053: Sleep! (And how to get more of it)

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“HOW DO I GET MY CHILD TO SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT?!” is the thinly-veiled message under the surface of many of the emails that I get about sleep.  And I don’t blame you.  I don’t claim to be a magician in this regard, although I did get incredibly, amazingly lucky – my daughter put in her first eight-hour night at six weeks old, and has regularly slept through the night for longer than I can remember.  I’m really genuinely not sure I could parent if things weren’t like this.

But today’s episode is about the data, not about anecdata.

Zoe in Sydney wrote to me:

A hotly debated topic with my friends has been “sleeping through the night.” My daughter never was great at napping and still wakes up once a night, coming into our bed. We have never been able to do controlled crying etc – I would love to know what science says about sleeping through the night! And what is best for your child (vs the parent). My close friend is a breastfeeding counselor and said they are taught that lots of children don’t sleep through until 4 years old! Other mothers I knew were horrified if their child wasn’t sleeping through by 6 months – and the French talk about their children ‘having their nights’ much earlier…

As I started researching this topic it became clear that sleep is driven to an incredible extent by cultural preferences.  Some (Western) psychologists advocate for letting children Cry It Out, while people in many cultures around the world see putting a child to sleep in their own room (never mind allowing them to cry) as tantamount to child abuse.

So: can we get our children to sleep more?  Is bed-sharing inherently bad?  Does Cry It Out harm the child in some way?  Let’s find out!

References

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American Academy of Pediatrics (2016). SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Updated 2016 recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Author. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/10/20/peds.2016-2938

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McKenna, J.J., Ball, H.L., & Gettler, L.T. (2007). Mother-infant cosleeping, breastfeeding, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: What biological anthropology has discovered about normal infant sleep and pediatric sleep medicine.  Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 50, 133-161.

Meleva-Seitz, V.R., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J., Battaini, C., & Luijk, M.P.C.M. (2015). Parent-child bed-sharing: The good, the bad, and the burden of evidence. Sleep Medicine Reviews. Full article available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/298427230_Parent-child_bed-sharing_The_good_the_bad_and_the_burden_of_evidence

Mindell, J.A., Du Mond, C.E., Sadeh, A., Telofski, L.S., Kulkarni, N., & Gunn, E. (2011). Efficacy of an internet-based intervention for infant and toddler sleep disturbances. Sleep 34(4), 451-458B.

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Super, C.M., & Harkness, S. (2013). Culture and children’s sleep. In A. Wolfson & H. Montgomery-Downs (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of infant, child, and adolescent sleep and behavior. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press.

Teti, D.M., Kim, B.R., Mayer, G., & Countermine, M. (2010). Maternal emotional availability at bedtime predicts infant sleep quality. Journal of Family Psychology 24(3), 307-315.

Weinraub, M., Friedman, S.L., Knoke, B., Houts, R., Bender, R.H., Susman, E.J., Bradley, R., & Williams, J. (2012). Patterns of developmental change in infants’ nighttime sleep awakenings from 6 through 26 months of age. Developmental Psychology 48(6), 1511-1528.

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Jessica Moran on December 20, 2017 at 9:01 PM

    Thank you so much for this episode! I appreciate you tackling it so thoroughly even though it’s not of great interest to you. As the mom of a 6-month-old I’ve devoured a ton of media on the topic recently, and most of it is so questionable, and so stress-inducing. Your episode was a big relief for my brain 🙂

    • Jen Lumanlan on January 10, 2018 at 5:24 AM

      You’re welcome, Jessica – glad it was helpful!

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