Project Overview

Child Sleep, Stress, and Learning Study

Faculty Sponsor

Lauren Philbrook (


Psychological and Brain Sciences


The goals of this project are 1) To examine proximal and distal predictors of young children’s (3-6 year olds) sleep quality and duration, and 2) To examine child sleep quality and duration as predictors of their executive functioning, stress, and socioemotional competence. Predictors of children’s sleep will include parent and child behaviors during the child’s bedtime routine, family socioeconomic status (SES), and family emotional climate. Parent-child interaction during bedtime will be obtained via videorecording. Family SES and emotional climate will be measured from parent report. To determine child sleep quality and duration, specialized wristwatches (actiwatches) that measure motion to identify sleep or wake state will be used. Finally, children will complete standardized and well-validated executive functioning tasks on a tablet, parents will report on children’s socioemotional competence, and parents will be taught how to collect saliva sample for measuring cortisol levels, a hormone tied to stress, from their children.
The goal outcomes of the project are to ascertain factors within the child’s environment that are predictive of better sleep, and in turn, better executive functioning and social competence and less stress in children. These outcomes may be particularly relevant to 3-6 year olds, who are at an age when preparedness for starting school is of great importance.
Students will be involved in every aspect of this project. They will travel with me to visit families in their homes and set up video equipment for recording the bedtime routine (or mail/drop off equipment if in person visiting is not feasible); score parent-child behaviors during the bedtime routine from videorecordings; learn to set up, score, and analyze the sleep data collected from the actiwatches; enter and analyze questionnaire and executive functioning data; and collect and analyze cortisol data from the saliva samples. They will also assist with participant recruitment through creation and distribution of flyers.

Student Qualifications

Students should have experience working with children and have taken Child Psychology and/or Sleep Psychology at Colgate. They must have strong interpersonal skills and show a high degree of sensitivity, patience, and understanding in working with families with young children. Students must be reliable and willing to occasionally have an irregular schedule including some visits in the evenings or weekends. Finally, they should be comfortable working independently or in a team with one other person, and be open to learning and helping to develop new techniques for measuring parent-child interaction, child sleep, and physiological data.

Number of Student Researchers

2 students

Project Length

8 weeks

Applications open on 01/03/2021 and close on 03/22/2021

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (