Monday, January 25, 2010

the impacts of infant sleep

One of the chapters in Nuture Shock, about the importance of sleep, really struck me. It made me appreciate once again River’s solid 12-hour per night sleep plus 2-3 hour nap. It also made me realize that him getting sufficient sleep must remain a priority as he gets older, even if that means cutting out seemingly important activities. Looking back upon my high school and college days, I did not get enough sleep and the results were horrible. I don’t know how my parents could have forced me to bed though. I guess that’s a challenge for a future decade.

While the book covers primarily toddlers through high school aged kids, I had the feeling that babies with poor sleep patterns would likely experience the same effects. Why would their brains be any better at functioning without sufficient rest? Now an article appears saying that early sleep problems do have longer-term effects.

The authors theorize that early sleep problems stem from parental behaviors, but don’t specify what they are. I suspect that having a child in the bed or in the room would be one of them. For us, River’s waking was directly correlated to his proximity to me, especially when I was breastfeeding. He’s been out of our room since the age of three months and has been a pretty great nighttime sleeper since then. But every so often, when we are traveling, we go back to being in the same room. And suddenly, I again get awakened at odd hours of the night.

When I was pregnant, I found the literature about family closeness, body heat and security to be convincing. I decided to not make any decisions at that time, but was open to the idea of co-sleeping for a longer time if that was what worked for us. I soon saw that no one slept well as a result.

And that’s the big question. Are the benefits of the closeness greater than the costs of the lost sleep and its impacts on both parents and child? I’m tempted to say no. Because I don’t see any reduced parent/child closeness among the families I know who don’t co-sleep. But I do see the effects of sleep loss on those who do.

I think this will be an interesting field of research. I’d love more hard data on the effects of certain parental practices. But I’m already convinced by the importance of sleep. That is something we will continue to focus on.

1 comment:

Cassie said...

Oh yes, sleep is definitely important. We're still struggling with Will's sleep, but not to the extent that we were. I'm hoping it keeps getting better, slowly but surely. I can't imagine it being any better if he were in our bedroom, though.