A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain,
A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep.
If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial. I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length. This is a reference book. Read only the topic of interest to you.
WHY IS A TELEVISION IN THE CHILD’S BEDROOM SO COMMON?
· Dr Jenny Radesky’s research suggests that having a television or other media in the child’s bedroom may be a parental response to their child’s not sleeping well; that is, allowing more screen time is a coping strategy. “Our findings demonstrate that, longitudinally, infants with regulatory problems [excessive fussiness, poor self-soothing, difficulties in falling asleep and staying asleep and modulating their emotional state] do watch more TV and videos later in their toddler years. However, the relationship is probably not unidirectional: child self-regulation abilities and media habits likely influence each other through a transactional process whereby parents try to soothe fussier infants through screen time, which reduces the amount of enriching parent-infant interactions and other developmental activities, exposes infants to potentially inappropriate content, and contributes to continued regulatory difficulties, which in turn predict greater media exposure, and so on.”
· Professor Richard Plomin’s research describes a genetic influence on children’s television viewing. Regarding the duration of television viewing:
- There is a high correlation between non-adoptive siblings (share both genes and environment), but a low correlation between adoptive siblings (share environment only).
- There is a high correlation between non-adoptive parents and children (share both genes and environment), but a low correlation between adoptive parents and children (share environment only).
- There is a high correlation between birth mothers, who had adopted-away children after the first week of life, and their adopted children (share genes only).
The genetic influence regarding television content was highest for comedies compared to drama and sport programs.
This suggests that there is a genetic influence over the degree to which TV viewing is pleasurable.
Separate studies have found genetic influences for the presence of chaotic family environments, which returns us to Dr. Radesky’s observations. From a geneticist’s point of view, chaotic family environment, a television in the bedroom, large amounts of television viewing, unhealthy sleep habits, and regulatory problems might be inter-related and under some genetic influence. From this perspective, the TV in the bedroom is a symptom of a much larger problem and simply removing the TV may not be easy to accomplish nor, upon doing so, automatically lead to healthier sleep and improved regulation.
As mentioned above, Dr Jenny Radesky’s research suggests that having a television or other media in the child’s bedroom may be a parental response to their child’s not sleeping well; that is, allowing more screen time is a coping strategy and there is a genetic component to chaotic family environments and television viewing. Therefore, maybe for some families, who actually do understand that a TV in the child’s bedroom is harmful, the continued presence of a TV in a child’s bedroom is a red flag that signals that professional consultation is warranted.
Similarly, a consultation might help if a parent recognizes and accepts that some of the items listed below in ‘What A Parent Can Do’ (such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule, putting the child down drowsy but awake, leaving the room after putting the child down to sleep or not responding to every quiet sound a baby makes at night) is worthwhile, but at the same time, the parent is not able to do so.
IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO MAKE YOUR CHILD CRY TO HAVE A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
WHAT A PARENT CAN DO
• Some babies sleep better than other babies. Develop coping strategies to reduce stress if your baby has extreme fussiness or crying. Plan to encourage self-soothing skills at 2 to 4 months of age. Blog Post 20.
• ‘No Cry’ sleep solutions (‘Fading’ and ‘Check and Console’) may solve sleep problems. Blog Post 19
• Communicate with each other and coordinate nighttime parenting practices. Consider delaying your response to nondistress sounds your baby makes at night by 5-10 seconds, especially after 3 months of age. Blog Post 18.
• Encourage partner to help care for baby daytime and nighttime. Be emotionally available at bedtime. Seek help if your child is not sleeping well and there are symptoms of anxiety or depression for yourself or partner. Blog Post 17.
• Encourage self-soothing; the earlier the better. Consider leaving the room after putting your child down to sleep. Provide opportunity for naps based on drowsy signs. Encourage partner to help care for the baby daytime and nighttime. Blog Post 16.
• Plan for healthy sleep by focusing on sleep quality, not just sleep quantity. Provide opportunities for naps. Blog Post 15
• Make a sleep plan that you are comfortable with; be flexible and tolerant. Blog Post 14.
· Become more aware of the difference between how you feel when well-rested versus mildly sleepy. Blog Post 13.
· Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Blog Post 12.
· Try to not respond immediately to every quiet sound your baby makes at night. Blog Post 11.
· Practice soothing to sleep and bedtime routines, every night, if possible. Blog Post 10.
· Watch for drowsy signs. Blog Post 9.
· Respect your child’s natural sleep rhythms. Blog Post 8.