A community’s sleep health is the most significant health predictor of children’s opportunities for positive growth and success, according to an analysis to be presented at SLEEP 2022.
Researchers merged neighborhood sleep health data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with data from the Child Opportunity Index, which provides indices for education, health and environment, and social and economic resources and conditions that impact the development of children.
The analysis found that among a variety of health indicators, sleep health was the strongest predictor of the opportunity for children in a neighborhood, accounting for 57.2% of the variance in the Child Opportunity Index global score. In addition, community-level sleep health was the most significant predictor of each individual component of the Child Opportunity Index, which is made up of “education,” “health and environment,” and “social and economic” scores.
“The most surprising thing we discovered in this study was that not only was a neighborhood’s sleep health a strong predictor of every element that makes up the Child Opportunity Index, but that it was the most important predictor when compared to other metrics of community health,” said lead author Suzanne Gorovoy, who has a doctorate in psychology and is a postdoctoral research associate in behavioral sleep medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
The CDC’s data included the population of each census tract as well as the census-estimated proportion of the population in each tract that got at least seven hours of sleep. Other health indicators evaluated included access to health insurance, past-year routine medical or dental checkup, older adult preventive care, leisure-time activity, mammography, pap testing, and prevalence of medical conditions and behaviors such as arthritis, binge drinking, hypertension, and smoking. When all other health predictors were included in the analysis, the next largest contributors to the Child Opportunity Index were teeth lost (additional 15.5%), health insurance (additional 3.0%), and asthma (additional 1.4%).
The findings suggest that public health efforts targeting sleep health at the community level may have a disproportionately significant benefit in helping that community’s children develop in a healthy way. The study also supports the AASM’s position that sleep is essential to health.
“When neighborhoods were examined relative to the percent that get the recommended amount of sleep, as well as the levels of a wide range of other metrics, it was sleep that outperformed them all in terms of ability to predict that neighborhood’s Child Opportunity Index,” said Gorovoy. “In fact, sleep health alone overlapped with the overall index by over 50%. That means that a neighborhood’s sleep health is an extremely powerful indicator of that neighborhood’s ability to provide good educational experiences, healthy and safe environments, and social supports.”
The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented June 6 during SLEEP 2022. SLEEP is the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.
This article is based on a press release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.