Sleeping through? Fortunately not!
Is your baby already sleeping through the night? Many parents would love to answer ‘yes’ to that question. Unfortunately for the parents, sleeping through the night isn’t actually beneficial for the baby, says Peter Fleming from the University of Bristol (UK).
Work, family, social obligations: many of us cherish the moment that we can fall into a sound sleep. That sleep is lost when a little one joins the family. It is then high time to Google a few tips. You will then invariably come across the same ‘golden tip’: let the baby cry.
The idea behind this is that the crying baby will learn to cry himself to sleep. However, experience has shown that this is often not the case. And that is actually quite logical: the longer the baby cries, the more stress hormone he produces. And the more stress the baby experiences, the more difficult it becomes to fall to sleep.
What can we do about it? We have to accept that a baby does not adapt to us, says researcher Peter Fleming from the University of Bristol. Neither is the baby the problem: the problem is in the mismatch between our current society and the baby’s evolutionary biorhythm. In the past millions of years, the sleeping pattern has barely changed, it just no longer fits in with our overfull schedules. Parents will have to adjust their expectations, because for the time-being, the baby will not be able to close that evolutionary ‘gap’.
Therefore can nothing offer that comfort? Fortunately there is. Various studies have shown that babies that are often awake undergo stronger cognitive development. In addition, waking up at night, for example, to eat, is a good sign. Research has also revealed that babies who are fed at night and who sleep close to their parents develop more empathy, less depression and better self-regulation. It has been found that the young brain requires a constant supply of nutrients to develop optimally. That continues during the night. When the baby sleeps through entire nights, the brain will irrevocably experience ‘food deprivation’.
Therefore, Peter Fleming’s advice is to keep in close contact with the baby and to put him or her in your bed. “The thought that sharing a bed with your baby is wrong is just nonsense. Approximately 90 percent of infants in the world sleep like this. In fact, it has been the norm for thousands of years,” says Fleming.
Fleming does warn that substances that have a significant effect on the central nervous system, such as smoking, alcohol and drugs, must not be used. It is also better to avoid sleeping on the sofa, because comparatively a large number of accidents happen on the sofa.
If you would like to learn more about the evolutionary background of our sleeping pattern and other biorhythms, come along and follow our course to become a clinical PNI therapist.
- Peter J Fleming, Making informed choices on co-sleeping with your baby, BMJ 2015;350:h563