Household Chaos and Family Sleep During Infants’ First Year

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Abstract

Household chaos has been linked with dysregulated family and individual processes. The present study investigated linkages between household chaos and infant and parent sleep, a self-regulated process impacted by individual, social, and environmental factors. Studies of relations between household chaos and child sleep have focused on older children and teenagers, with little attention given to infants or parent sleep. This study examines these relationships using objective measures of household chaos and sleep while controlling for, respectively, maternal emotional availability at bedtime and martial adjustment, in infant and parent sleep. Multilevel modeling examined mean and variability of sleep duration and fragmentation for infants, mothers, and fathers when infants were 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months (N = 167). Results indicated infants in higher chaos homes experienced delays in sleep consolidation patterns, with longer and more variable sleep duration, and greater fragmentation. Parent sleep was also associated with household chaos such that in higher chaos homes, mothers and fathers experienced greater variability in sleep duration, which paralleled infant findings. In lower chaos homes, parents’ sleep fragmentation mirrored infants’ decreasingly fragmented sleep across the first year and remained lower at all timepoints compared to parents and infants in high chaos homes. Collectively, these findings indicate that after controlling for maternal emotional availability and marital adjustment (respectively) household chaos has a dysregulatory impact on infant and parent sleep. Results are discussed in terms of the potential for chaos-induced poor sleep to dysregulate daytime functioning and, in turn, place parent-infant relationships at risk.

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