A few studies have come out recently on the subject of early sleep habits.
The first study by Harvard’s Elsie Taverad followed the sleep habits of 915 children ages six months to three years. The outcome of the research indicates that children who lack less than twelve hours of sleep (including naps) are more likely to be overweight with bad television habits. I find it very interesting that both diet and tv habits are connected to lack of sleep.
My theory is that this study indicates parents with relaxed rules concerning TV and bedtime also have relaxed rules about diet. I think there might be other factors too, such as the television is stimulating the children to stay awake. There is also the possibility that diets of sugar and soda pop are keeping kids up and making them fatter at the same time. I don’t think that there is a biological reason that overweight kids aren’t sleeping, but maybe I’m wrong.
The second study by Valérie Simard of Hôpital de Sacré-Coeur in Montréal showed that over-parenting at night creates more sleep problems later in childhood. By over-parenting I mean co-sleeping older kids, feeding them after bad dreams, and not letting them cry it out. I admit guilt to all of the above (or I do on behalf of my wife); at the least, guilt by association. My initial thought on this is that babies who are needy and require special attention are just needy as toddlers too. I think it’s hard to pin the problem on the parents, but I’m willing to admit my bias is clouding my judgement because I don’t want to admit our parenting technique may be slightly harmful.
I’ve invited both scientists to discuss the issue further. I hope to be able to update this post with interviews from both Elsie Taverad and Valérie Simard. Wait and see.