It’s not a secret that BlueEyes is not the best sleeping infant in the world. This week he has woken up about every 2-3 hours and that has its toll on how rested I feel. It seems like he is able to sleep well (which in my dictionary is now a stretch of about 5-6 hours and then I’ll nurse him back to sleep for another couple of hours of sleep), but that this is disrupted by all these things like teething, cramps, having had an exciting day, etc etc.
So far, I had not bought a single book about baby sleep, because I felt that if I was just relaxed about it, it would turn out okay and get progressively better. But last week I caved and I got a book. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I got ‘Nighttime parenting’ by Sears, which is probably not going to learn me anything new, because it mostly advocates co-sleeping which we already do, but I figured I’d start out easy. However, not only did I get a book, I also started reading on pubmed. I actually read about something kind of related for a project, but came across all these papers that talk about the fact that sleep problems in early childhood are associated with subsequent behavioral problems and drug use. These authors find that early childhood sleep problems are a robust marker for substance use in adolescence.
So does this mean that BlueEyes is on his way to become an addict? I think we all understand that it is not that simple. First, these studies have a couple limitations that the authors themselves also discuss. An important one is that they assess sleep problems only through interviews with the mothers. And from talking to other mothers I know that there is a wide variety in acceptance when it comes to poor sleep. If you ask me, BlueEyes still falls well within what I would consider ‘normal baby sleep’. Fine, he wakes up a couple of times but I still feel like it’s acceptable for us as a family. I know other moms however, that have decided to start more rigorous sleep training because they felt their babies were sleeping poorly (while they actually slept better than BlueEyes if you look at how many times they woke up). So what does it tell you when a mother says her child is a poor sleeper? Does that perhaps say more about the tolerability level of the mother rather than the actual sleep quality of the child? Or about the way the parents deal with their child’s sleeping behavior?
Another potential confound here is that all these children are from families that are at high-risk for alcoholism and families that lived in the same neighborhoods. We know that there is a hereditary component to drug addiction, and we also know that it is unsafe to co-sleep when you are under influence of alcohol or drugs. It remains to be determined whether these results extend to all children with sleeping problems.
The bottom line: there seem to be early indicators of alcohol and drug use during adolescence and adulthood. Also, don’t search things on pubmed that are related to yourself or your children.
This blog post was brought to you by MOAR COFFEE.
Wong MM, et al. Sleep problems in early childhood and early onset of alcohol and other drug use in adolescence. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2004
Wong MM, et al. Childhood sleep problems, response inhibition, and alcohol and drug outcomes in adolescence and young adulthood. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2010