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Health Psychol. 2013 Aug;32(8):849-59. doi: 10.1037/a0030413. Epub 2012 Nov 12.

Economic adversity and children's sleep problems: multiple indicators and moderation of effects.

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  • 1Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849-5214, USA.



Toward explicating relations between economic adversity and children's sleep, we examined associations between multiple indicators of socioeconomic status (SES)/adversity and children's objectively and subjectively derived sleep parameters; ethnicity was examined as potential moderator.


Participants were 276 third- and fourth-grade children and their families (133 girls; M age = 9.44 years; SD = .71): 66% European American (EA) and 34% African American (AA). Four SES indicators were used: income-to-needs ratio, perceived economic well-being, maternal education, and community poverty. Children wore actigraphs for 7 nights and completed a self-report measure to assess sleep problems.


Objectively and subjectively assessed sleep parameters were related to different SES indicators, and overall worse sleep was evident for children from lower SES homes. Specifically, children from homes with lower income-to-needs ratios had higher levels of reported sleep/wake problems. Parental perceived economic well-being was associated with shorter sleep minutes and greater variability in sleep onset for children. Lower mother's education was associated with lower sleep efficiency. Children who attended Title 1 schools had shorter sleep minutes. Ethnicity was a significant moderator of effects in the link between some SES indicators and children's sleep. AA children's sleep was more negatively affected by income-to-needs ratio and mother's education than was the sleep of EA children.


The results advocate for the importance of specifying particular SES and sleep variables used because they may affect the ability to detect associations between sleep and economic adversity.

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