How Light Can Affect an Infant’s Cognitive Development
If your infant consistently fights sleep, you definitely notice that, but you may no notice cognitive changes at first. The changes can be subtle, but maybe you notice your child’s attention span getting shorter. Perhaps they are easily distracted. These symptoms are all common experiences for many parents struggling with a sleep-fighter.
It is all tied to the relationship between infant sleep patterns and cognitive development. As shown by widespread research, sleep directly impacts developing brain structures associated with higher-order cognitive processes.
The Importance of Night Sleep
Numerous studies have revealed sleep’s positive impact on infants, particularly night slumber. In fact, infants who get most of their sleep during the evening hours perform much better than day sleepers in a number of key functions. These include impulse control, mental flexibility, and working memory. While daytime naps certainly have their benefits, night sleep is by far the biggest contributor to cognitive performance.
Two of the most telling studies took place at The University of Minnesota and University of Montreal. At both institutions, researchers tracked the progress 60 infants at various developmental stages – 12 -26 months; 12-13 months; and 18 months. Assisting the researchers, mothers kept ‘sleep diaries’ that documented the sleep patterns of their children. Recorded were things like percentage of night sleep and how often children awoke.
Researchers applied various metrics to determine cognitive functioning at 12, 18 and 26 months. For example, in a memory exercise for 18-month olds, a sticker was hidden in one of three pots and covered with a blanket. Children were then asked to point out the pot containing the sticker.
Children who got most of their sleep at night at 12 and 18 months outperformed day sleepers on various executive function tasks at 26 months. The more night sleep, the better the performance.
As these and many other studies demonstrate, sleep is critical for cognitive development in children.
How Light Bulbs Can Act as Baby Sleep Aids
For parents constantly saying to themselves “my baby won’t sleep” the answer may be something as simple as a light bulb. Standard incandescent bulbs emit waves that approximate daylight. In essence, these bulbs are telling your infant it’s daytime – time to stay awake. And so they do.
LED bulbs, such as our Sleepy Baby Nursery Light, emit less daytime light. During the evening, the LED waves align with an infant’s internal clock and help promote peaceful, unbroken sleep. With a good night’s sleep, of course, babies have a much better chance of performing their best when engaged in cognitive activities.