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Poor sleep affects all of us negatively in one way or another, so it makes sense that a baby’s lack of quality shuteye could hinder its growth and development. But to what extent? Several sleep and baby experts offered their take on this important question.
Elizabeth Hicks

Elizabeth Hicks

Elizabeth Hicks, Co-Founder of Parenting Nerd.

Poor Sleep Can Cause Cognitive Development Delay

There is a positive relationship between an infant’s sleep and cognitive development. Poor sleep quality for infants can risk memory, language, executive function, and overall cognitive development for any growing child. Poor sleep can also impact a child’s physical growth. It can cause unnecessary weight gain and obesity.

Hence, lack of any child’s sleep can affect them later in life. Such a child can develop an irritable nature and find trouble making social relationships and developing important skills for social interaction.

Consider Using a Sleep Learning Method

Sleep is a critical time for our bodies. We do a lot of growth and repair during times of rest. That said, babies aren’t meant to sleep like adults. Newborns are wired to wake up every two to three hours. So, if you have a crappy sleeper, don’t despair. Your baby’s bad sleep now doesn’t mean they’ll be behind in emotional, physical, or cognitive growth later in life.

But, if your baby is over 4 months old and struggling to sleep more than 5-6 hour stretches, you may choose to consider a sleep learning method. Recent research has shown that babies who are sleep trained using the check-and-console method (sometimes called Ferberizing) may get higher quality sleep as teens and young adults – when sleep is predictive of cognitive, emotional, and physical outcomes.

Kate Compton Barr

Kate Compton Barr

Kate Compton Barr, MPH, Co-Founder, and CEO of pip & grow.
Alex Savy

Alex Savy

Alex Savy, a Certified Sleep Science Coach and the Founder of SleepingOcean.

Inadequate Sleep May Trigger Anxiety and Depression Later

Lack of sleep does have certain potential side effects, many of which can become more apparent as your baby grows. Just to give you a couple of examples, healthy sleep in babies is linked to their language development, memory, and overall cognitive development. It’s safe to assume that lack of sleep may negatively affect all of these aspects. Sleep deprivation in kids can also influence their physical health, making them more vulnerable to inflammation. Additionally, research suggests that inadequate sleep at a young age can later lead to an increased risk of anxiety or depression.

4 Effects of Baby Sleep Deprivation

Because sleep is responsible for countless aspects of one’s health and well-being, lack of it can be especially dangerous if we’re talking about babies (who are actively developing). For instance, sleep deprivation early in life can later lead to behavioral problems and memory issues.

Sleep deprivation can also affect your child’s immune system, which means they will be more likely to get sick.

And because the majority of growth hormone is produced during sleep, lack of the latter could prevent your little one from reaching their true height.

Allana Wass

Allana Wass

Allana Wass, a Certified Sleep Science Coach, Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Comfybeddy.
Pierrette Mimi Poinsett

Pierrette Mimi Poinsett

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD, Medical Consultant at Mom Loves Best.

Effect Vary Depending on the Child’s Age

Babies vary in the amount of sleep they need as they age. Newborns require 14 to 17 hours of sleep in 24 hours and generally have two naps during the day. Infants from ages 4 to 11 months require 12-15 hours of sleep in 24 hours with one to two naps during the day.

Most infants develop their rhythm of sleep. It is very unusual for a baby to have inadequate sleep. Sometimes babies will have frequent waking after months of sleeping continuously. This is called sleep regression, and it will resolve over 1-2 weeks. Sleep regressions do not have permanent negative effects.

If your infant is sleeping less and seemingly irritable, consult your baby’s pediatrician to make sure there isn’t an underlying illness such as an ear infection or abdominal pain.

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