While every baby is different, the sleepless nights are something that most parents of infants can’t escape.

Sleepless nights don’t just equal tired parents, though. Sleep deprivation can double mom’s risk of suffering from depression and can lead to marital strife. But how should tired parents teach their babies to sleep?

While some parents believe letting their child “cry it out” will teach self-soothing behaviors, other parents believe that letting their child cry will cause their little one to feel insecure and abandoned. However, exhausted moms and dads have some new research on their side that can (hopefully) afford them a little shut eye.

A new study released in the journal Pediatrics followed 225 babies from seven months old until age 6 to compare the difference between parents who were trained in sleep intervention techniques and those who were not. The sleep intervention group was told to select either “controlled crying,” which had them respond to their infant’s cries at increasing time intervals, or  “camping out,” which asked them to sit with their child until he or she fell asleep, removing themselves earlier each night over a three-week period.

Families in the sleep training group reported improved sleep. Mothers were also less likely to experience depression and emotional problems. Furthermore, it was determined that those children in the sleep training group were not harmed by letting them cry it out. Researchers found no differences between these children and the children in the control group in matters of mental and behavioral health, sleep quality, stress, or relationship with their parents at age six. Allowing babies to cry for limited periods of time was found to help the entire family sleep better without causing psychological damage. Furthermore, an earlier study found that sleep training does work – babies learn to go to sleep easier and stay asleep longer than their counterparts.

No matter which method parents choose, they can feel better knowing that while it may seem that their infant is stressed when he or she is crying, researchers believe that it is good stress and it will have no lasting impact on the parent-child bond.
Heavy marijuana use during adolescence has now been linked to lower IQ scores later in life, according to a study published last month by the National Academy of Sciences.

The study, which tracked 1,037 subjects from birth to age 38 years, found that those who began smoking marijuana as teenagers and used it regularly throughout adulthood scored approximately 8 points lower on an IQ test than they had at age 13 years. In comparison, the IQ scores of non-users, as well as those who started using marijuana as adults, were stable. Small to medium declines in memory, processing speed, and executive function were also seen in regular users.

“We know that there are developmental changes occurring in the teen years and up through the early 20s, and the brain may be especially vulnerable during this time,” said Dr. Madeline Meier, a researcher at Duke University and lead author of the study, in an August 27 New York Times article.

The results of this study are in direct contrast with beliefs common among adolescents that marijuana use is harmless to health. “Adolescents are initiating cannabis use at younger ages, and more adolescents are using cannabis on a daily basis,” study authors said. “Findings are suggestive of a neurotoxic effect of cannabis on the adolescent brain and highlight the importance of prevention and policy efforts targeting adolescents.”

Although the authors ruled out several alternative explanations for the neuropsychological effects (such as hard drug use, alcohol dependence, and schizophrenia), they acknowledge that their results must be interpreted within the context of the study’s limitations. “There may be some ‘third’ variable that could account for the findings,” they said. “The data cannot reveal the mechanism underlying the associations between persistent cannabis dependence and neuropsychological decline.”

What do you think? Is there a disconnect between common beliefs about marijuana use and the reality of its long-term effects on health? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!