January 3, 2013
Parents Of Babies Who Start Crawling Early Could Be Losing Out On Sleep
Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
The first step. The first word. These are all signs parents look forward to with their babies. While these “firsts” are special moments, moms and dads should be observant of what these characteristics mean as well. In particular, a study from the University of Haifa recently found that infants who started crawling earlier were more inclined to wake up in the middle of the night as compared to the period before they started crawling.
In the study, a team of researchers supervised by Anat Scher looked at 28 healthy, normally developing babies. They observed these infants every two to three weeks, specifically evaluating their motor development and sleeping habits from the time they were about four to five months up until the time they were 11 months. The scientists utilized an Actigraph, which can objectively measure sleep patterns, as well as poured over parental reports pooled from diary entries and questionnaires. They also evaluated the crawling development and progress of the infants through various observations and videos.
“It is possible that crawling, which involves a vast range of changes and psychological reorganization in the babies´ development, increases their level of arousal, influences their ability to regulate themselves and causes a period of temporary instability that expresses itself in waking up more frequently,” proposed Scher in a prepared statement.
Based on the findings, the group of researchers discovered that the babies began to crawl at the average age of seven months. They saw that the development of crawling correlated to a rise in the number of times the babies woke up at night; the Actigraph measurement showed a change from an average of 1.55 times per night to 1.98 times. According to parental reports, these moments of wakefulness were also for longer durations with an average of about 10 minutes.
Furthermore, the scientists found that the changes were more complex for babies who crawled at an earlier age; these infants were seen waking up more frequently and also moving around more while sleeping. On the other hand, babies who crawled at a later age only suffered from waking up more often. Even though there were changes for these infants, the researchers discovered that, after three months of starting to crawl, the baby reverted back to the same sleeping patterns before he or she learned how to crawl.
The researchers believed that there could be a variety of reasons as to how crawling and wakefulness could be connected. For one, there could be more restlessness for babies who crawled earlier and this could be a sign of the baby feeling more “physically distanced from the mother before fully developing the psychological mechanisms” needed.
“This fear is likely to be expressed in sleep interruptions during the night,” noted Dr. Dina Cohen, researcher in the University of Haifa´s Department of Counseling and Human Development, in the statement. “With ongoing monitoring of babies´ development, we can demonstrate that the increased awakenings are a temporary short-term phenomenon, which occurs as part of a wider process of the baby´s gradually improving ability to regulate states of sleep and wakefulness.”