Sleep Deprivation a Requirement for Parenting?

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Does that sound familiar to you? I recalled that when I was expecting my first child, I always get asked that same question: “Are you ready for sleepless nights?”, and of course I would go “Yeah, I guess… Part and parcel of parenting right?

But as I learn more about what sleep deprivation does to both parent and child, and the kind of side effects that come with it, I couldn’t disagree more with my own statement that it’s “part and parcel of parenting”.

Parenting is supposed to be an enjoyable experience, filled with love, patience and care… Nothing is more rewarding than to see the happy faces of your little ones, to see them healthy and to see them achieve those developmental milestones. Sleep deprived babies can get moody, cranky; and sleep deprivation may have effects on a child’s development if this is prolonged and chronic.

There will most certainly be the occasional nights of poor sleep, especially in the early months where constant feeding is required, and where attachment parenting is recommended. However, that may be something that you’ll need to look into if both you and your child are still suffering from sleep deprivation a few months or years down the road!

Why does sleep matter to Babies?

LEARNING. Sleep helps with the maturation of infant’s brain and consolidation of memories. We all dream of our babies being Little Einsteins one day right?

MOOD.  Babies who sleep more at night are found to have an “easier” temperament, they’re more approachable, less distractible, and more adaptable. You’ve probably experienced one of those good nights where your baby slept through the night… and did she/he greet you with a big wide smile the next morning? J

GROWTH. Several studies have shown that babies who get less sleep gain more fat as infants and are at a higher risk of being overweight at 3 years of age.

So, what about the Parent?

RISK OF POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION. We all know how the lack of sleep affects our ability to think straight, what more a new mum trying to adjust to her new found responsibilities and trying to be at her best by responding to her baby, day in and day out. Sleep deprivation puts a mother at risk for postpartum depression and can affect her parenting. I could also go on and on… on how else sleep deprivation can take a serious toll on one’s family health… but you probably get the idea. Parents need sleep to maintain sanity too.

In conclusion, Sleep Is A Universal Human Need. If your struggle for sleep is a legitimate concern, do not suffer alone, reach out for help.

I’ll talk about how much sleep a baby needs and how can you tell that your baby isn’t getting enough of it in my next newsletter. Stay tuned!

*Content above is referenced from scientific literatures below:

  1. Tarullo, A.R., P.D. Balsam, and W.P. Fifer. Sleep and Infant Learning.Infant Child Dev. 20(1): p. 35-46. 2011.
  2. Scher, A. Infant sleep at 10 months of age as a window to cognitive development.Early Hum Dev. 81(3): p. 289-92. 2005.
  3. Spruyt, K., R.J. Aitken, K. So, M. Charlton, T.M. Adamson, and R.S. Horne. Relationship between sleep/wake patterns, temperament and overall development in term infants over the first year of life.Early Hum Dev. 84(5): p. 289-96. 2008.
  4. Ross, C.N. and K.H. Karraker. Effects of fatigue on infant emotional reactivity and regulation.Infant Mental Health Journal. 20(4): p. 410-428. 1999.
  5. Mindell, J.A., B. Kuhn, D.S. Lewin, L.J. Meltzer, and A. Sadeh. Behavioral treatment of bedtime problems and night wakings in infants and young children. 29(10): p. 1263-76. 2006.
  6. Tikotzky, L., D.E.M. G, J. Har-Toov, S. Dollberg, Y. Bar-Haim, and A. Sadeh. Sleep and physical growth in infants during the first 6 months.J Sleep Res. 19(1 Pt 1): p. 103-10. 2010.
  7. Murray, L. and P. Cooper. Effects of postnatal depression on infant development. Arch Dis Child. 77(2): p. 99-101. 1997.

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