Research Feature | Kim Tsai and the Lurie College “TsaiKicks”

An overwhelming majority of adolescents in the U.S. receive insufficient sleep which has significant repercussions on their cognitive functioning, psychological well-being and physical health.  Relative to the increasing knowledge on the importance of sleep for healthy development, less is understood about contextual factors that promote optimal sleep.  As such, the overarching goal of this study was to investigate how family dynamics affect adolescent sleep.  Restful sleep is facilitated by perceptions of physical and emotional security and given that the family is a primary context in which important feelings of emotional safety are nurtured, it is critical to better understand how features of the family context shape adolescent sleep.

With my amazing team of undergraduate research assistants (aka my “TsaiKicks”), we collaborated with a high school in San Jose to include adolescents in the study.  My “TsaiKicks” assisted with the development of research materials, recruitment and scheduling of participants, data collection and data entry.  Participants completed a survey to report on various forms of family stress (e.g., financial strain) and their quality of family relationships (e.g., parental support).  Family dynamics and sleep are not static, but rather, they fluctuate day to day.  Thus, participants also reported on daily family events (e.g., conflict with parent), behaviors (e.g., helped a family member) and feelings (e.g., happy, worried) every night for 14 consecutive days.  Additionally, participants reported on their sleep duration and quality each morning when they woke up.
The next steps for this research study are to analyze the data and to follow up with the participants this fall to learn about how COVID-19 has impacted family dynamics and how such changes (e.g., increased family stress) have affected changes in their sleep and overall psychological well-being.

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