BuzzFeed News speaks to experts to find out why babies aren’t designed to sleep all night. It’s got more to do with evolutionary biology than you might think.
“How’s the baby doing? Sleeping through the night yet?”
This line will be familiar to parents of small children. The unbroken, “normal” night’s sleep is the holy grail of parenting. Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter might have started sleeping through the night from six weeks, but for most families that’s a distant dream.
It’s perhaps the most talked-about topic on online forums, and there’s an entire publishing industry based on the idea that with the right training, babies can and should sleep more.
Here, BuzzFeed News speaks to two leading experts to find out why babies wake up during the night – and why it might actually be a good thing.
Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed
For Peter Fleming, professor of infant health and developmental psychology at the University of Bristol, the idea that babies should sleep through the night is a 20th-century idea. It’s more natural for them to wake up, often.
“Human infants are not designed to sleep for long periods, it’s not good for them, and there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that there is any benefit to anybody from having a child that sleeps longer and consistently,” he tells BuzzFeed.
“That’s not perhaps what most parents would like to hear.”
Darcia F. Narvaez, professor of psychology at Notre Dame University, says that one of the main misconceptions parents have is that everyone normally sleeps eight hours. We don’t.
“Adults don’t sleep through the night either, they just forget that they’re waking up routinely,” she tells BuzzFeed. “We jam all our sleep into eight hours because we work during the day and that’s just not normal if you look at the history of humanity.
“It’s normal to have periods of waking up and short sleeps. With hunter-gatherers, they sleep for two hours and then they’re awake and that’s for the whole 24 hours.”
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