Does Sleep Training Have Psychological Impacts? Find Out What Science Says

Sleep training is a hotly debated topic among parents nowadays. For many, the “cry-it-out” method is cruel to kids and can cause long-term problems. On the flip side, sleep coaching advocates argue that it is not harmful and is actually great for kids and their families. Sadly, much of the argument is influenced by misinformation.

So, what does science say? Here, let us separate the facts from myths to help worried parents about the consequences of sleep training on their children.

Myth #1: The “Cry-It-Out” Method is Cruel, Causing Long-term Issues

Fact: Letting a baby cry to sleep has been viewed by some parents as unkind or harmful because of fears it may increase the infant’s stress levels or provoke a behavioral problem later on. But a study published in Pediatrics says moms and dads do not need to worry.

The researchers observed 43 infants between the ages of six to 3 months. They divided the group into three, based on the three sleep training techniques: fading or camping out, gradual extinctions or crying with checks, and a control group (whose caretakers retained doing their usual bedtime routine). They found out that the first two groups (fading and crying with checks ) were effective and didn’t show signs of emotional issues one year after the survey.

In addition, their levels of a stress hormone known as cortisol were lower than measurements taken in babies in the study’s control group.

On top of these, the babies who were left crying to sleep fell asleep 15 minutes more quickly. This result showed three months into the study, but better sleep occurred within the first week.

Myth #2: Sleep Training is for the Advantage of the Parents, Not the Child

Fact: Though parents tend to sleep better and longer when their children are sleep trained, it is for their child’s sake, not the parents’. Imagine how frustrating it is for your kid to wake up several times every night and cry to get back to sleep. Moreover, they will always need your intervention to help them return to sleep if they’re not sleep trained. This isn’t easy on the child. That is why learning how to self-soothe is an essential skill for babies to avoid crying nightly. 

This is when certified sleep coaches, like Little Z’s Sleep, come in. They offer online baby sleep training programs, newborn sleep courses, preschool sleep e-coaching, and many more. Check out their website to avail of mother’s day bundles at Little Z’s Sleep.

Myth #3: Once My baby is Sleep Trained, I Can Expect Her to Sleep Through the Night, Everynight

Fact: Sleep training is not a miracle!

Even if a single method worked for one baby, the effect could wear off after a while, and you need to go back to square one, redoing the instruction. In recent research, they figured out that two sleep training approaches helped babies sleep better only for a few months. The data indicated that these techniques reduced the time it takes for a baby to sleep and the number of times they wake up at night. At the same time, the data also demonstrated that the infants were still waking, on average, once to twice a night after three months.

So the bottom line is, it’s difficult to say how much improvement is expected.

Myth #4: Sleep Training Means I Can’t Share a Room with My Child Anymore and Do Activities with Her

Fact: Sleep training doesn’t necessarily mean giving up the activities you like to do with your baby. You’re still able to hold and sing to them as a part of your night routine. Sleep training allows you to avoid these activities only during the time of transition from wake to sleep.

Also, it’s perfectly fine to sleep with your baby in the same room during sleep training. In fact, this is more convenient for breastfeeding while reassuring you that your baby is well. If you like them in the same room as you, you can provide a separate sleep location like a bassinet or crib.

Ensuring Successful Sleep

Regardless of what technique you use to sleep train your child, it is always best to consult your pediatrician about good sleep habits. Certified sleep coaches can also be your go-to people when it comes to sleep training. They can help you find a suitable method on how to sleep train your baby, according to their age and stage.

For starters, don’t let your babies fall asleep while feeding, either breastfeeding or bottle feeding, or when being held. They should be put down while they’re “drowsy” but awake to encourage independent rest. You can sing or stroke their head to calm them. 

Most importantly, consistency is the key.