Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Sleep Modulates Temperament #2
August 15, 2022

Found in age groups

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

Blog Post #48 describes how better sleep creates an easier temperament for your child, based on my published research starting in 1981.  I studied the same group of children at 4 months of age and again at 3 years of age. Blog Post #46 explains in detail what is meant by the term ‘temperament’.

Blog 92Sleep Modulates Temperament #2

Some infants are withdrawing, slow to adapt, intense and moody. Thus, they were diagnosed as having “difficult” temperaments because they were difficult for parents to manage. Infants with “easy” temperaments have opposite characteristics. 

1. Approach/Withdrawal (first reaction). Approach/Withdrawal is a temperament characteristic that defines the infant’s initial reaction to something new. What does she do when meeting another child or a babysitter? Does she object to new procedures? Some infants reach out in new circumstances—accept, appear curious, approach—while others object, reject, turn away, appear shy, or withdraw.

2. Adaptability (flexibility). Adaptability is measured by observing such activities as whether the infant accepts nail cutting without protest, accepts bathing without resistance, accepts changes in feeding schedule, accepts strangers within fifteen minutes, and accepts new foods. It is an attempt to measure the ease or difficulty with which a child can adjust to new circumstances or a change in routine.

3. Intensity. Intensity is the degree or amount of an infant’s response, either pleasant or unpleasant. Think of it as the amount of emotional energy with which the child expresses her likes and dislikes. Intense infants react loudly, with much expression of likes and dislikes. During feeding they are vigorous in accepting or resisting food. They react strongly to abrupt exposure to bright lights; they greet a new toy with enthusiastic positive or negative expressions; they display much feeling during bathing, diapering, or dressing; and they react strongly to strangers or familiar people. Intensity is measured separately from mood. Infants who are not intense are described as “mild.”

4. Mood. If intensity is the degree of response, mood is the direction. It is measured in the same situations described above. Negative mood is the presence of fussy/crying behavior or the absence of smiles, laughs, or coos. Positive mood is the absence of fussy/crying behavior or the presence of smiles, laughs, or coos. Most intense infants also tend to be more negative in mood, less adaptable, withdrawn (difficult temperament). Most mild infants also tend to be more positive in mood, more adaptable, and approaching (easy temperament).

Now, 40 years later, in a 2021 paper, Professor Harriet Hiscock studied a group of children between 2-13 years of age.  Over a period of only 7-14 days, parents utilized a mobile app offering tailored sleep strategies to improve sleep.

 “At follow up, care givers reported fewer moderate/severe sleep problems, improved child sleep patterns, better temperament and improved care giver mental health.  The percentage of care givers rating their child as ‘more difficult than average’ decreased from 51 to 36%.”

Helping your child sleep better will improve your child’s temperament!

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Blog 46
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Temperament (1 of 3)

The term temperament refers to the individual differences which are biologically based that create a behavioral style or the manner in which the child interacts with the environment. It does not describe the motivation of an action.
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Sleep Modulates Temperament (3 of 3)

The exact same 60 infants that I examined at 4 months of age were restudied at 3 years. Again, at age 3 years, temperamentally easy children had longer total sleep durations compared with children with more difficult temperaments.
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