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Community sleep health predicts success among children

A new study led by the University of Arizona has found that a community’s sleep health is the most significant health predictor of children’s opportunities for positive growth and success. These results suggest that promoting sleep health at a neighborhood level may be a highly efficient way of promoting overall health and well-being.

The scientists merged neighborhood sleep health data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with data from the Child Opportunity Index (COI) – a database providing indices for education, health, environment, and social and economic factors which impact child development. 

Their analysis revealed that sleep health was the strongest predictor of the opportunities for children in a neighborhood, accounting for 57.2 percent of the variance in the COI global score. Moreover, community-level sleep health was also the most significant predictor of each individual component of the COI, including the “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 study lead author Suzanne Gorovoy, a postdoctoral researcher in Behavioral Sleep Medicine at the University of Arizona.

“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 [including access to health insurance, routine medical checkups, older adult preventive care, leisure-time activity, or prevalence of medical conditions and behaviors such as hypertension and smoking], it was sleep that outperformed them all in terms of ability to predict that neighborhood’s Child Opportunity Index,” Dr. Gorovoy explained. 

“In fact, sleep health alone overlapped with the overall index by over 50 percent. 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.”

These findings suggest that public health efforts targeting sleep health at the community level could have major benefits in helping the community’s children develop in a healthy, successful way.

The study is published in the journal Sleep.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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