UA Study Confirms Self-reported Sleep Duration an Accurate, Useful Health Measure in Children

February 14, 2019

Although sleep questionnaires commonly are completed by children and their parents, a lack of data exists demonstrating the validity of such self-reported sleep measures.

A new study, however, indicates that these sleep reports are relatively accurate and their results vary only slightly from polysomnography results, or overnight sleep studies.

The study shows a strong correlation between both child and parent reports of a child’s sleep duration: Children overestimated their sleep duration by a median of 32 minutes and parents overestimated their child’s sleep duration by 36 minutes.

Similarly, children overestimated the time it took them to fall asleep – known as “sleep latency” – by 4 minutes, and parents overestimated their child’s sleep latency by 2 minutes.

Self-reported sleep duration was validated by comparing results to that of an objective overnight polysomnography, a test in which sensors are placed on the body to help monitor sleep, recording brain waves, heart rate, breathing and other sleep characteristics.

“Simple sleep measures, such as sleep duration, have been shown to be important predictors of health in children and adults,” says Daniel Combs, MD, lead author and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson. “Our results suggest that, while not perfect, parent or child report of sleep is a useful and very inexpensive tool to measure sleep in children.”

The study results are published in the Jan. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The study involved 285 children in the Tucson Children’s Assessment of Sleep Apnea community cohort study. They ranged in age from about 9 to 17 years, with a mean age of 13 years. Fifty-two percent of participants were boys, 68 percent were Caucasian and 32 percent were Hispanic.

Objective measures were gathered using full polysomnography during one night of sleep at home. Children and their parents completed sleep questionnaires the following morning. Eighty-seven percent of parent questionnaires were filled out by mothers.

The authors noted that in cases with high disagreement between the parent report and the child report, the child report tended to be more accurate for sleep duration. In contrast, the parent report was more accurate for sleep latency.

The authors also performed a stratified analysis of children from 9 to 12 years of age, compared to children 13 to 17 years of age.

“We expected that for teenagers, parent report of sleep would be less accurate, compared to parent report for younger children,” Dr. Combs says. “Surprisingly, no difference was seen in parent-versus-child report about sleep in teenagers.”

The study was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, and American Academy of Sleep Medicine Foundation.

About the UA College of Medicine – Tucson

The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson is shaping the future of medicine through state-of-the-art medical education programs, groundbreaking research and advancements in patient care in Arizona and beyond. Founded in 1967, the college boasts more than 50 years of innovation, ranking among the top medical schools in the nation for research and primary care. Through the university's partnership with Banner Health, one of the largest nonprofit health-care systems in the country, the college is leading the way in academic medicine. For more information, please visit

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About the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine

The monthly, peer-reviewed Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine is the official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a professional membership society that improves sleep health and promotes high quality, patient-centered care through advocacy, education, strategic research, and practice standards ( The AASM encourages patients to talk to their doctor about sleep problems and visit for more information about sleep, including a searchable directory of AASM-accredited sleep centers.