Sleep Training Debunked: Study Finds Genetics Play a Large Role in Baby’s Sleep Habits

sleep duration, baby sleep, genetic sleep, early childhood, cry it out, twin study, co-sleeping, baby crying, baby waking, infant sleep

Photo ©v95micfa via sxc.

Proponents of sleep training may want to find a new day job. A new study shows that genetics, not sleep training or they way a mom or dad parents their child, plays a large role in how babies sleep through the night. The new research, reported in the June issue of Pediatrics, assessed the nighttime and daytime sleep habits of 995 sets of twins at 6, 18, 30, and 48 months of age. The researchers found that it didn’t matter if parents used the cry-it-out method, co-sleeping or another sleep method with their babies at night, because genetics, not parenting habits were responsible for a great deal of variability in how long babies and young children slept without waking up during the night.

sleep duration, baby sleep, genetic sleep, early childhood, cry it out, twin study, co-sleeping, baby crying, baby waking, infant sleep

Genetics were seemingly responsible for the sleep habits of 47% of 6 month-old babies, 58% of 30 month-old babies and 54% of 48 month-old tots. Daytime sleep habits of babies were oddly more strongly affected by environmental issues than genetics. What this study means to parents is that if a baby is crying and waking often during the night, it’s more likely attributed to your baby’s genetic predisposition than to a mom or dad’s parenting. The study also tells us that methods such as cry-it-out may never work for some babies because they’re simply made to awaken during the night, no matter what, and deserve comfort when they do wake. In other words, ignoring a baby who is genetically designed to awaken frequently, won’t help change your baby’s habits.

Finally, the study shows that better baby daytime naps may be achieved with the proper environment, which means providing a quiet, dark, uninterrupted sleep space. One more important issue discovered in this research was that many babies suddenly changed sleep gears around 18-months of age. For example, before and after 18 months of age, the way a baby slept at night was highly affected by genetics, but around 18 months, many kids suddenly became more affected by sleep environments for a short while. This means that the 18 month mark may be a good time to intervene and try to instill new sleep habits in little ones who still don’t sleep through the night.

+ Genetic and Environmental Influences on Daytime and Nighttime Sleep Duration in Early Childhood

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6 Responses to “Sleep Training Debunked: Study Finds Genetics Play a Large Role in Baby’s Sleep Habits”

  1. goodsleeper says:


  2. Nilong Vyas says:

    Then how come parents who have a consistent schedule for their kids and learn their babies cues, sleep through the night without a problem? It’s more in the parents behavior and stress levels, anxiety, etc that creates bad sleep environment for kids. Not that is done intentionally, but it’s what kids depend upon. I’m keeping my day job because sleep is a huge need.

  3. kauluwai says:

    The “just let them cry it out” method appalls me. Even if baby is warm, dry, and fed — crying begs contact and comfort. I suppose one can eventually train a baby to realize the futility of crying for solace that is not coming, but …

  4. LouiseHynds says:

    Nilong Viyas- we had a schedule from day one and nothing, literally nothing meant our baby slept through. He still wakes up now at 12 months old, at different times on different nights despite his daily routine.

  5. Exhaustedmom says:

    Nilong Viyas- as a mother of 5 children that we’re all put on the same schedule, same enviornment, and raised the same, I can promise you that genetics must play a big part in it. We have 2 children who struggle to sleep through the night and we’ve tried just about every method one can try. We finally came to terms with the fact that many adults don’t sleep peacefully through the night and to expect it from a child seems a bit silly. No two children are the same and I really believe there are parents who get lucky…and then there are ones who are told it’s their fault. It’s not. Period.

  6. Bitchmom says:

    Nilong- interesting theory you have there. How much time did it take you to visit every family in the entire world and observe their children…. Oh wait, you didnt. just because you have seen a few children sleep perfect…. Doesn’t mean your neighbors or coworkers children do! Point of this study being is that its genetics…. For example why some people are black, some white, hispanic, etc.

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