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Stress hormone study to finally settle debate over infant sleep training

Photo: Stress hormone study to finally settle debate over infant sleep training
Researchers aim to measure the stress hormone cortisol in babies and parents during different types of sleep training, to conclusively rule on which is the least stressful settling technique.

Parents or primary carers of infant children aged 4-12 months are encouraged to volunteer for the To cry or not to cry study, which includes participation in sleep education sessions for their infant. Details are via yaroslava.king@cqumail.com.au .

PhD researcher Yaroslava King, from the Appleton Institute for Behavioural Science at CQUniversity Adelaide, says her comparison of behavioural sleep interventions aims to give parents an informed choice in their sleep training.

"We are comparing two behavioural sleep interventions to reduce infant sleep disturbances and improve parental mental health," she says.
“Parents have expressed concerns about sleep training and crying at bedtime because they don't know how detrimental that crying can be for their baby's development.

“Many parents reject cry-intensive sleep training for this reason. This study will test stress in both cry-intensive and responsive (non-cry intensive) sleep training so parents have a choice.

“Parents concerns about this crying and lack of other choices seems to have been largely ignored.

“In addressing previously ignored parental concerns and providing parents with choice and evidence, we will provide immediate relief and treatment for those sleep-deprived parents who do not choose cry intensive methods.”

Ms King says that untreated infant sleep problems can lead to serious consequences for parental mental and physical health.

“In sleep-disturbed families, there are increased attachment problems, early breastfeeding cessation, and increased likelihood of marital conflict.

“Postnatal depression, both in mothers and fathers, has also been related to unsafe parenting practices because parents are just so tired.

“Improving sleep improves mood. By providing immediate relief and support to parents and their children, this research will increase the possibility of reducing the burden of unmanaged post-natal depression in the Australian community."

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