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Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

Bowlby’s ethologically-based attachment theory posited a biological rationale for our reliable fear and anxiety about being alone in the dark. Naturally this fear is heightened in our immobile and defenseless young children.

Current research prompts us to question the pervasive cultural pressure to distort our natural responses to these biological realities.

Three papers simply attempt to understand and describe the current state of “normal” child sleep patterns in different cultures and at different ages. One paper links melatonin to breastmilk, and another looks at father care and sleep patterns.

Childhood Sleep Duration and Associated Demographic Characteristics in an English Cohort

More research is needed to identify what is normal when it comes to child sleep. Some of what is known is that children need longer nighttime sleep until about 9 years old. By school age, most children sleep through the night, but children up to 3 1/2 years old continue to wake at least once. Low birth-weight and pre-term infants sleep more. Infants of younger mother sleep more. All infants sleep longer at night, wake multiple times at night, and sleep longer daytime naps than young children who mostly stop taking naps by 5 years old. Girls sleep longer than boys. Children with siblings sleep less.

Cross Cultural Differences in Toddler and Infant Sleep

Child sleep problems are based more on culturally-influenced parental perceptions than actual biological reasons, and nighttime sleep issues tended to be perceived more problematic than daytime naps.

Normal Sleep Patterns in Infants and Children: A Systematic Review of Observational Studies

More research is needed to identify normal sleep patterns in breastfed versus bottle-fed infants, in toddlers, on weekdays versus weekends, and as related to gender and ethnic differences. What is known is that children sleep longer at night and experience fewer night-wakings and daytime naps as they develop.