Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sleeping closer to your children reduces testosterone

Males differ from females in many ways, but in terms of the underlying biology, testosterone plays a big role. It is frequently defined as the male hormone, and it plays a role in various processes, such as development of male features and also character attributes such as aggression. Additionally, testosterone levels have been found to go up in certain situations, such as winning a sports match. Now, scientists have shown something rather different: apparently, testosterone levels are lower for males that sleep close to their children.

Researchers from the University of Notre Dame set up experiments on the Philippines trying to link testosterone levels to how close the father slept to his child. The participants were put in three groups, being 'same-surface' sleepers, room sharers, or solitary sleepers. A total of 362 men with an average age of 26 years were enrolled in the study.

Analysis showed that being closer to a child relates to lower testosterone levels. Fathers and their child that sleep on the same surface, such as a bed, were found to have the lowest levels, followed by room sharers, while solitary sleepers were found to have the highest level of testosterone. Further evidence was found by showing that men who were childless at the start of the study showed a rapid decline in testosterone levels after reaching fatherhood. This particular decline was found to be higher for dads in close proximity to their child, when compared to solitary sleepers.

While the study finds a relationship between night time proximity and testosterone levels, one cannot conclude that there is a causal relationship. It is possible that parenting behaviour by itself reduces the levels and thereby influences sleeping behaviour. It does seem pretty clear, also from previous studies, that parenting in general has an effect on testosterone levels. Evolutionary speaking, this seems quite obvious: lower levels would reduce, for example, aggression, which means it would be safer for the child.

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