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Surviving the Vicious Cycle of the Sleepless Child

Update Date: Jun 29, 2017 02:31 PM EDT

Are your child's sleeping patterns driving you crazy? Don't worry, you're not alone.

According to new research, poor sleep can not only affect a child's growth, but parents of infants who are having trouble sleeping have a greater tendency toward clinical depression, which can further impact the child's development in a vicious cycle.

"We have a fairly good idea how parental depression can negatively impact children's development and parental attachment," UBC sleep expert and nursing professor Wendy Hall said. "But we know less about how kids' sleep can affect their parents' mental health. This study is one of the first to look at that connection."

The study examined 253 families from British Columbia with children who were experiencing trouble sleeping. Researchers excluded parents who were diagnosed with clinical depression.

The families were assigned two groups at random. The first group received sleep intervention for their child in the form of informational sessions about infant sleep and how to solve their child's problem, whereas the second group was given basic infant safety info packets.

Researchers shortly found a link between the parent's thoughts about their infant's sleep and parental depression. So, basically, parents who were worried about their child's sleeping patterns were more likely to have higher levels of depression.

This was true for both mothers and fathers.

Those who received sleep intervention lessons, however, were found less likely to be depressed by the 24-week mark. According to the study, nearly 30 percent of mothers and 20 percent of fathers reported to feel less depressed than before the intervention.

This study "tells us that we should listen carefully to parents of young infants, to recognize signs of depression associated with doubts about helping infants sleep that are beyond parental fatigue or lack of sleep," Professor Hall said.

Dr. Hall's Tips For Getting Children To Sleep

  • Set a regular bedtime
  • Incorporate bedtime stories into their nightly routine
  • Let your child nap during the day
  • Avoid caffeine at all costs (chocolate milk, chocolate bars, and soft drinks)
  • Limit screen time

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