Thursday, October 14, 2010

Prenatal Stress... and Babies with Sleep Problems?

Hunter, sleeping at age one

A recent interest of mine (for pretty apparent reasons) has been the whole body of research behind the idea of fetal origins. That is, how research continues to show just how much life in the womb can effect pretty much the entire rest of your life (especially when it comes to health), often in surprising and substantial ways.

One such way is the link between prenatal stress and sleep problems when the child is a baby and toddler.

From this study:
"...children born to mothers who were depressed or anxious during pregnancy experienced more sleep problems. For instance, mothers classified as clinically anxious 18 weeks into pregnancy, compared to their non-anxious counterparts, were about 40 percent more likely to have an 18-month-old who refused to go to bed, woke early, and kept crawling out of bed. The child’s rocky relationship with sleep often persisted until he or she was 30 months old."

The connection continued even after controlling for multiple other influences. Forty percent is a pretty big number, don't you think?

And sleep, as I've been recently discovering by the available research, is really important for little kids.
"...sleep ranks as one of the most highly regarded indexes of healthy development, and plays a critical role in consolidating memory and facilitating learning, regulating metabolism and appetite, promoting good moods and sustaining both cardiovascular health and a vigorous immune function."

They also hypothesized that the poor-sleep connection may also have something to do with why "mood-disturbed" pregnancies are often related to children with "behavioral disorders, like depression, hyperactivity and anxiety"
"It remains to be seen if the sleep problems we witnessed may play an active, causal role in priming the path for these children’s emotional and cognitive problems in later life [listed above], or if both conditions merely fall out of the same stressful pregnancies."

You can read the full story and the details of the study here.

Maybe it's time I quit stressing about my stress level, don't you think?

"The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace." 
Psalm 29:11

Baby #2 is 8 weeks, 0 days gestation

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