What’s the truth about baby sleep?
Baby sleep is this mysterious force that any parent is trying to tame at any time, but just like for any of us, sleep is something we can’t get down to a perfect science every time.
Do you know the perfect formula to get a good night’s sleep? And if you follow it to the letter, does it always work? No, in fact, it seems that though it’s something we do every single day, sometimes several times per day, we still know less about sleep than we should.
Today, we’ll talk about what we do know about baby sleep, the truths you may not have heard, the theories about the potential effects baby sleep may have on a child’s adult life, and why this industry’s worth is skyrocketing.
Why are we talking about the truth about baby sleep?
Well, not only because it’s vital to any parent’s sanity, but also because we’re nearing the end of our first series of baby topics: Sleep Training. Whether you want to know what it is and common methods (hint: it’s not all crying, we promise!) or you want to know tips for months 0-6 and 6-12, or even if you want to see if it’s for you by reading why some parents don’t sleep train, we’re sharing expert input with you.
As our sources, we’ve chosen to read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, and follow the Taking Cara Babies method as well. In this post, we’ll focus on the former. So, what does Dr. Weissbluth have to say regarding the truth about baby sleep? Let’s take a look.
The Truth About Baby Sleep According to Dr. Weissbluth
As we’ve seen from our other Sleep Training posts, Dr. Weissbluth believes in two different types of Sleep Training. One relates to preventing and the other to solving problems. Why are “sleep problems” a thing for babies? Well, Dr. Weissbluth says that any baby can learn to sleep well and you’ll never guess who the culprit of bad sleep habits might be… Here’s his take:
“In the same way that we know how much calcium your baby needs for his bones to grow stronger, we know how important healthy sleep is for the growing brain. Calcium deficiency in childhood harms bone development, but the problems of osteoporosis may not show up until much later in adult life.
So if your child eats a calcium-deficient diet, the problem is “hidden” because there are no immediately apparent ill effects. Likewise, sleep deficiency in childhood may harm neurological development; the problems remain “hidden,” not showing up until later. I think it is possible that unhealthy sleep habits contribute to school-related problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities. I also suspect chronically tired children become chronically tired adults who suffer in ways we can’t measure less resiliency, less ability to cope with life’s stress, less curiosity, less empathy, less playfulness. The message here is simple: Sleep is a powerful modifier of mood, behavior, performance, and personality.”
Baby Sleep = Children’s Future
So, perhaps investing in baby sleep can have big enough results in your child’s future as starting an education fund, giving your baby certain brain foods, and a lot more than ever listening to classical music! This is why solving sleep problems is a growing business:
“Sleep problems not only disrupt a child’s nights, they disrupt his days too, by making him less mentally alert, more inattentive, unable to concentrate, and easily distracted. They also make him more physically impulsive, hyperactive, or lazy. But when children sleep well, they are optimally awake and alert, able to learn and grow up with charm and humor. When parents are too irregular, inconsistent, or oversolicitous, or even when there are unresolved problems between the parents, the resulting sleep problems converge, producing excessive nighttime wakefulness and crying.
The truth is that after three or four months of age, all children can begin to learn to sleep well. The learning process will occur as naturally as learning how to walk.”
So, if we really take a look, the point of Sleep Training isn’t to “get your baby to put themselves to sleep” it’s to give your baby a healthy and happy life long-term. Your baby benefits so much from a healthy sleep, that it’s still hard to understand why parents are so against it.
Why Sleep is a Billion Dollar Industry
Infant Sleep Training, bad reputation and all, is still making hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Why? Sleep, we dare say, makes the world go around. Without sleep we’re not alert, we don’t learn, we’re clumsy and frankly, we’re really grumpy. So, as baby sleep climbs into the billions, entrepreneurs are investing in sleep during the workday, sleep pods, nap hotels, everyone is catching on.
Why? Dr. Weissbluth thinks sleep is a valuable commodity:
“Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain’s battery. Sleeping well increases brainpower just as lifting weights builds stronger muscles because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time. Then you are at your personal best.”
As soon as you hear “at your personal best” you know that there’s a goldmine in sleep. It’s the little pill from Limitless, the movie, it’s that extra something everyone is looking for to excel. So, if Silicon Valley is getting in on it, if we’re suddenly rediscovering this natural key to being better at what we love, having smarter children, and reaching more success, why not start early? After all, a little birdie confirmed Dr. Weissbluth’s theory that healthy sleep makes a happy child.
The Other Side of the Sleep Coin: Wakefulness
Optimal Sleep results in one key thing, the one we’re all looking for as adults: wakefulness. While great, lengthy sleep is what we want for babies, for ourselves, we’d prefer to have great sleep in a few hours and come out on the other side with optimal wakefulness; the kind of energy that lasts all day, that keeps on giving. The kind that has you in meetings all morning and giving motivational speeches by the end of the day. According to Dr. Weissbluth. You can’t have one without the other.
“When children learn to sleep well, they also learn to maintain optimal wakeful-ness. The notion of optimal wakefulness, also called optimal alertness, is important because we tend to think simplistically of being either awake or asleep. Just as our twenty-four-hour cycle consists of more than just the two states called daytime and nighttime, there are gradations- which we call dawn and dusk- in sleep and wakefulness.
Arousals, Partial Arousals, Wakefulness
In Sleep, the levels vary from deep sleep to partial arousals; in wakefulness, the levels vary from being wide awake to being groggy.
The importance of optimal wakefulness cannot be overemphasized. If your child does not get all the sleep he needs, he may seem either drowsy or hyperalert. If either state lasts for a long time, the results are the same: a child with a difficult mood and hard-to-control behavior, certainly not one who is ready and able to enjoy himself or get the most out of the myriad of learning experiences placed before him.”
Choose Your Own Sleep Adventure
Whether or not you choose to sleep train your baby, it’s clear that Infant Sleep Training is only going to grow and become more popular. In fact, perhaps in the very near future, we’ll be talking to sleep trainers about our own sleep and how to become our best selves by creating better sleep conditions for our whole families.
So, whether you’re crying it out, Ferber-ing it, not intervening at all, we hope this post about baby sleep has given you an idea about why this practice and the industry that follows, is capitalizing on better baby sleep for happier and healthier children.