Baby Sleep and Intelligence

A study shows there is a great way to enhance a child’s intelligence, by encouraging healthy sleep patterns while he is a baby. In the children who were found to have excellent intelligence there was one thing in common. They all had healthy sleep patterns at night. Dr. Terman’s researched used the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test to test over 3,000 children.

Most parents have no idea that intelligence is linked to children’s sleep habits. So, for those of you who needed an aditional reason to sleep train your babies, this is a big one. It is not just memory, as we mentioned in a previous post, but actual intelligence.

Chronic sleep deprivation and poor sleep habits, that start at an early age (babyhood) have a more lasting effect on our cognitive performance. In a study (Touchette et al 2007) following kids from age 2.5 to 6 years, researchers found that those who were poor sleepers as toddlers performed more poorly on neurodevelopmental tests when they were 6 years old . This was true even for children whose sleep habits improved after age 3. The researchers insinuate that there may be a ‘critical period’ in early childhood when the effects of sleep restriction and poor sleep habits are especially harmful.

Much love, Diana-

Is your bedtime too late?

One of the most common (and easy to solve) mistakes regarding baby sleep is having a bedtime that is too late for our baby. Here are some tips on how to know whether your bedtime is too late:

  1. The 4-5pm test. Look at how your baby is around 4-5pm. If he/she is cranky, sand, whinny… your bedtime is too late! A well rested child  should be happy, playful, and in a good mood around 4-5pm.
  2. The Sleep’s Speed test. It takes an average of 15 to 20 minutes to fall asleep. This applies to grown-ups and babies. Experts argue that if your baby ‘falls asleep before his/her head hits the pillow’, or if it takes him/her more than 20 minutes to fall asleep, she/he is probably sleep-deprived and an earlier bedtime is needed.

A good bedtime for most babies should be between 5:30pm and 7:30pm. If you’re having trouble getting your baby to sleep at night, do the previous tests, and try bringing up her/his bedtime 15-30 minutes earlier. You won’t believe the difference those 15 – 30 minutes can have on a child’s sleep.

Sweet dreams, Diana-

Nightmares & Night-terrors. What to do?

Children spend more time dreaming than adults do, so they have more dreams than we do, both good and bad. What is the difference between a nightmare and a night-terror? and what should you do in each situation?

Nightmares

Nightmares are bad dreams that happen during rapid eye movement (REM) or dream sleep. He may also be afraid to fall back asleep, and he’ll probably remember that he had a bad dream. A baby or child who had a nightmare is likely to have a clear idea of what scared him, although he probably will not be able to his fright until he’s about 2 years old.

Night Terrors

Night terrors occur in at least 5% of young children and can start as early as 9 months. These mysterious disturbances happen during deep, non-dreaming sleep. When a child is having a night-terror will cry, whimper, flail, and even bolt out of bed. Although his eyes may be wide open, he’s not awake and isn’t aware of your presence.

The night terror can last anywhere  from a few minutes to half an hour or more. Once it is over, your child will return to a sound sleep and have no memory of the incident in the morning.

How to respond?

The best response to a nightmare and to prevent future nightmares is to help your child confront and overcome his fears of the dark, such as letting a nightlight or a special stuffed toy to sleep with.

The best responses to a nightmare are:

  • Be there and offer comfort.
  • Stay with your child until she feels relaxed and ready to sleep.
  • Stay calm and convey to your child that what’s happening is normal and that all is well.
  • Reassure your child that he’s safe and that it’s OK to go back to sleep.
  • If your child wakes with a nightmare, stay with her until she feels relaxed and ready to go to sleep.

The best responses to night terrors are:

  • a gentle pat, along with comforting words or “shhh” sounds,
  • make sure he doesn’t hurt himself. Don’t speak to him or try to soothe him,
  • don’t try to shake or startle him awake or physically restrain him — all of which could lead to more frantic behavior.

If it’s a night terror, in 15 to 20 minutes, your child should calm down, curl up, and fall into a deep sleep again. If it’s a nightmare, he might need a little more time to calm down and go back to sleep.

What to do to prevent them?

To prevent nightmares, the best thing to do is to prevent things that scare your child during the day; and to help him comfront and overcome his fears.

To prevent night-terrors, make sure that he is getting enough sleep, since children who go to bed overtired are more likely to experience these type of sleep disturbances.

Much love, Diana-

Baby Sleep and Memory

During the REM phase of sleep, the baby’s brain assimilates and stores all the information that babies receive during their wakeful and alert hours. Babies are in an almost constant state of motor skill learning and coordination. They have a lot of new material to consolidate and, therefore demand more of sleep. Hence, sleep appears to play a key role in human development, and interferences to their REM sleep could undermine their learning.

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A new study, published online in Nature Neuroscience, from researchers at Harvard Medical School and Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, argues that sleep deprivation also hampers the brain’s ability to make new memories.

Much love, Diana-

Baby Sleep and Growth

Sleep is essential for baby’s development, health and growth. The human growth hormone, a protein hormone secreted by the pituitary gland responsible for the baby’s physical growth, is mostly secreted while the baby is in deep sleep. In fact, studies have proven that 80% of growth hormone is released during the deep sleep phase. Therefore severe and prolonged sleep dissorders or defficiency might directly impact your baby’s physical development and growth.

It has also been studied that sleep (in particular, REM sleep) promotes brain growth. Babies are born with around 30% of their full brain size. During the first years of life, the brain grows enormously to its full adult size. Sleep plays an integral role in this growth.

Much love, Diana-

Is my child too old for sleep training?

We often come accross parents of toddlers who wonder whether their children are already to old to be sleep-trained. The answer is ‘no’. You can always teach your children healthy sleep habits. Truth be told, the older the child, the more challenging the process is going to be; but it is certainly possible. Here are some things you need to take into consideration when sleep training an older toddler:

  • They need to sleep! If you have been following us, you know how important sleep is for children.
  • They learned from us. Be a role model in terms of healthy sleep habits. Children model our behavior, so make sure you are a good example in this area too.
  • They are smart. They’ll try everything under the sun to get your attention and get their way.

What method should you follow? We do not believe cry-it-out is the best method for sleep training babies; although we acknowledge that it might work with some babies*. When it comes to toddlers, it doesn’t work! You need to create a plan that involves your child, that is adapted to your child’s personality; otherwise, it won’t work. These are some things to keep in mind when building your plan:

  • You are trying to break a habit, that you help creating; be patient!
  • Consistency is key
  • Avoid fights and stay calm
  • There’s no negotiation
  • Make it fun and rewarding
  • Make sure the room is childproof
  • Don’t do cry it out, it won’t work with
  • They understand, get them on board!
  • Get them excited about sleep, make feel ‘adult-like’, praise them, reward them every morning for the first weeks

If you need additional help building your sleep training plan, contact us at contact@smoothparenting.com or call us at 646 450 6605

Much love, Diana-