Sleep: Overview and Introduction

Judith A. Myers-Walls, Ph.D., CFLE Emeritus, Professor Emerita, Human Development and Family Studies, Purdue University
NCFR Report


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Judith A. Myers-Walls


“How did you sleep last night?,” “Don’t lose any sleep over it,” “Let me sleep on it,” “Sleep well”—we talk about sleep a lot in day-to-day conversation! But I wish we had a term in English equivalent to one I learned in German: ausschlafen. Directly translated, it is something like “Did you sleep out?” What it means is, did you sleep as long as you needed to and wake up when you were ready?

That question could be asked in all the articles in this issue of Family Focus. Clearly, getting enough sleep is a challenge in family life! We begin with an article by Jeremy Yorgason, Amber Seidel, Amy Rauer, and Courtney Polenic. They provide an overview of the interaction between sleep and marital quality. Paul C. Rosenblatt builds on that topic as he points out how couples need to continually revisit and renegotiate sleeping habits and arrangements throughout their relationship. Shelby Borowski, Jill Naar, and Anisa Zvonkovic then explore how sleep-related work demands—specifically, overnight travel—influence both work and family.

In reviewing all of these discussions of sleep and families, I discovered a current hot-button issue that invites impassioned opinions from professionals and parents alike: co-sleeping with infants. We have several articles addressing different aspects of this topic. Douglas Teti offers a careful review of the research that looks at the reciprocal influences of family relationships and infant sleep arrangements and outcomes. Lindsay Wright and Alicia Deaver address the period of the initial transition to parenthood and its relationship with marital quality. Three articles take different perspectives on the controversies connected with co-sleeping versus solitary sleep for infants. Wendy Middlemiss and Kaylee Seddio use findings from physiological measures to assess the impact on mothers of trying to reconcile conflicting recommendations. Elaine S. Barry explores why the rates of co-sleeping have risen despite professionals’ official discouragement of the practice. Adrienne Riegle shares some recent qualitative research that has taken a fresh approach to the topic.

Finally, two articles present recommendations related to somewhat older children. Preschool bedtime routines are addressed by Caroline Wall and Jenell Kelly, and Nicola Rodriguez discusses ongoing sleep deprivation among parents of children in a number of age groups and cultures.

Throughout the process of compiling this edition, Paul C. Rosenblatt has provided advice and perspective. His long history of work in this area was immensely helpful. I hope this particular collection of facts, insights, and suggestions helps you understand better what families face on a daily basis and provides tools to help both you and your target population get a little more shut-eye!

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