Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Is your kid’s sleep influenced more by their DNA or their surroundings?
It depends on which type of sleep you’re talking about.
A Canadian study of nearly 1,000 sets of twins, ages 6 months to 4 years, says how well your child sleeps at night is genetic.
How well your child naps is environmental.
“One of the standard types of questions, as a pediatrician, is, ‘My child isn’t sleeping well through the night,’ or ‘They wake up through the night,’” said Dr. Mark Diamond with Children’s Community Pediatrics.
Parents reported on their children’s’ sleep at 6, 18, 30, and 48 months.
Genetics explained about half the variation of how long kids slept at night without waking up their parents. Though video showed even the so-called “good sleepers” still wake up three times a night.
“Is there a history in the family, and the answer is often yes, to the point now where I have parents go back and get their history from their parents,” Diamond said.
As for napping, the environment accounted for one-third of the variability in sleep at 18 months — 80 percent at two years.
Despite the in-born tendencies with nighttime sleep, it’s not a hopeless situation.
“You can train your child to occupy himself if they’re older, there are some strategies to change their sleeping pattern, which seem to work in a lot of children,” Diamond said.
While sleepless nights and no nap time can put stress on parents, the ultimate question is how are the kids affected?
“Does it bother them?” Diamond asked. “Are they affected the next day? Does it make them act in a more fatigued manner in learning and behavior? That wasn’t mentioned at all. And my experience is that the children are perfectly normal.”
Making the environment as suitable for sleep as possible helps at any time of day – including a quiet, dark room with enough space for the child to get undisturbed rest.
Of course, more research on this topic with formal sleep tests could add to the information. It would follow, studies on the best strategies to deal with genetic tendencies would also help.