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The significance of sleep ‘incompatibility’ between parents and babies

 Research into both baby and adult sleep is plentiful. Although it isn’t essential to understand the sometimes complicated science of sleep, it does help those who find it difficult to simply ‘feel’ what might be right, or to leave it up to nature and intuition to guide them.

According to research on infant sleep:

•       The amount of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is very high in early development. This is because REM sleep facilitates early brain development and internal information processing.

•       Babies wake up frequently for survival benefits:

ü  For the first few weeks of life, a baby’s stomach can only hold 7–20ml of milk at a time, so Baby needs to feed more often.

ü  Breast milk is digested very quickly, creating an even greater need for frequent, small feeds.

•       Neuroscience has demonstrated that blood flow to the brain (and particularly to the area that controls breathing) almost doubles during REM sleep, which suggests that Baby experiences more of this type of ‘dream’ sleep for protection and survival benefits. So, while there is also a greater chance of your baby waking up during this stage, the benefits far outweigh this inconvenience, don’t you think?

•       During REM sleep, the body increases its manufacture of nerve proteins that are fundamental to brain development and growth.

•       Premature babies spend up to 90% of sleep in REM sleep, which relates to their even greater need for rapid brain development and maturing.

Why babies need sleep

Sleep is essential! Everyone knows this, but unfortunately this knowledge has led many parents to believe that babies who don’t ‘sleep through the night’ are doing something wrong, or will be deprived in some way. I hope this blog has helped you discover the truth and common sense that will help you put all this in perspective. Nonetheless, this is why restful sleep is important:

•       To rest and replenish physical and emotional energy

•       To allow many bodily functions to take place optimally

•       To mature neuron and nerve pathway activity and in so doing, aid cognitive (brain) development

•       To assist with sensory integration of environmental stimuli, helping babies make sense of their world

So, getting enough restful sleep will promote Baby’s brain development, growth and emotional well-being. This is indeed fact. The incorrect conclusion drawn from this is that if Baby sleeps through the night, he’ll wake up rested, happy and brainier! Which parent is not going to be influenced by this idea? My appeal is that you ‘hold that thought’ while you take another look at the research findings above. I am totally confident that the bigger picture will put your mind at rest and guess what – that’s the first step to better sleep, because your baby will pick up on this, relax, and sleep easier!

You can also read a lot more about the topic if you buy my 56 page downloadable Baby and Toddler Sleep Guide, for only R80.00. It deals in detail with just about any type of sleep problem you can name, and gives reams of sensible solutions!

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