There are 3,988,076 babies born every year. The sleeping pattern of babies is the major concern of every parent.
A despair fellow researcher on young children and infants once lamented that when he raised his first child, he believed behavioural theories claimed that what he did as a parent would mould his child’s character.
He was already a geneticist when he had his second child believing that a child was born with all the characteristics and genetic-make up that heredity was passed on and that is not subjected to environmental influence. To his horror, he barely knew his third child at all.
This was, however, an exaggerated point of view of parents and scientist alike, who is on a continuous quest to determines what is the true personal characteristics and personality of a new-born child.
The question of heredity (“He has the intelligence from his mum’s family’) versus environment (“If his dad were more strict with her, she would not have married so young”) supports parents’ attempts the degree of influence on moulding their children.
The Baby’s Genetic Baggage
Research has pointed to the inevitable – the baby would carry the genetic baggage that not only determines how he looks, the colour of his hair and eyes, and his chances of having to suffer from various diseases but also charted the character traits he will develop with.
The baby’s genetic predisposition will show its traits like his physical activity level, how openness is he to new situations, his sociability or shyness. Sad to say, many parents have the dislike of the child’s traits if the child would remind him of the qualities of their parents, their spouses, or even of themselves.
It’s a fact that it will be a losing battle if parents try to fight or overcome these traits. The only variable that influences the quality of the relationship the parents has with his children is the goodness fit between the parents’ expectations over their children.
A father may adore and appreciate a very active child because the child’s trait identifies with his. A second father may not like an active child but he just may tolerate it, preferably a much calmer child.
On the contrary, the first father may not like a quiet and calm child. A quiet child may be seen as lifeless, depressive or not aggressive enough. But the second father would beg to differ. He sees the non-aggressiveness as perfect.
It’s hard to meet the parent’s expectation with the child’s “correct” traits to conform to their expectations. Incompatible parents’ expectations and the child’s traits are stressful and frustrating.
The Relationship Between Temperament And Sleep
The child’s “He’s up past his bedtime” behaviour is all too familiar. Every parent knows what the child demonstrates.
Parents unanimously testified of horror moments when asked by scientists to describe the situation when the child has passed their bedtime. Some said the child would demonstrate their antics like climbing walls, is a crybaby, ignore and simply does not respond to instruction or does annoying things. Some would calm down himself, throw himself to sleep or ask whether he could go to sleep.
Clearly, you will see a young child response to tiredness in a variety of different ways. When the child show fatigue doesn’t mean he is slowing down and feeling sleepy. On the contrary, the opposite is true.
There are “negative” perception that the tired child’s behaviour is closely related to the notion that is characterized by behaviour disorders. Research has pointed evidence towards a strong correlation between sleep and the growth of the personality traits of the child. Sleep disorder suffered by babies, studies have shown, tends to have difficult behavioural problems. Sleep disorders range from difficulty falling asleep to waking up numerous time during the night.
Sleep Disorders Vs Child’s Traits and Behaviours
Not surprisingly, the results speak for itself. Babies with sleep disorders problems attribute towards the child’s traits and behaviours. This is based on studies conducted of a group of nine to twenty-month-old babies between babies with sleep disorders and babies with no sleep disorders.
Then the mothers were given to answer some temperament questionnaire about the personality of their child. They rated how far it is in agreement with their own’s child to each question. Questions include “The child sits quietly when waiting for the food,” “The child responds aggressively and screams or yell when agitated or frustrated,” “The child did not put up a fight when the child agreed to be dressed and undressed.”
One would expect babies with sleep disorders to be “difficult”, annoying to the core, always demanding, endless complaining, negative sensitivity towards different stimuli, and unable to adapt to change situations, as compared to babies which have no sleeping disorders.
In the temperament questionnaire, one of the traits measured the degree of responsivity and sensitivity of the baby’s response to various sensory stimuli, example smell, taste, temperature or noise. Different babies respond differently to any kind of sensory stimulus while others are only sensitive to a specific type, like those babies who recoil from skin contact.
Attribute To Hypersensitivity
A wide range of babies does not respond in an outstanding way to sensory stimuli.
One of the hypotheses that the researcher William Carey examined in 1974 was that babies who suffer from hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli would tend to develop sleep difficulties.
Sad to say, lots of babies are not responsive to many sensory stimuli. Researcher William Carey, in one of his hypotheses examined in 1974, proposed that babies tend to develop sleep disorders attribute to hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli.
His claimed that the heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli is hereditary and that his findings supported the hypothesis.
External Environment And Internal Signals
In order to fall asleep, the baby has to disassociate himself from both the external environment and the internal signals as well. External environment includes light, temperature, noise and people. Internal signals are like hunger, pain and discomfort. If the baby is unable to disassociate himself of these two stimuli he would not be able to maintain uninterrupted sleep and prevent awakenings.
A baby who has since birth is sensitive and could not disassociate himself to either or both the internal and external stimulus will not have the ability to relax and fall asleep easily. He would not rest easy from the frequent awakening during the course of the night.
Child’s Sleep And Behaviour Pattern
The child’s sleep and behaviour pattern are correlated, and this continues throughout his later childhood. He would develop behavioural problems if he had sleep disorders. In fact, you can use sleep disorders as a sensitive barometer of general adaptation problems among adults and children.
If you showed a sign of depression, anxiety and stress and adaptation problems is a prominent indication you are having sleep disorders.
In many ways, there is a close correlation between sleep disorders and a child’s behavioural problems. Sleep disorder is one factor that strengthens a diagnosis of a child’s anxiety disorders. They may be associated as slow learner becasuse they show no interest to learn how to read and write.
As a result of a child having behaviour problems, it will lead to sleep problems as well. Significantly, sleep deprivation may cause a child to be impatient, nervous, and difficult to manage.
Moreover, incompatible parenting patterns may trigger or intensify both sleep difficulties and behaviour problems.
Scientists in treatment centres are often frequently faced with young children and babies who are described to be hyperactive by their parents.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
The parents use this term casually, but professionals use it to diagnose a condition—the professional term is “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder”— that occurs only in older children.
These babies are termed “very active and restless at the same time” and are said to seek and demand attention constantly.
A child with his wakeful restlessness is often associated with their sleep difficulties by their parents. Most often they claimed their child as having a turbo engine and it’s hard to shut down during bedtime. Or he may refer as the Energizer bunny who would keep going on and on.
Although studies have found that hyperactive are diagnosed at a later age in a child, nevertheless they are related to restless babies and overactive children, with difficulties and wild temperaments from young. We face a chicken-or-egg question here. Babies who are unusually active, are unable to sleep normally or their “hyperactivity” attributed to their sleep problem.
No research yet was able to establish the fact that the “hyperactive” behaviour patterns in a child are caused by sleep disruption.
More evidence is gathered, show that lacking sleep could result in behaviour that draws similar to a hyperactive child.
From an intuitive viewpoint, we can recall various methods we used to keep ourselves awake when we are tired. These methods include fidgeting, increase our activity our facial muscles or fiddling with our hands. You will know that these patterns contradict the expectation that the tired child would slow down and relax. The clinical literature has shown that certain cases in which significant sleep disorders have been found to lead to “hyperactive” behaviour patterns and would eventually a wrong diagnosis is made and treatment.
Sleep Disorder And Hyperactivity
We have to find out if a sleep disorder is the primary cause and not the consequence of the “hyperactivity.” However, in the event a sleep disorder does happen, it should be treated before treating the disorders that result from it. When treating the sleep disorder may spare the child from unnecessary medication, like Ritalin. Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant prescription medicine for treating Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
A wrongful drawn outcome of a child’s behaviour can also be a result of she in response to sleep disorder with indifference, lack of interest in the environment and heightened tiredness. This pattern can be interpreted for depression, and sleeping difficulties can be seen as a result of that condition.
As found out by professional literature, such a wrongful diagnosis can cause a failure to detect and treat a primary sleep disorder, as well as mistaken treatment for depression. Case studies have indicated that when it is correctly diagnosed as a primary sleep disorder and given treatment accordingly, there would an improvement in sleep and hence the disappearance of the “depressive” symptoms.
Evaluating intelligence from infancy is a very complicated task. The child’s early mental abilities that could be deemed components of intelligence have failed to predict intelligence or cognitive abilities and whatever the child’s achievement in his later years.
Relationship between sleep and intellectual development research has been hampered by our limited capacity to assess intelligence in babies and infants alike. Studies have not shown and we need additional studies on older children and adults to assist us on this matter in a more systematic way.
In the study of infant sleep by scientists in Evely Thoman’s group from the University of Connecticut has contributed significantly and have examined this question. They followed the sleep pattern of sleep of newborns over the first two days from birth and examined and made observations of their development at six months.
Special recording devices record the babies’ sleep in the hospital bassinets after birth. The scientists then tested the motor, mental, and perceptual abilities of the babies by using Bayley Test when they reached six months of age.
They found a startling correlation between the measure of an infant’s sleep on the first day of life and their development six months later. Scientists later found a correlation between sleep disorders in babies, especially those that are caused by breathing problems, and possibly a deficiency in academic and intellectual development and academic progress and achievements at a later age. Other studies, however, found no conclusive correlation between sleep and later mental function.
Baby’s Cognitive Abilities
Further studies on adults and older children have found that insufficient sleep and sleep disorders primarily disrupt with their cognitive abilities associated with concentration and attention. That is to say, our abilities to focus on certain stimuli will deteriorate for the extent of time. If you don’t get enough sleep, your reaction is slow and more mistakes are made on tasks that required continuous concentration and demand high concentration. Although it has not been directly studied in infants, the question of sleep and attention, some support for their correlation comes from indirect approaches.
For example, babies between aged nine to twenty-four months have described that their infants who suffered from sleep disorders as having trouble to concentrate to play or any particular activity for an extended period of time and are easily distracted by other stimuli.
In another recent study, sleep scientists have done examination between sleep patterns and learning skills, attention and concentration among school-going children. Their sleep patterns were examined objectively by using sleep watches, and their learning functions were scrutinized and examed by computerized tests.
Similar to the results of studies on adults, they found that children whose quality of sleep had deteriorated as manifested by many long awakenings from sleep at night also developed decreased attention abilities.
These findings support the hypotheses that these critical functions for academic achievement and learning are adversely affected by sleep disorders among children. In addition, further recent studies have indicated that if “normal” children are requested to cut short their sleep for experimental purposes, they suffer dire consequences, and their attention and learning abilities are significantly compromised.
On the basis that we learnt so far about adults and older children and from the limited data on infants, it is fair to conclude that the intellectual capabilities of infants are indeed challenged by insufficient or disruption sleep.
Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.
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