Peltz Awarded Grant to Study Sleep Disturbance – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Peltz Awarded Grant to Study Sleep Disturbance

In November, the National Sleep Foundation awarded a $10,000 grant to Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology Jack Peltz and his colleague, Thomas O’Connor, professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine and Dentistry.

The grant funds Peltz and O’Connor’s proposed study, “Environmental and Parental Influences on Adolescent Sleep Disturbance,” which will examine “adolescent sleep within a family context, particularly how the larger environment influences adolescent sleep problems,” says Peltz.

“Approximately 90% of adolescents get either insufficient sleep (due to such factors as poor sleep hygiene habits, pre-bedtime media usage, anxiety) during school nights, or barely meet the required amount of sleep expected for healthy functioning,” Peltz says. “Adolescents who get insufficient sleep during the school week are much more likely to suffer academic, physical, behavioral, and psychological consequences. Parents potentially play influential roles in supporting their adolescents’ positive sleep habits and behaviors. Unfortunately, approximately 40% of parents of 15-17 year olds report that they do not set sleep-related rules.”

Over the course of the next year, Peltz and O’Connor will study “the transactional influences, including key mechanisms, that link parenting practices to adolescents’ use of pre-bedtime electronic media, a highly prevalent form of environmental noise, and their sleep problems. This project seeks to address both how parents set limits and what parenting factors support the establishment of effective limits by collecting data simultaneously on both parents and adolescents through a sleep diary.”

Peltz notes that previous research suggests that parenting practices can exert a positive influence on adolescents’ sleep behavior, though such research is limited by its “inability to drawn causal inferences due to their cross-sectional designs. Accordingly, there remains a great need for studies to address the longitudinal influence of parenting behaviors on adolescent sleep.”

He hopes that the findings from this new study will “advance the National Sleep Foundation’s evidence/knowledge base for its public messaging by providing empirically supported guidance on optimal parenting practices to promote healthy adolescent sleep.”

The grant will allow Peltz and O’Connor to enlist student assistance in the study. Students in Peltz’s research seminar, “Research in Clinical Psychology,” will help recruit participants for both studies in addition to other duties to support the study.

“One goal from the project will be to have students take de-identified data (meaning that it is not linked to any specific participant) to develop research studies that they submit to present at conferences,” says Peltz, who anticipates that results from the study will “extend the National Sleep Foundation’s capacity to support parents and their efficacy in influencing their adolescents’ sleep behaviors. In addition, the study will potentially provide health care providers (e.g., pediatricians, psychologists) with more effective resources through which they can address adolescent sleep problems.”

Peltz, who joined the faculty in 2013, is currently revising a paper based on his dissertation data, which examines the effects of toddlers’ sleep problems on different aspects of the family, such as marital functioning. He is also preparing a study that will examine sleep-related problems in a college population, specifically “the transactional (or bidirectional) influences that link college students’ sleep hygiene to their sleep problems and to their mental well-being and daily functioning (i.e., levels of fatigue, sense of competence, and engagement in risky behaviors, such as alcohol consumption),” he says. “It will also assess college students’ sleep environments as the environment in which one goes to sleep is fundamental to the sleep process.”

He sees the National Sleep Foundation-funded project as a way to “build my program of research by extending the developmental periods that I study.”

Participants — both parents and adolescents (9-12 grade) — will be recruited for the upcoming project over the next several months. Participants will be compensated for completing both an initial online survey as well as an online 8-day sleep diary. Interested parties may contact Peltz directly at peltz@hws.edu or at (315) 781-4629.