The BBC website recently (1/12/15) ran a short piece entitled “Regular Naps Are The ‘Key to Learning’ by James Gallagher. Great review of recent British research on linking learning and nap time. Definitely take a look and read what he has to say about what pre-nap behavior and what long nap duration does for young minds. Hint: your bedtime routine may be more important that you think it is.
What the authors of the research do not mention is how hard it is to get babies into to that deep and regular sleep. Parents instinctively know that infants who take only a 20 minute power-nap don’t seem as rested, and that babies that sleep poorly aren’t as attentive in play. I would suggest that this is yet another reason for parents to use the Happiest Baby techniques, including the white noise and the swaddle. Both strategies reduce the chance that a young infant will wake from either their own random movements, outside noises, or mild discomforts such as a bit of teething or light hunger. And scooping them up when you hear the first whimper of awakening is going to absolutely shorten that deep sleep. Sending them back into deep sleep is so much harder than using these techniques to get them there in the first place.
They will never again be so little, and the first 12 months of brain development are so intense. Clearly the time to think about this research, and then “sleep on it”!