Getting a good night's sleep

June 10, 2009 3:16:40 PM PDT
Sleep can have a major impact on our health and on our daily well being. Now, new research from a meeting of sleep experts in Seattle sheds some light on the sleeping habits of both children and older adults. To be able to sleep like a baby may be something many people dream about, but the reality is, sometimes even babies don't get a good night's sleep.

And there are a number of factors that can actually hurt a baby's sleep pattern. A new study on babies around the world found having parents present at bedtime can have a negative impact on a child's sleep.

The research shows infants who slept apart from their parents got more shut eye, woke-up less, had less difficulty at bedtime and fell asleep faster than infants who slept in the same room as mom and dad.

"We all wake up during the night, but it's a question of are we able to fall back asleep," says Dr. Charles Bae, with Cleveland Clinic.

Research shows children who sleep in the same room as their parents usually have a parent helping them to fall asleep at bedtime and, as a result, will need that help again throughout the night.

But children sleeping separately can learn a sleep skill.

"When they wake up in the middle of the night and the parent isn't there, then they know it's okay to fall back asleep," Dr. Bae said.

The study involved more than 29,000 infants in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Asia. It was done by Jodi A. Mindell, a psychology professor at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia.

Some people have a hard time functioning if they're being deprived of sleep, while others feel little effect.

Now, new research focusing on older adults, those over age 59, compared their sleep deprivation functioning to younger adults between the ages of 19 to 38. The findings: older adults were better able to cope with sleep deprivation, and one theory is older adults have more life experiences.

"Depending on the task, they've already experienced certain things, so they can pull on those experiences a little better than younger adults who still have a lot to learn," Dr. Bae said.

And what effect does concers about marriage, money or being single have on sleep? Other research found married people and those earning $75,000 per year were less likely to have sleep problems than those earning less than $10,000 per year.

  • Information from American Academy of Sleep Medicine: How sleep affects young children.