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-

Sleep and the Immune System

Lack of sleep makes ours and our children’s immune systems weaker, hence they makes us more prone to catching colds, viral infections and the flu. Our immune system is designed to protect us from colds, flu, and other ailments. Lack of sleep suppresses immune system functions.

A study published in the September 25, 2002 issue of theJournal of the American Medical Associationdemonstrated that a lack of sleep measurably adversely affects the body’s response to the flu vaccine. This study was done in healthy young adults and half of those included in the study slept only 4 hours per night for 6 nights. The comparison group, experienced a normal night’s sleep over the same period of time. Flu vaccines were administered on the 5th day.

Blood test results showed the sleep-deprived group had less than half the antibodies the comparison group did. Once the sleep deprived group resumed normal sleep habits, there was no difference found in levels of immunity between the two groups.

Want to be healthier and make sure your children don’t get as sick? Make sure you all get a good night sleep.

Much love, Diana-

Effects of Lack of Sleep in Children

The less sleep children get, the more likely they are to perform poorly in school, to become depressed, and to have a poor sense of self-worth, according to a study of 2,259 Illinois middle school students published in the January-February 2004 issue of Child Development.

As these kids progressed through the middle school years, if the amount of sleep dropped (as it often does), there also tended to be a further drop in grades, and self-esteem and an increase in depression. As a general rule of thumb, most middle schoolers thrive best on an average of about 9 hours of sleep. Those in high school may do well with 8 hours; those in elementary school often do better with at least 10. Younger children need even more.

Sometimes lack of sleep is seen as a badge of honor. But at any age, getting optimum sleep improves health. It also helps people feel better about themselves and about the world. And it is a simple way to improve performance at almost anything people care about.

Recent research has verified that chronic poor sleep results in daytime tiredness, difficulties with focused attention, low threshold to express negative emotion (irritability and easy frustration), and difficulty modulating impulses and emotions (Seminars in Pediatric Neurology, Mar 1996). These are the same symptoms that can earn kids the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, ADD).

Research in sleep laboratories has shown that some kids are mislabeled with ADD when the real problem is chronic, partial sleep deprivation. When children are identified with symptoms of ADD, often no one thinks to explore the child’s sleeping habits, and whether they might be responsible for the symptoms.

When parents of children with ADD are interviewed, they usually identify their kids as poor or restless sleepers (Journal of Pediatric Psychology, Jun 1997), and wake up more often at night than their peers (Pediatrics, Dec 1987).

As parents, we all know what it feels like to be grumpy, contrary, and “not at our best” from lack of sleep. If our kids often feel this way, we owe it to them to find solutions to this problem.

“Sleep is a vital asset for a child’s health and overall development, learning and safety,” says Richard L. Gelula, National Sleep Foundation’s chief executive officer. “Many children are not sleeping enough and many experience sleep problems. What is troublesome is that the problems start in infancy.”

Healthy sleep habits from an early age are essential to Happiness, Self-Esteem, and Success.

Sources:
National Sleep Foundation
http://www.drgreene.com/article/sleep-deprivation-and-adhd#ixzz0n3e6UJK3
http://www.drgreene.com/blog/2004/02/17/getting-enough-sleep?tid=209#ixzz0n3dGfIB9

Risk of Too-Early Formal Sleep Training

Although parents can start teaching babies healthy sleep habits from the begining, it is not advisable to follow any kind of formal sleep training method when the baby is too young. What’s too young? It depends on the baby! Most babies are ready to start formal sleep training at 4 months, and others aren’t until they’re 6 months old. That’s the perfect window 4-6 months.

That doesn’t mean that up until they’re ready, parents can’t do anything. As we mentioned in our previous post, parents can start instilling good sleep habits and associations from day one.

What are the risk to start a formal sleep training plan too early?

  • You will be fighting against nature:
    • During the early months of your baby’s life, he sleeps when he is tired, it’s really that simple. You can do very little to force a new baby to sleep when he doesn’t want to sleep, and conversely, you can do little to wake him up when he is sleeping soundly.
    • Newborns need to be fed every two to four hours — and sometimes more, since their tummies are very small and can’t hold food that last for longer.
    • Babies under 4 months don’t have the ability to sleep very long streches of time. Somewhere between 5 and 8 hours would be the maximum at that age.
  • Sleep training done before their cardiopulmonary control mechanisms are mature enough to handle prolonged deep sleep could be risky.
  • Sleep training done too soon might increase the risk of SIDS (While there is no scientific evidence that cry-it-out causes, many famous pediatricians -ie. Dr. Sears- believe there’s a correlation).

Even though our sleep training methods are very gentle and don’t involve cry it out, we would not advice you to follow them before your baby is ready (4-6 months). Parents can learn how to make sleep training not necessary or easier by following a very simple plan for those first four months. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more about that plan.

Much love, Diana-

Rule Out Medical Problems before Sleep Training

Before you start any sleep training program with your child, you should always rule out medical problems that might be causing your her sleep problems. Therefore, it is wise to discuss sleep issues with your child’s pediatrician.

These are some medical problems that might interfere with your child’s sleep quality:

  • Nasal Congestion – Newborn infants must breathe through the nose. Nasal congestion in an infant’s first few months of life can interfere with nursing, and in rare cases can cause serious breathing problems. Nasal congestion in older children and adolescents is usually just an annoyance, but it can cause other difficulties. Nasal congestion can interfere with the ears, hearing, and speech development. Significant congestion may interfere with sleep.
  • Teething – The discomfort that teething causes can start well in advance of any teeth actually appearing. Some babies are affected as early as four months of age. The main symptoms of teething are: fussiness, excessive drooling, runny nose, rash on the chin or near the mouth (caused by the excessive saliva), biting and chewing on anything that gets near the mouth, red cheeks, rejecting breast or bottle, more need to suck, swollen gums that may appear a purplish color, soft stools and/or diaper rash.
  • Ear Infections – An ear infection is usually caused by bacteria, but a virus can also be the culprit. It happens when fluid builds up in the area behind your baby’s eardrum and then becomes infected. Pacifier use may increase the risk of middle ear infections in babies and young children. Ear infections cause mild to severe pain, which may disrupt your child’s sleep. The easiest ways to tell if your baby has an ear infection are: a change in his mood (more fussy, crying…), a fever, pulling/grabbing her ears, diarrhea, reduced appetite, a yellowish/whitish fluid draining from her ear, or a foul odor emanating from the ear.
  • Colic – Colicky infants appear to have a shorter duration of total sleep. Sleep problems may sometimes persist after the child has outgrown colic because the strategies that parents developed to decrease the crying spells (i.e., frequent holding, car rides) interfere with the adoption of normal sleep patterns. An infant older than four months who continues to wake during the night is considered a trained night crier. These infants calm quickly when picked up. Some people believe that this pattern develops because parents provide secondary gain for continued awakening.
  • Acid Reflux – gastroesophageal reflux disease (GER) can be painful and can cause colic and vomiting. It is also risk factor for pulmonary disease. GER causes resistance to feeding, blood in the vomit or stool, iron deficiency anemia, irritability (due to an inflamed esophagus), or failure to thrive. If your baby refuses feedings, takes very long to feed, arches her back while feeding or trying to sleep, makes ‘weird’ noises while sleeping, and/or spits ups or vomits often; you should consult with your pediatrician.
  • Yeast and urinary tract infections – Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)’s most common, and often unique sign is  an unexplained fever. In some cases, a baby may  also have other symptoms: crying/complaining when urination,  odd-smelling urine, cloudy or bloody urine, unexplained and persistent irritability, vomiting, and/ or refusal to eat.
  • Milk Allergy – the main symptoms among infants are: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, abdominal bloating, skin rashes and/or respiratory symptoms (cough and runny nose). Cow’s milk allergy may cause more awakenings, shorter sleep cycles, and dramatic reductions in total sleep time.
  • Sleep Apnea – a condition in which an infant awakens periodically because he stops breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea prevents kids from getting enough sleep, and deprives them of oxygen, which can cause a variety of more serious cognitive, health, and developmental problems. And if infants don’t awaken when they experience breathing difficulties, they are at higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Night Terrors – Pavor nocturnus (night terrors) occur approximately 90 minutes into sleep. The child suddenly sits bolt upright and screams, and is inconsolable for up to 30 minutes before relaxing and falling back to sleep. Tachycardia, tachypnea and other signs of full-fledged autonomic arousal are apparent. Night terrors usually occur in children 3 to 8 years of age. They need to be distinguished from nightmares. They are more likely to occur during times of stress or fatigue. As frightening as they are, parents and children usually only need to be reassured that they are generally self-limiting.

Sources:

http://www.aafp.org/afp/2001/0115/p277.html

http://www.parentingscience.com/baby-sleep-problems.html

http://www.babycenter.com

What are we feeding our children?

When I watched the “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution”, I was outraged. Our children are getting pizza for breakfast, chicken nuggets for lunch, flavored milk as a snack… in their schools! This show is a must-see for all parents. If you haven’t watch it, I invite you to do so; and take action afterwards. Make sure you know what your little kids are putting in their bodies.

Jamie Oliver, a well-known chef from Britain, is taking his war against unhealthy eating habits to American shores. The U.S. is suffering from an obesity epidemic (specially among children) and he aims to stop it.

The scene of kids eating pizza for breakfast and thinking a tomato is a potato; children up to 10 years old not knowing how to use an knife and a fork; school bureaucrats calling french fries a vegetable; and school cooks not having a problem with serving all-processed meals to children day in and day out, is really rivetingly sad. This is just a sample of what he fins in our school:

Here’s the video of his speech at TED, as well as the trailer for “Food Revolution”:

You can also watch the show online here.

Please, watch it and take action!!! Don’t let your children suffer from obesity, diabetes and many other complications that they shouldn’t have to deal with.

The Importance of Sleep

This weekend I came across this great article, explaining the importance of ‘sleep’ for children; and I thought I should share it.

Good, Sound Sleep for Your Child

Making sure your child gets good, sound sleep ensures he or she will have a sound foundation for proper mind and body development.

Sleep on These

Following are some observations from various studies illustrating some of the difficulties faced and the behavioral changes in children with sleep problems (from Wiessbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and On Becoming Baby Wise, by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, MD):

  • Children do not “outgrow” sleep problems; problems must be solved.
  • Children who sleep longer during the day have longer attention spans.
  • Babies who sleep less in the daytime appear more fitful and socially demanding, and they are less able to entertain or amuse themselves.
  • Toddlers who sleep more are more fun to be around, more sociable, and less demanding. Children who sleep less can behave somewhat like hyperactive children.
  • Small but constant deficits in sleep over time tend to have escalating and perhaps long-term effects on brain function.
  • Children with higher IQs — in every age group studied — slept longer.
  • For ADHD children, improvements in sleep dramatically improved peer relations and classroom performance.
  • Healthy sleep positively affects neurologic development and appears to be the right medicine for the prevention of many learning and behavioral problems.

What Parents Can Do

As parents, it is our responsibility to be sensitive to and protect our children’s sleep, just as we do their safety, just as we ensure that they regularly get breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We are primarily responsible for their sleep habits so it is important to start healthy ones early; it is much easier to instill good habits than correct bad ones.

Infuse the importance of sleep with daily attention to it and you will likely have a happier, self-assured, less demanding, and more sociable child. And you just might get some more sleep yourself.

Much love, Diana-