The Pregnancy, Babies and Children’s Expo hosted a discussion forum on unsettled infant sleep yesterday in Melbourne.
It brought together six specialists representing a range of perspectives on the issues surrounding infant sleep, something that one in three families have problems with.
The panel for the forum comprised leading health care professionals interested in infant sleep and family well-being. There were speakers on infant sleep, infant psychology, sleep research, residential family care and SIDS. I was privileged to be a speaker at the event.
More information will come from the forum organisers in coming weeks. In the interim, I wanted to share some general themes that emerged during the discussions:
- Sleep problems are common and affect over 30% of Australian families.
- They impact strongly on family well-being.
- There is a significant burden of stress anxiety and depression in Australia.
- Prolonged sleep disturbance has been found to be associated with an increased burden of mental health problems later in life.
The positive news is that:
- Evidence has been accumulating for many years that behavioural techniques are safe and effective in improving infant sleep.
- Improved sleep decreases the burden of anxiety, stress and depression in parents and particularly mothers.
- Concerns that behavioural techniques which assist children to learn sleep skills have damaging impacts on children are not based on evidence.
- Researchers who have studied children undergoing sleep skills training programs for up to 10 years find no evidence of any negative outcomes.
There was agreement that there needs to be a stronger movement to assist parents in making evidence-based choices which are safe and effective. The organisers hope to see this movement continue into the future and they see yesterday’s sleep forum as the first of many steps to help families move forward on the issue of unsettled infant sleep.
Dr Brian Symon
The Babysleep Doctor