You may be mainlining coffee due to sleepless nights, but anecdotal science says that your baby’s determination to wake during the night might be linked to future book smarts.
Professor Peter Fleming, who specialised in developmental psychology at the University of Bristol and who is best known for his research into Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, has found a link between “very high levels of developmental and intellectual achievement and not sleeping throughout the night.”
Fleming’s research has found that typically babies want to sleep during the day and be most alert during the hours of 6pm to midnight. He has been quoted as saying that biologically, this is of benefit to your baby, as he has more attention from both partners, who are now home with him. “From a biological point of view, what the baby is doing is completely normal and sensible. It just doesn’t fit in with our 21st century expectations,” he has noted.
Fleming, who has worked in Africa, shares how mothers in certain cultures and parts of Africa carry their babies on their backs. “They sleep when they need to sleep and they’re awake when they need to be awake, but they’re constantly with their mother.” Fleming adds that adults tend to have longer sleep cycles at 90 minutes, than babies do. This is why it seems like you are out of sync with your baby’s sleep patterns.
What other studies have found
But the jury is out on this issue as other studies have found that intellectually, babies benefit from sleep. A study conducted by Columbia University Medical Centre in the USA found that your baby’s brain is constantly busy at night, formatting and filing the new experiences and information he has taken in during the day. The researchers believe this is evident by the fact that babies twitch in their sleep, considered an indication of your baby’s nervous system “testing connections between the muscles and brain”.
Another study, this one conducted by neuroscientists from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the USA, found that those pre-schoolers who took a nap for just over an hour were able to retain more of what they had learnt than those who didn’t take daily naps.
So, whether sleep makes your baby brighter, or not sleeping through the night does, it looks like you’ll need to sleep on it for now.
Kim Bell is a wife, mother of two teenagers and a lover of research and the way words flow and meld together. She has been in the media industry for over 20 years, and yet still learns more about life from her children everyday. You can learn more about Kim Bell here.