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Research Findings May Help Babies and Their Parents Sleep Better at Night

5/24/2016
​A study in the June 2016 Pediatrics may help parents of babies with nighttime sleep problems rest a little easier. Worries that behavioral training method known as graduated extinction, which involves letting bedtime-resistant infants cry themselves to sleep, will cause emotional, behavioral or parent-child attachment issues may be unfounded, according to a randomized controlled trial involving 43 infants. In the study, "Behavioral Interventions for Infant Sleep Problems: A Randomized Controlled Trial," published online Tuesday, May 24, Australian researchers tested two infant sleep training interventions commonly recommended for babies who have nighttime sleep troubles past about six months of age: graduated extinction, as well as a “gentler” method called bedtime fading, in which parents gradually delay infants’ bedtime each night in hopes that sleepier babies will doze off more easily. Compared to a control group, researchers reported, infants whose parents used the graduated extinction method fell asleep an average of 13 minutes sooner and woke up significantly less often during the night.  At the same time, there was no significant differences in stress levels based on salivary cortisol readings of the infants, parental stress or mood, or measurements of parent-child attachment. But for parents who remain anxious about letting babies cry, Michael Gradisar, PhD, director of the Flinders University Child & Adolescent Sleep Clinic, and colleagues said the bedtime-fading group showed nearly as large a decrease (10 minutes) in the amount of time it took for babies to fall asleep, and this group saw no change in the number of nighttime awakenings compared to the control group.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 64,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.

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