Yesterday, in The New York Times Consults, two doctors answer a new mom’s question about the long-term effects of her sleep derivation. She’s lucky to get four hours of sleep at a time and wants to know if it continues, is she at risk for all the health issues that come with insomnia, like high blood pressure and lack of concentration.
The docs tell her she’s in the clear as far as medical concerns — the ability to wake up frequently and tend to an infant is probably an evolutionary adaptation and most parents get to the other side of this healthy and in one piece.
They say that somewhere between four and nine months, babies start sleeping through the night (this is my side note: “through the night” means around 7 hours at a stretch), but even 25 percent of one-year-olds wake up at least once a night.
But my ears perked up when they mentioned that it’s a misconception that babies naturally “grow out” of night-wakings.
Not so: studies show that 80 percent of children who had sleep issues as infants (no indication of what age or how bad the “issues”) continue to have difficulty three years later.
I find that really interesting. A lot of moms with older babies (the ones getting close to their first birthday) who are still waking up at night, or can’t fall asleep on their own ask me if it will eventually get better on its own. According to the Times doctors, not necessarily.
But I feel the need to point out that all babies (and all adults) wake up during the night. I’ve read studies before that monitor babies described by their parents as “good” versus “bad” sleepers and they find that both sets of babies wake up equally as often at night — it’s just that the “good” sleepers don’t call out, they put themselves back to sleep.
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