So without further ado, I bring you a quick Q&A with Dr Hendry from earlier this week:
What will you be contributing to The Baby Sleep Company?
From time to time, I will "translate" various scientific articles relevant to children's sleep and development as they are published. In most cases these will include studies based on people, but occasionally I may also include studies based on other animals, including mice, rats and monkeys. My translation will aim to provide a summary of the study, including some background info as well as the methods and the conclusions, all in easy-to-understand language. I will usually end by discussing how this might influence our parenting strategies, and then open the floor for additional comments and debate. The articles I discuss will always be from within the last six months, and will always come from a reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journal. The original article as well as additional references will always be given, so that anyone can follow it up if they choose.
What is your interest in research on children's sleep and development?
As an editor at the scientific research journal Development, I read literally hundreds of research studies every week. Occasionally I see studies that could be important for our approach to good parenting. The problem is that science has its own language, and ninety-nine percent of these articles are written in a way that most Mums and Dads don't understand. I want to pass on the latest research into children's sleep and development in a way that everyone can understand, and at the same time, encourage a culture of active interest in the application of scientific research to everyday parenting.
So how come you understand this stuff? What is your background?
Technically, I am a developmental biologist. I did my PhD at the University of Queensland in kidney development and stem cells. After that I moved to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where I worked on disease modelling and stem cells. This kind of career path means that I am extremely experienced in reading and interpreting scientific research articles, because it's something that every scientist has to do to stay on their A-game. Now, as an editor, it is officially part of my job description so it's something I take very seriously.
When I was at university I pretty much got by reading the introductions and conclusions. Are you telling me there's more to it than that?!
Definitely! Not only do you need to look at things like sample size, age, and gender, but you also need to evaluate the reliability and impact of the study. Pretty much anyone can publish anything these days, so it's absolutely crucial to be able to sift out the good stuff. Basic considerations include the authors themselves, the reputation of the journal, and importantly, who funded the research. Sometimes it's hard to access these details, but it can make a big difference to the interpretation.
So what would be your advice to parents wanting to find out more?
I think the first port-of-call should always be your doctor. Don't be afraid to ask about the latest research, though in many cases they may not have the time or resources to answer your questions fully. As an alternative, try to find a specialist, or a few specialists, and email them to ask if they can refer you to a recent review in the area of interest. Look for specialists associated with hospitals or universities, as there is a greater likelihood that they are involved in active research, or know someone who is. Whatever you do, it's really important not to base any conclusions on the results of just one or two studies. Think of scientific research as a jig-saw puzzle: if you only look at one piece, you'll never see the bigger picture. When in doubt, go for a second (or third, or fourth) opinion.
We are so excited to welcome Dr Caroline Hendry to The Baby Sleep Company and can't wait to publish her first blog on a recent study out of Australia and New Zealand linking children's pre-bedtime activites to their sleep patterns!
If you would like personalised help with any sleep issue for a child, newborn to 5 years, contact Katie Forsythe at The Baby Sleep Co today on 0457 473 725 or click here to send us an email.