The joys of a new born in the house is never-ending but along with the new bundle of joy arrives the countless sleepless nights faced by parents and family members. It’s surprising to believe that a tiny human can keep so many people on toes striving for the infant’s comfort. Breastfeeding might be a problem for some mothers due to various reasons which keeps the child hungry or insufficiently fed but the foremost problem faced by many kids is lack of sleep. After being secure inside the mom’s womb for more than nine months these tiny tots have a lot on their plate to digest-adjust to outside environment, accommodate different temperatures and stay away from mom’s enclosure for most of the times. Despite these, some kids sleep through the night right from start while some others have trouble sleeping any time of the day. We even hear people often commenting that kids born during daytime sleep through the night while those born during the night sleep through the day. Indeed, we do have exceptions here also-maybe there are some like mine which doesn’t like to sleep day or night keeping the parents sleep-deprived most days of the week. Where does the problem lie in case of such kids and how essential is sleep for these newborn children?
One of the commonest questions faced by paediatricians is on the baby’s sleeplessness and one of the commonest changes faced by the new mom is her lack of sleep with the arrival of the baby. The baby develops a sense of time from the rhythms in the womb, including the heart beat and are said to have two sets of timing genes (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/26/why-dont-babies-sleep-at-night). The first set helps them to sleep like any other living being (including animals) and the second set instils the 24-hour sense of time through the day which includes waking up and sleeping. The genes that gets engraved in your baby is thoroughly your luck indeed. There are few babies that sleep like logs helping their parents too rest well. You might be a deep sleeper but your baby might be the lightest one waking up with the slightest hustle bustle in the house. Mostly, the baby’s genes are a mixture of yours and your partner’s but babies are different and there are minimal chances indeed that their sleep patterns stand up to that of an adult’s.
Letting your Baby Know Night & Day
Mom is the first person through whom the baby comes to experience day and night and sleep and wake. After birth, the need to feed surpasses all other needs in an infant and this happens frequently as their tummies are extremely small. At birth, these tiny creatures don’t know to differentiate between night and day and it takes almost 2-6 months for them to function on a 24-hour timing sense. Maybe this helps us understand primarily that babies don’t sleep through the night because they can’t. From then onwards, their sleep regulations and recommendations are similar to that of adults-darkening the bedroom when it is time to sleep, keeping electronic gadgets and television out of reach when it nears sleep time and setting the baby’s internal clock by exposing it to sunlight during the day. Above all, it is necessary that parents habituate the baby for a regular sleeping pattern to help them get into the routine.
A study by Australian researchers shows that infants whose mothers had poor mental and physical well-being during pregnancy are at an increased risk of developing severe sleep problems. There are some babies which are predisposed to extreme sleep resistance before birth and these are the ones whose mothers faced higher rates of depression, poor physical health and well-being during pregnancy compared to those moms who did not have trouble sleeping.
Likewise, such infants who experience frequent sleeplessness at nights are likelier to have difficulty concentrating and exhibit behavioural problems around 3-4 years of age. This makes it extremely important to diagnose and treat sleep problems in infants and young children. Lack of sleep affects kids in other ways too-it’s often associated with an increased risk of being overweight, having emotional and behavioural difficulties in adolescence and adulthood, are likelier to suffer from increased risk of depression, anxiety and aggression during adulthood and it also affects their performance during the day having a strong impact on school grades resulting in lower self-esteem and emotional disturbance.
While making the child sleep well through the night is not 100% in our hands we can try to do as much as possible to regulate their sleep schedules and match it to our sleeping routines. This helps us sleep better and keeps the baby healthy.
Poor Mental and Physical Health in Pregnancy Linked to Infant Sleep Problems: https://www.smh.com.au/national/poor-mental-and-physical-health-in-pregnancy-linked-to-infant-sleep-problems-20191001-p52wlm.html
Babies Sleep Patterns Can be Challenging-Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Despair: https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2018/mar/01/babies-sleep-patterns-challenging-shouldnt-despair-baby-sleep-day
Poor Infant Sleep May Indicate Attention problems Later: https://www.indiatoday.in/lifestyle/health/story/poor-infant-sleep-may-indicate-attention-problems-later-267731-2015-10-12
How Not to Get Baby to Sleep: http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1728755,00.html
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