Sleeping with the Baby

By: John Seabrook

In: New Yorker, October 2015

  • Babies and sleep.
    • Polyphasic sleep.
      • Babies tend to sleep in bouts, not distinguishing between night and day.
      • Opposite of monophasic sleep: one seven- or eight-hour chunk at night.
    • REM sleep (dream stage).
      • Plays an important role in structural development of baby’s brain.
        • 32 week fetuses are in REM sleep virtually all the time.
        • Infants are in REM sleep twice as much as adults.
      • Unlike adults, babies are not “paralyzed” during REM stage.
  • Against co-sleeping:
    • More convenient for the parents.
    • Babies develop some sense of “independence”.
      • But… switch dependence from parents to blankies, bears, etc.
    • Some evidence that babies that sleep alone wake up fewer times during than night.
  • In favor of co-sleeping:
    • More common than though (many parents won’t admit to it).
    • Working mothers: only time they can spend with the baby is at night.
    • Often evolves out of night-time breastfeeding.
    • Less of a stigma in lower income families.
    • Mother and baby may develop similar (deep) sleep rhythms.
  • Sleep deprivation (see “The Drive with Peter Attia – Matthew Walker” and “Sleep“).
    • Deep sleep: needed to replenish neurotransmitters and growth hormone.
    • REM sleep: needed to consolidate and fixate memories.
  • Wakefulness versus sleep.
    • Sleep is not “rest for the mind”.
      • Brain is quite active (only 20% decrease in neuronal activity during sleep).
    • Wakefulness and sleep are similar states.
      • Wakefulness = modulated by sensory inputs.
      • Sleep = modulated by neuronal inputs.
  • Ferber – “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems”.
    • Method of getting a child to go to sleep by himself.
    • Theory of associations (Pavlov).
      • Adult: falling asleep = pillow.
      • Baby: falling asleep = being comforted after crying, parent’s bed, etc.
    • Method doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.
      • Different baby = different solution (including sometimes co-sleeping).

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