The Importance of Sleep


What does sleep do for our babies?

Sleep helps our babies’ brain mature and lays the foundation for consolidating memories. [1]. Research proves that babies who have more consolidated nighttime sleep actually have higher cognitive scores [2]. Furthermore, babies that sleep more at night have been found to have an “easier” temperament, being more approachable, less distractible, and more adaptable [3]. This lends itself to the most effective bonding possible between parents and babies. A secure attachment sets up a connection that lasts a lifetime between the parent and child. In addition, infant sleep impacts children’s health. Studies show that babies who get less sleep are more likely to be overweight at age 3 and beyond [4].

How does sleep impact mothers?

We know that the human brain mimics drunk behaviors when exposed to sleep deprivation. When babies don’t sleep, neither do their mommies. Mothers of infants who struggle with nighttime sleep are at a higher risk of postpartum depression. Currently, 10-15% of mothers report struggling with depression within the first year of giving birth. (The number is most likely even higher than reported.) Multiple studies demonstrate a connection between infant sleep struggles and postpartum depression [5-7]. Fortunately, research proves that when sleep interventions are offered to improve a baby’s sleep, depression improves dramatically for the mother [8, 9].

  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. Taveras, E.M., S.L. Rifas-Shiman, E. Oken, E.P. Gunderson, and M.W. Gillman. Short sleep duration in infancy and risk of childhood overweight.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 162(4): p. 305-11. 2008.
  5. Wake, M., E. Morton-Allen, Z. Poulakis, H. Hiscock, S. Gallagher, and F. Oberklaid. Prevalence, stability, and outcomes of cry-fuss and sleep problems in the first 2 years of life: prospective community-based study.Pediatrics. 117(3): p. 836-42. 2006.
  6. Martin, J., H. Hiscock, P. Hardy, B. Davey, and M. Wake. Adverse associations of infant and child sleep problems and parent health: an Australian population study.Pediatrics. 119(5): p. 947-55. 2007.
  7. Bayer, J.K., H. Hiscock, A. Hampton, and M. Wake. Sleep problems in young infants and maternal mental and physical health.J Paediatr Child Health. 43(1-2): p. 66-73. 2007.
  8. Hiscock, H., J. Bayer, L. Gold, A. Hampton, O.C. Ukoumunne, and M. Wake. Improving infant sleep and maternal mental health: a cluster randomised trial.Arch Dis Child. 92(11): p. 952-8. 2007.
  9. Hiscock, H. and M. Wake. Randomised controlled trial of behavioural infant sleep intervention to improve infant sleep and maternal mood.BMJ. 324(7345): p. 1062-5. 2002.
  10. Martins, C. and E.A. Gaffan. Effects of early maternal depression on patterns of infant-mother attachment: a meta-analytic investigation.J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 41(6): p. 737-46. 2000.