Baby sleep

Well, it’s late and all my kids have been asleep for a while, but it is quite notable just how different their sleep patterns are.  Through four kids, David was definitely the toughest when awake but a great sleeper.  Started sleeping through the night at 2 months.  Our youngest Sarah, was definitely the easiest when awake, but definitely the worst sleeper.  She didn’t sleep through the night till after 2 and still wakes up and whines for juice more often than not (stashing a full cup in her crib usually means I get through the night without getting harrassed).  Has our parenting changed over time?  Sure.  But mostly, our kids are just really different.  Nice to see that science now backs this up.  Great summary at this blog:

Canadian researchers analyzed sleep data from 1,000 twins, aged 6 months to 48 months, both fraternal and identical, to determine the role of genetics in sleep habits. What they found was that a baby’s ability to sleep through the night appears to be largely genetic. Interestingly, a baby’s ability to stick to a regular daytime nap routine is more environmentally influenced.

“At three of the four time points, genetics accounted for between 47 and 58 percent of nighttime sleep duration. But genes never explained more than about one-third of daytime nap length, the researchers reported Monday in Pediatrics.”

The fact that napping habits are more influenced by environment than nighttime sleeping doesn’t surprise me. With baby number one, for me, nap time was sacred– death to anyone or anything that interfered.

Baby number two: Wake up! Time to pick your big sister up from pre-school. Don’t fall asleep now! her ballet class is starting any minute. The poor kid lived in a drive-thru.

Yep.  And definitely agreed on the greater environmental influence on naps.  I love identical vs fraternal twin studies that help us uncover cool findings like this.  also worth mentioning that there’s still a pretty solid amount of this that is not genes, but environment.  To that end, I’ll put in a plug for what I like to call one of the two books that literally changed my life, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.  It’s mis-named though, it really should be “Happy parent.”

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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