Do clever kids battle to sleep?

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Could it be that your baby's inability to nap/fall asleep/stay asleep/sleep through is thanks to their own brightness rather than your own poor parenting?

Man, I hope so!

It is often said in the medical community that 'bright babies are bad sleepers' and a Google search for 'gifted child needs less sleep' will give you hundreds of hits... unfortunately none of them backed by any good research. This means that the jury is still out.

So, until a double-blind randomised control trial is done where the sleep habits of bright babies are established, here is a summary of the conflicting theories.

AGAINST - Quality sleep promotes success

What existing research does show is that school-aged children who sleep well perform far better in academic tasks than their peers. It also shows that children who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation are more likely to suffer from poor concentration and become easily frustrated giving up on tasks. There is also higher rates of absenteeism due to illness as their immune systems are weaker than their peers.

More sleep, more brain power. Babies that sleep well have more time to cement their day's learning and have more chance of success when approaching a task for the first time. They should also be more likely to have well-rested parents who can interact happily with them during the day as well as better relationships with their siblings and peers.

Parents should use sleep strategies to promote sleep from a young age. This will establish life-long good sleep habits and good health.


THE COUNTER ARGUMENT - Bright kids brains take longer to power down

Whilst school-aged children are well-researched, the younger bright baby population is not. Bright babies will be more keen to learn than sleep and will be happy despite far less sleep than their peers. It is clear that they are 'busy' and 'playful', signs that their brain is firing.

The more stimulation during the day, the harder it is to switch off at night as the brain continues to process the day's data. And bright babies are easily over-stimulated - not because they are in busy spaces or watching too much TV, but because they find stimulation everywhere. They want to learn about everything - from what's inside your mouth to how the door opens, to how to sing 'twinkle twinkle'... Their learning is largely self-motivated.

So bright babies wake thanks to their active brains and furthermore, have more wake-time, which leads to more learning opportunities and quicker development. Traditional sleep strategies will not be as effective on bright babies who find it easy to adapt and difficult to power down.

Have your say: What is your experience? Are poor sleepers brighter?




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