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Proponents of sleep training may want to find a new day job. A new study shows that genetics, not sleep training or they way a mom or dad parents their child, plays a large role in how babies sleep through the night. The new research, reported in the June issue of Pediatrics, assessed the nighttime and daytime sleep habits of 995 sets of twins at 6, 18, 30, and 48 months of age. The researchers found that it didn’t matter if parents used the cry-it-out method, co-sleeping or another sleep method with their babies at night, because genetics, not parenting habits were responsible for a great deal of variability in how long babies and young children slept without waking up during the night.

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Genetics were seemingly responsible for the sleep habits of 47% of 6 month-old babies, 58% of 30 month-old babies and 54% of 48 month-old tots. Daytime sleep habits of babies were oddly more strongly affected by environmental issues than genetics. What this study means to parents is that if a baby is crying and waking often during the night, it’s more likely attributed to your baby’s genetic predisposition than to a mom or dad’s parenting. The study also tells us that methods such as cry-it-out may never work for some babies because they’re simply made to awaken during the night, no matter what, and deserve comfort when they do wake. In other words, ignoring a baby who is genetically designed to awaken frequently, won’t help change your baby’s habits.

Finally, the study shows that better baby daytime naps may be achieved with the proper environment, which means providing a quiet, dark, uninterrupted sleep space. One more important issue discovered in this research was that many babies suddenly changed sleep gears around 18-months of age. For example, before and after 18 months of age, the way a baby slept at night was highly affected by genetics, but around 18 months, many kids suddenly became more affected by sleep environments for a short while. This means that the 18 month mark may be a good time to intervene and try to instill new sleep habits in little ones who still don’t sleep through the night.

+ Genetic and Environmental Influences on Daytime and Nighttime Sleep Duration in Early Childhood

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