Anxious Babies Suffer More Nightmares Later in Life
> 1/16/2008 3:35:32 PM

Babies cannot fill out the Myers-Briggs personality test, but many mothers believe that their cries and fidgets signal the type of child that they will grow into. While prior research precludes the possibility that a personality is entirely determined in the first year of life, a study in this month's issue of Sleep presents evidence that a baby’s initial personality does have predictive power.

The Sleep study checked in on 987 children six times, from five months old to six years, in order to assess the correlation of nightmares and anxiety to each other and to other factors. There were a number of interesting findings, with both good news and bad news. One piece of good news is that children are suffering less nightmares than previously estimated (only 1.3% to 3.9%). A piece of troubling news is that anxiety very early in life may doom a child to nightmares years later.  Babies that showed more signs of anxiety at five months were significantly more likely to have nightmares at each check-in up until six years old. This finding should be examined with some caution because it is based on reports from mothers, who may have personalities and genes that affect both reporting and child-rearing.

Anxiety early on may predict that nightmares are more likely, but it does not mean that they are inevitable. This study found that some parental practices could lower the risk; for example, comforting the child after a sleep disturbance helped to break the chain from anxiety to nightmare. This means that it is very important to pay attention to the signs that your baby gives you. They cannot talk at that age, but they may be giving you valuable information about the type of child they will become if you do not intervene.

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