Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Real World Parenting and Consistency
May 9, 2022

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A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

Blog Post 77 describes a dose-response relationship between better sleep and how often of parents left the room-after a bedtime routine and soothing to sleep and putting your baby down to sleep. At 1 month of age, the more often parents left the room, the better the child slept at 6 and 12 months of age.  However, at 1 month of age, all parents stayed in the room on more than one night during the 6-day study period. So, most of the time, please think of consistency as a continuous notion (more or less) and not as a dichotomous notion (always or never).  Here are 3 more example that illustrate a dose-response relationship: 


Blog 78Real World Parenting and Consistency

  • 1 Professor Mindell describes (Blog Post 10) how the more often parents practice a bedtime routine, the better the outcome: “Having a regular nightly bedtime routine is associated with improved sleep [earlier bedtime, falling asleep faster, fewer night wakings, and increased sleep duration] in young children and that the more consistently a bedtime routine is instituted, and the younger started the better.”  Furthermore, comparing whether there was a bedtime routine 0, 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, or 7 times per week, as the bedtime routine increased in frequency, sleep improved more.  In other words, bedtime routines practiced every night produce the best improvements in sleep and, in a stepwise fashion, lower “doses’ of bedtime routines produce lesser improvements. 
  • 2 The main message of Blog Post 6 is that more sleep produces more benefits: 

    • “Sleep duration is paramount because the health and function of the brain is primarily a direct function of the amount of sleep obtained-the more sleep obtained the better.”
    • “Cognitive ability and readiness vary as a direct function of the amount of sleep obtained.  The more sleep Soldiers [Children] get, the greater their mental acuity, with faster response times, fewer errors, and fewer lapses in attention.  Also improved are judgement, problem-solving, situational awareness, mood, resilience, and general well- being.”
    The relationship between sleep duration and cognitive readiness (and thus military effectiveness) is best thought of as a continuum, with more sleep always producing improved performance.”
     “Even for those who regularly obtain the generally recommended number of hours of sleep per night, more sleep can result in even better alertness and mental acuity…Insufficient sleep degrades the brain’s function. The more sleep the brain gets, the better it functions…Insufficient sleep negatively effects not only cognitive performance, but emotional and social functioning…In short, the brain has a physiological need for sleep, and sleep promotes the ability to think and maintain mental toughness.  And the more sleep, the better.  Although obtaining ample and regular sleep generally results in the ability to sustain normal levels of alertness and performance during the daytime, obtaining even more sleep results in greater brain readiness-enhanced mental sharpness and resilience in the field.” 
  • 3 Blog Post 75 describes how more sleep predicts fewer emotional and behavioral problems in a dose-response relationship.

    In the real world of parenting, ignore artificial expectations that suggest that you should always do something or never do something.  Instead, focus on how often you behave a certain way.  Usually, but not necessarily always, try to have a bedtime routine and try to leave the room after soothing and putting your child to sleep.  Usually, but not necessarily always, try to have an early bedtime.  Regarding early bedtimes, remember that just a few extra minutes, over time, may have a big contribution to healthy sleep (Blog Posts 6 and 7).

However, rigid consistency in parental behavior might be appropriate only during the few days when you are trying to solve a sleep problem with Fading, Check & Console, Graduated Extinction, or Extinction (Blog Posts 19 and 25). 

During the attempt to help your child sleep better, rigid consistency will help your child learn self-soothing faster. For more helpful information about how to get babies to sleep through the night, subscribe to my sleep training blog.

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