted 3 or more times/week included watching television (76%), work related to job (14%), on internet (66%) and social media (49%) and all were significantly associated with electronic communications during the night. Compared to those not at all sending/receiving texts/emails, communication ≥ 2 or 3 nights/week was significantly associated with perceptions of reduced sleep insufficiency and autonomy, and at least one symptom of difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep (55% cf 75%) and daytime disturbances (≥3 days/week in past month; 57% cf 85%) including measures of sleepiness, fatigue, mood and attention problems. In contrast, no significant association with self-rated health was seen.  Adjusted for demographic factors, electronic communications ≥ 2 or 3 nights/week was significantly associated with male gender, age groups 18-24, 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54yr, and language other than English spoken at home.

Conclusion: Public health implications of not switching off at night are significant in terms of sleep quality and daytime psychosocial function. The younger age of those waking from sleep to text and email may mitigate physical health impacts of sleep disruption.




Posted in
Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health College of Education, Psychology and Social Work