Showing posts with label healthy sleep habits. Show all posts
Showing posts with label healthy sleep habits. Show all posts

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Nap Hints

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The book  Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is full of help on getting babies to sleep well for naps and night. On page 123, Weissbluth offers some ideas for helping your child to nap better.
  1. During your waketime activities, go outside. "...briefly but intensely..." stimulate your little one. Do physical activity. Play in the sandbox, go to the park, take her for a walk, etc.
  2. During waketime and while outside, "...expose your child to light, wind, clouds, voices, music, traffic sounds..." etc.
  3. As nap time approaches, tone it down. 
  4. "...spend an extra long time soothing" with baths, massage, etc. Do your routine in a dark and quiet room.
Those are some ideas for you to try with nap time. If baby isn't sleeping well for nap, considering your waketime activities and your sleep routine is important. Children definitely need enough physical exercise to sleep well. Some experts say that any person, child or adult, who has trouble sleeping at night will do better if he/she goes outside around noon for some sunshine. And remember, the weather does not have to be perfect to spend time outside. You can dress your baby/child for the weather.

I have noticed physical activity to be a huge help in getting mobile children to nap well and sleep well at night.  Our nap routine, however, is pretty short.

Have you found outside time and physical activity helpful for naps? What about the wind down? How long is your routine?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Timing the First Nap

In the book  Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child  (HSHHC), Weissbluth gives a lot of details on when and how to time naps. Many moms report following these with great success. His suggestions aren't exactly what I land on 100% of the time, but they are close. In the past, we have talked about the Importance of the First Nap. So the nap is important, yes, but how do you time it all to get optimal sleep length? Weissbluth talks about this starting on page 121. Here are some key points.

Reasons for Short Morning Nap
  • Waketime length was too long before baby was put down for a nap.
  • Baby was put down at the wrong time for the biological systems to work with the nap.
  • Baby was put down too early.
  • Other activities interfere with nap (like older siblings activities).
  • Bedtime is too late.
  • Morning wake-up time is too late.
Baby Younger than 4 Months
  • Start nap only one hour after waking in the morning. The most common cause of baby not taking a good morning nap is because she was up too long before starting the nap.
  • *My input here--most babies in this age range definitely do need a waketime of only 40-60 minutes. Morning waketime is often the shortest of the day. Don't be afraid to put your baby down for a nap. I remember when Brayden was a baby and I was putting him down for a nap. One of my good friends commented, "He takes a nap already?!?!" She had her first baby one year after Brayden was born and she commented, "I thought it was crazy that he took a nap so early, but now I see that babies need that!" It seems crazy, but it is right.
Baby 5 Months and Older
  • Should start nap between 9-10 AM if possible. "You are willing to allow the child to become a little overtired but not become so wigged-out that he has great difficulty falling asleep" page 122.
  • Wake child up around 7 AM so she can go down at 9 AM (I would argue this some--especially for a 5 month old. Not all 5 month olds can go two hours).
  • Have an early enough bedtime that the child wakes at a good time in the morning.
  • *My input here--a baby will slowly add waketime length. You won't be at one hour as a four month old and then two hours when baby turns five months old. Baby adds time in 5-10 minute increments slowly. Take the increase slowly and as baby can handle it. For your morning wake-up time, I would shoot for the 7 AM HOUR. So between 7-8 AM. If baby naturally sleeps until 8:30, go for it. You will get to sleep in on weekends :). Remember to have bedtime about 12 hours before your morning waketime. Most babies seem to do best with bedtime in the 7 PM hour, so between 7-8 PM.
If you get the timing wrong for the first nap, it can make it so the afternoon nap is not good, which leads to a cranky baby by the end of the day.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Can it be too hot to sleep?

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"Please don't blame [poor sleep on] changes in the weather--it is never too hot or too cold to sleep well" (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, page 226).

So I am reading along through HSHHC and come across this line--and I am totally surprised. I obviously have a strong disagreement with this statement--just read my post Some Like it Hot--Sleep That Is. I kind of think most people would agree with me--I think most of us have been either too hot or too cold at least one night of our lives and we didn't sleep well that night. In most post linked above, I included this info:

"Experts agree the temperature of your sleeping area and how comfortable you feel in it affect how well and how long you snooze. Why? “When you go to sleep, your set point for body temperature -- the temperature your brain is trying to achieve -- goes down,” says H. Craig Heller, PhD, professor of biology at Stanford University, who wrote a chapter on temperature and sleep for a medical textbook. “Think of it as the internal thermostat.” If it’s too cold, as in Roy’s case, or too hot, the body struggles to achieve this set point. 
That mild drop in body temperature induces sleep. Generally, Heller says, “if you are in a cooler [rather than too-warm] room, it is easier for that to happen.” But if the room becomes uncomfortably hot or cold, you are more likely to wake up, says Ralph Downey III, PhD, chief of sleep medicine at Loma Linda University..." (source)

Now, I think Weissbluth is a sleep expert--no doubt. So then I think, why would he make such a statement? I think the answer lies in the context of the statement. In this section of the book, he is talking about the importance of not overstimulating a child (which he defines as keep up too long). He is cautioning parents not to keep baby up too long and if you do, baby won't sleep well. He then makes his statement to not blame the temperature. I think (my interpretation) what he is trying to impress is the importance of waketime length and to not fall into a trap of blaming what isn't at fault. He does make several of contradictory statements throughout the book (like, Never wake a sleeping baby versus wake baby if needed to preserve future naps), so he will make a strong statement in order to make a point without using qualifiers and caveats. My assumption is that this statement falls into that category.

I think temperature is very important to consider for good sleep. We need to be dressed appropriately for the temperature in the room. As things have warmed up this summer, we have had to remove several of Brayden's blankets he loved to sleep with during the winter. When he gets too hot, he has night terrors. You obviously aren't sleeping well during a night terror.

In the end, despite this one-liner in this book I respect, I still stand by my belief that temperature is an important factor to consider with good sleep.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sleep Problems: Morning Wake-up Time is Too Early

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Chapter three in  Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is all about common sleep problems and how to fix then. Today we will be talking about your child's morning wake up time and what to do if it is too early (this starts on page 119).

Causes of Early Waking (and the solutions)
  • The Sun: Two of my three children are easily woken by the sun in the AM, so I know this is a reality. Get some window-darkening shades. At our house, we have dark wood blinds that help keep out the morning sun. Our blinds are special blinds that do not have holes in them to let the sun in. We got these at Home Depot.

    Some people have used everything from aluminium foil to blankets. I have heard that Home Depot has blackout curtains, and I think Joannes? If you have some room-darkening item, please comment and share what it is, where you got it, and if you like it or not. See also  Early Morning Waking and the Sun.
  • Noise: Noise is another common reason for you child to wake earlier than he is ready to in the morning. This can be noise from cars on the road, your husband getting ready for work, or your dog barking at the sun rise. Weissbluth suggests you get a noise machine or a humidifier to counteract the problem  of morning noise.

    We have humidifiers in each child's room. We got them for 20-something dollars at Walmart. They aren't the best quality, but they have a nice gentle hum to them. Of course some of you will live in a climate that is humid and you don't want more humidity in your home. You can either use a noise machine or a humidifier without water in it. 
  • Fussiness/Colic: "The most common cause for waking up too early before four months of age is extreme fussiness/colic" (page 119). 
  • Bedtime Too Late: "The most common cause, after four months, is too-late bedtime" (page 119). The answer to this one is simple--move bedtime up earlier. I often get questions about a baby waking early who is going to bed at 9 PM or later. 9 PM is a bedtime none of my children have yet to see--it is too late for a child. If bedtime is too late, slowly move it up earlier. I like 10-15 minute increments. Your child should easily and quickly fall asleep. It might take some time to figure out the exact right bedtime--make a change and wait four days (unless it is totally obvious to you this was wrong). A hint is that most babies have bedtime in the 7 PM hour--some maybe about 6:30. Shooting for anytime in the 7 PM hour should get you close. 
Hopefully these ideas help you figure out why your child is waking early in the morning. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011


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In many ways, babies and children are miniature adults. It is not true, however, in all areas of life, and definitely not true when it comes to showing signs of sleepiness.

Think of yourself when you are tired. You yawn. Your eyelids droop. If you are like my husband you just fall asleep and start the head bob. You feel lethargic and unmotivated.

A great paradox of parenting is that a baby or young child does not do these things. In Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Dr. Weissbluth states, "...when most tired young kids get sleepy, they get grumpy and excitable" page 111. He points out that well-rested children children might yawn when tired, but chronically tired children will not. His son called the state of tiredness "upcited" when he was three--a combination of upset and excited. Perfect right?

Dr. Weissbluth says, "Remember, when your infant or young child appears wired, he may be tired" (page 112). 

Dr. Weissbluth then goes on to discuss a couple of studies that shed light on this topic. I will relate one to you in my own way. You know those times in life when you have had to run on less sleep than is optimal? Maybe college, maybe with a newborn, maybe when pregnant (if you are like me and don't sleep well at night). Have you noticed how you eventually get used to running on less sleep? It doesn't mean you are functioning at 100%, but you learn to function.

I find this true in my life. When I have a newborn and consistently get less sleep than is ideal, my body copes. When I have one bad night of sleep for whatever reason, I am slammed the next day. 

The study found that the body responds to lack of sleep with various chemicals. One is adrenaline. Another is cortisol. "In children, cortisol concentrations remain high when they do not nap" (page113). 

This increase in chemicals explains why an overly tired child has a hard time falling and/or staying asleep. The body is flooded with chemicals in order to help the overly tired child stay awake, so it makes it harder to sleep. Just as sleep begets sleep, sleeplessness begets sleeplessness. 

A tired child does not look like a tired adult. You can't wait around for your baby to ask you to put him to sleep or to peacefully drift off into a slumber. Yes, some of those children are out there, but most need you to put them to bed for naps and for bedtime. 

Also, let me give another plug for this book. It is a most excellent companion to On Becoming Babywise. People who try to discredit Babywise like to turn to "Gary Ezzo isn't a doctor"  when all else is failing (despite the fact that Robert Bucknam is a doctor). There are several books written by doctors that support Ezzos claim that sleep is important and support his ideas on how to get there (do we really need a doctor to convince us that sleep is important? Can't we tell that from our own lives? Or maybe only well-rested adults can come to that conclusion on their own?).

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

How Flexible Can I Be?

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The great unknown. Whether you are a mother for the first time or you just have your fifth baby, you will have to get to know just how flexible your new little baby can be.

Every child has his or her own tolerance level on flexibility. Some easily roll with whatever you throw at them while others lose it at the slightest change to normal.

Some of this is dependent on personality. Some personalities just deal with change better than others.

Some of this is dependent on life experience. If a child has a personality equipped to handle change often, then the more used to change a child gets, the easier she can handle it. 

Some of this is dependent on the parent's ability to compensate for disruptions. Over time, you learn to put down for naps earlier or just how short a nap can be cut. You learn what to do if you are going to be out late that night or if yesterday was a no-nap day.

But first and foremost, I think the ability to be flexible falls in a single category. How well rested is that baby?

"Slightly overtired children are more easily thrown off balance and take longer to recover [from disruptions]. Well-rested children tend to be more adaptable and take occasional changes of routine in stride" (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, page 57). 

When I first read this line, there was a little bell in my head ringing "ding-ding-ding-ding-ding!"

This was Brayden. As a baby, he never handled disruptions well. If he was more than 15 minutes late for bed, he was crying. If he was late for a nap, he was crying. Missing a nap was just not an option for baby Brayden. If we had a vacation, it took a week or two to get back into the swing of things. 

When he was 2.5 and Kaitlyn was 6 months old, she was better able to miss naps than he was at that same moment. 

Brayden was also my 45 minute sleeper until he was 6.5 months old. He just was not well-rested enough to handle any disruption to his sleep schedule. This  has earned him a reputation in our home as someone who doesn't handle change well, when in fact, he handles change just fine. He probably handles it better than either of the girls. The statement by Weissbluth in Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child makes a lot of sense. It was that he was inflexible, it was that he was slightly overly tired. 

Contrast that with the girls who could/can miss naps, go to bed late, go down for naps early or late, etc. without much of an issue. These things are not a guarantee that we will have a nice tantrum explode later. Coming home from vacation? No big deal. They rarely take any time at all to get back to normal. These two girls are sleepers. They are very well rested; therefore, they can handle sleep disruptions without batting an eye.

"Missing a nap here and there will probably cause no harm. But if this becomes habit, you can expect your child to lag further and further behind in his sleep and become increasingly difficult to handle in this over-fatigued state" (page 24).

So how flexible can you be with sleep? As flexible as your child is well-rested. You will have more ability for flexibility if you allow your child to get the sleep she needs on a regular basis. 

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

You Cannot Force Sleep

"You, and your child, can force wakefulness upon sleep, but you cannot force sleep upon wakefulness" (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, page 30).

"Parents have the opportunity to permit the maximum amount of sleep to occur..." (page 30).

It can be very frustrating if your child will not sleep when you want him to. I think these two quotes are excellent to keep in mind--you can put a baby in bed at the right time, but you can't make him sleep.

As a parent, you can do your best. You can do what you need to so that your child is in bed when he should be for naps and bedtime. You can do your part to make sure your child isn't understimulated or overstimulated. You can figure out optimal waketime lengths. You can provide a good environment for sleeping. There are plenty of things that are in your control.

But in the end, sometimes that child will not sleep like he is "supposed" to. When you have done what  you can, the best thing you can do for your own happiness and ability to enjoy the moment is to step back and say to yourself, "I have done what I can do."

This is a lot easier to swallow if you are talking a couple of bad naps here and there or even just a bad run for a couple of weeks. It gets more difficult when you go on months.

I know--believe me I know. Brayden didn't nap well consistently until he was 6.5 months old. Where most babies sleep well most of the time and have bad naps here and there, he had bad most of the time with the good nap here and there.

I am not actually a stressing type person, though, so it didn't stress me out. I just accepted it and we went about our lives. 

I think it would be much harder to take the shorter napper if it was not your first--if the short napper followed the amazing napper, it would be hard. You would know exactly what you are missing and what your child is missing. 

If you have a chronic short napper, it might interest you to know that Weissbluth claims 5-18 percent of babies are short nappers, and that it is just a natural thing for the baby. He also says this lasts until 18-24 months old essentially. 

I don't know how true or untrue it is, but there is the information for you. You can check out his book (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) on page 30 for more. 

What I hope this post does for you is encourages you that sometimes, you will do everything right but you can't lead a baby to sleep. The saying goes "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." I showed horses as a teenager and grew with horses my entire life, and that statement is certainly true. There are many things in life you can't force. Sleep is one of them. You can set the stage. You can set your child up for success, and sometimes it won't happen. Think of yourself. Have you ever had a night you had a hard time sleeping--even when you really wanted to sleep? It happens.

So hang in there. Do your best and then just learn to roll with what comes next. 


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Healthy Sleep Habits: Four Soothing Methods

In Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Weissbluth talks about four different ways you can soothe a child even to the point of sleep. I will discuss these here from a Babywise perspective.

He starts off on page 67 with sucking. "Anything you can do to encourage your baby to suck will help soothe her. Offering the breast, bottle, pacifier, finger, or wrist usually helps calm your baby" (page 67).

So what do I think of each of those items? I think everything other than the food sources are great. I think it is interesting that Weissbluth suggests the bottle, because he soon after comments that "Many babies with extreme fussiness/colic suck more than they need to and spit up a lot" (page 67). 

Weissbluth references two books he finds fallible in the sucking department. One I assume is the No Cry Sleep Solution, which I haven't read, so I can't comment on his comments. The other I assume is Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Hogg. He says the claims of both of these books that falling asleep while eating will cause a problem falling asleep on own is incorrect. 

Weissbluth repeatedly claims that what and when a baby eats has no impact on when and how a baby sleeps (though he does make statements against this later on), and I of course have many, many disagreements with that idea. Weissbluth himself obviously has a few since he discusses them in his book. 

Even in this section, he says to feed a hungry baby, sleep a tired baby, soothe a fussy baby (page 68), so to me this advice is going against the advice that feeding a tired baby to sleep is okay. 

Anyway, sucking can be a good way to soothe a fussy baby and some babies will fall asleep much easier if sucking on something. 

This section is short and straight forward. Rocking can be a good way to soothe a baby. Rocking chair, infant carrier, car rides, swaying, etc. Some like it slow and gentle while others like it bouncy and fast. 

Do keep in mind Hogg's claim that rocking can highly overstimulate a baby. I have found this to be true. I like to avoid rocking if the baby is calm, but I do find rocking to be highly natural and very much a part of the intuition of all parents, so I don't cross it off of my list altogether. I rock if baby is upset and needs soothing. 

I think that some adults have better ways of soothing, also. For example, I have one way that I could get my babies to fall asleep in my arms. That same method works on my friend's babies, even when my friends don't use that way.

My husband has an aunt that always held her fussy babies laying on her forearm with the face in her hand. I had read about that way, but it did not work for Brayden. Well guess what? He loved that position with her. So don't be afraid to do what is natural to you

Oh I love the swaddle. But in this section, Weissbluth gets on the bandwagon with Karp in that perhaps we humans are born earlier than we "should" be because of the whole evolution know how I feel about let's just leave it at swaddling is awesome and you can see the swaddling posts on this blog for more on why I love it :).

The fourth idea from Weissbluth for soothing a baby is massage. He says it is neither a gimmick nor a cure for fussy babies, though it will soothe babies. One thing he points out that I like is that massaging is beneficial to parent and  baby. It can be a fun activity together and differnet from the feeding and diaper changing. He says he likes to recommend it to fathers to give them some bonding time with the young infants.

If you are going to try infant massage, be sure you read a book, take a class, or watch a video about it. I am sure there are videos on youtube. I know there is some info on it in Hogg's books.

There are lots of ways to soothe a baby when in need. These are four main ways from Weissbluth. Stick them in your bag of tricks, but keep in mind ideas from Hogg to avoid things getting too far so that you have an overstimulated baby.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Healthy Sleep Habits: Sleep Cues

Sleep cues are so very important when timing naps correctly. I have a post with my list of sleep cues and a post with the Baby Whisperer's sleep cues. Now time for Weissbluth's sleep cues.

As I have mentioned in the past, a baby will not display every sleep cue on a list. Also, your baby might have her own unique cue not included on any list, but my guess is among these three, you should be able to find what your baby displays. This list is found on page 63 and page 71 in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child:
  • Decreased activity
  • Slower motions
  • Less vocal
  • Sucking is weaker or slower
  • Quieter
  • Calmer
  • Appears disinterested
  • Eyes less focused 
  • Eyelids drooping
  • Yawning
  • Less social (smiling less and a lack of engaging you)
The above list is a list of signs your baby is ready to go to sleep. Now for a list of cues that signal your child is overly tired:
  • Fussing
  • Rubbing eyes
  • Irritable
  • Cranky
If you study the three posts closely, you will notice there are things Hogg and I list as cues that Weissbluth lists as  over-tired cues. You will also noticed Hogg says baby will get fidgety while Weissbluth says baby moves less. Welcome to baby life :) Your job is to figure out where your baby falls in these ideas. 

My Children
Now for the sleep cues of my children. 

Brayden: Brayden's sleep cue was easy and ever the same: fussiness. Newborn on up, it was fussiness. As he grew into a toddler, this moved into him being naughty when he was tired. He still at age five gets emotionally upset when he is tired.

Kaitlyn: Kaitlyn was one of those "cue-less" babies. At about two months, she dropped her signs. She was about a year before she started giving me hints again. So I had to judge her waketime on her naps. If the naps were good, I knew her waketime was right. Even today, she doesn't show any sign of needing sleep until she is very overly tired. She will be up 3 hours past nap time before any classic cue comes out. We have pretty much always had to be clock people with Kaitlyn's naps.

McKenna: McKenna had classic "seven-mile stare" described by Hogg. She would star off into space when she was ready for a nap. Now at 19 months, if she is ready for a nap, she comes looking for me and wants to sit in my lap. 

Your Turn!

Please share the sleep cues you relied on for your children.
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Regulatory Sleep Systems

In Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Weissbluth talks about two regulatory systems the body uses for sleep (pages 15-16). These are Homeostatic Control Mechanism (which I shall henceforth refer to as HCM) and Circadian Timing System or Internal Timing System (which I shall refer to as circadian rhythm because that is how I first learned it). The information in the book on these two topics is not extensive; it is only two paragraphs long. But there have been tons of studies on the two topics.

HCM basically is the body's function for making up for lost sleep. The longer you are awake, the longer your body will try to sleep. Your body wants to restore lost sleep. Weissbluth says this is a system we cannot control, much like sweating. If we are hot, we will sweat.

My personal commentary on HCM. First of all, the term HCM isn't a great one. There are lots of homeostatic control mechanisms. The human body is full of them. The liver, the kidneys, the brain...the brain is full of them :). Homeostasis is basically the body working to to keep things stable in the body despite external forces. If homeostasis fails, things like diabetes, dehydration, hypoglycemia, etc. can occur.

I think the way Weissbluth refers to HCM makes it sound like, "If your baby needs to sleep, he will. His body will make up for it. Plus, if he is awake for a long time, he will sleep for a long time." Now, there is much throughout the book to negate that feeling, but his info on HCM definitely leads you in that direction.

And many parents come to this idea on their own. They keep baby awake longer in order to try to get longer naps or more nighttime sleep out of the baby. But we know sleep begets sleep, and creating an overly tired baby causes major sleep problems.

Here is a better way of looking at HCM in sleep. The HCM drives the body to sleep. As you are awake, you build up a need for sleep--a sleep debt. The longer you are awake, the more your body wants to sleep. So the HCM doesn't mean you will definitely sleep when needed. It is a way for your body to tell you to sleep. But not all people, babies included, listen to this drive.

You can't look at HCM by itself to figure out sleep needs. Some bodies are likely better at self-regulating need for sleep. They have better homeostatic control, just like some bodies are better at managing sugar than others. You also have to consider how long it has been since the person slept....optimal waketime. And we also have circadian rhythm to consider.

Whew! Feeling a bit of information overload? Take a deep breath. Get a drink.

Let's keep going.

Aaahhh Circadian Rhythm. I find this very fascinating. To be quite honest, I really only wanted to write about circadian rhythm, but the two are pretty interdependent, so that is why we have talked about HCM.

The Circadian Rhythm is set to sunlight. It uses the sun to make sure the body is sleeping when it should and that you are having correct stages while sleeping. The circadian rhythm is about 24 hours (circadian is based on a Latin word that translates to "about a day"). Now, Weissbluth at some point in his book points out that the circadian rhythm is actually 25 hours and that is why a baby will have off days over so often. This is true, but true only with no environmental cues. With environmental cues, the clock is a bit longer than a 24 hour day.

In babies, the circadian rhythm changes constantly--which means sleep needs change constantly. This is especially true during the first few months. Just when you figure things out, it changes.

The circadian rhythm is present in all animals. It affects eating patterns, sleeping patterns, and migration patterns, to name a few.

A Circadian Rhythm is your internal clock that tells you when to be tired and when not to be tired. Note that a key component, probably the key component, is light. Light=wake up. Dark=sleep. So, changes to your light exposure will impact your natural rhythm.

You know how I often ask you about the sunlight during summer months when you have sleep problems with your children? It is because sunlight impacts sleep.

This is also why you want to keep lights dim as you are getting ready for bed. This is why most experts recommend no TV or other electronics close to bedtime for any aged child. This is why you keep lights dim if you need to visit your child in the night. This is why it is hard to get a child to go to bed during the summer. I am hearing this from moms of kids of all ages right now. We just hit the longest day of the year, and children do not want to go to bed when it is light outside.

This is why we have dark blinds on our kids' windows. At bedtime, we close the blinds and it is dark enough for nighttime no matter what time it is. It also helps keep the sun out in the morning. Any light exposure in the morning will speed up the time the body naturally wakes up.

Our blinds aren't perfect; Brayden gets up much earlier in the summer than he does the winter. But they help.

Light isn't the only environmental factor on your circadian rhythm. There are also social cues that impact your natural sleep patterns. Meal times impact the circadian rhythm (which, by the way, helps me argue against Weisbluth's argument that food does not affect sleep patterns). You also have temperature, noise, routines, pain, and medication.

There is so much to sleep! It is no wonder it takes so much time and effort to get our babies sleeping well consistently. You need time for the body to adjust. In fact, the circadian rhythm doesn't really emerge until 2-3 months old. This is the age when you really start to see an impact from light cues and feeding patterns and sleep routines. Now, we all know we can establish good sleep patterns before this age. But this is the age when things really start to self-regulate, so there is less mom-regulated. This is right about the time babies tend to get easier to take care of :).

Okay, so there is some of the science behind sleep. It isn't quite as simple as we would like it be :).


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Why Have Naps?

If you are a parent trying to establish good sleep habits, there is a chance you have fantasized about the possibility of not stressing over naps. Couldn't you just wait until the baby was 6 months old and then you could focus on two or three naps rather than four or five? Or if your two or three year old is giving you trouble, couldn't you just forget about naps? Is it really worth the fight? Maybe you dream of leaving the house at a whim with no concern as to getting home or to your destination in time for your child to nap...

I think most, if not all, of us have had thoughts like these. Establishing naps is hard work. There can be times maintaining naps is hard work. It isn't fun to stay home most of the day. Maybe you are willing to put in the work and sacrifice for naps, but you worry about your child's ability to learn. How will he ever learn and accomplish the skills he is supposed to if he is sleeping all day long? I get this question quite often.

You know what else? Societies like The United States have little to no respect for sleep, much less naps. We push ourselves to the sleep limit, and then naturally spill that over onto our children. We view naps as a waste of time.

Considering these concerns, why bother? Why have naps? Why do we do this?

If you are prone to this line of thinking, I highly, highly recommend Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. It is FULL of reasons to care about your child's sleep. Weissbluth says, "I believe that healthy naps lead to optimal daytime alertness for learning--that is, naps adjust the alert/drowsy control to just the right setting for optimal daytime arousal" (page 28). He also says, "Without naps, the child is too drowsy to learn well" (page 28).

Weissbluth claims that children who don't get enough sleep end up fussy or hyper alert and cannot learn from the environment. The child who naps in the day is awake less and has less time to devote to learning, but the child who does not nap is not able to focus and learn while awake. So minute for minute, the child who naps gains more than the child who doesn't nap.

I believe this is true. Now, I am about to make a statement about my children. I am their mother and therefore their biggest fan (although grandmothers might contest that statement). But all three of my children are very, very smart. My husband and I even marvel at McKenna. She is our third and supposedly by now we shouldn't be impressed by her accomplishments (according to some books), but we are. She is super smart. We are told often by outsiders how smart our children are.

Now, when I was pregnant with Kaitlyn, I worried that she wouldn't be smart like Brayden. When I was pregnant with McKenna, I wasn't concerned in the least. Why? I knew there was something more there than simply who the child was when she came here.

I believe my children are reaching the height of their potential when it comes to learning because they are well-rested.

And it just makes sense logically. Children are people right? Adults are people, too. You, the parent, are an adult. How do you feel when you didn't sleep enough the night before? Can you focus well? What do you want to do that day? Do you feel like reading a book or watching TV? If an adult is "in a fog" with not enough sleep, then it stands to reason a child will be, too.

Infants who get enough sleep often get comments on how alert they are. "She doesn't miss a thing!" "She notices everything going on around her!" I have heard these comments often over the years. "Infants who take long naps have longer attention spans" (page 60) and "...they seem to learn faster" (page 60).

"It is a myth that long naps interfere with acquiring socialization skills or infant stimulation" (page 60).

Did you know that studies done have found children with higher IQs sleep longer? Studies have also found children with higher grades sleep longer (page 61). And is it much longer? No. One study found that brighter children slept 30-40 minutes longer each night (page 61). That isn't much time. And studies done on sets of twins where one slept longer than the other showed that the twin who slept more had higher test scores at age ten than the twin who slept less.

Weissbluth points out that depriving your child of sleep either to avoid conflict or engage in social outings is not "harmless." ", day-out sleep deprivation at night or for naps, as a matter of habit could be very damaging to your child. Cumulative, chronic sleep losses, even of brief duration, may be harmful for learning" (page 62). Do notice that he says "chronic." He does say it is okay once in a while, but it shouldn't be your routine.

But that is the simpler part of the process. Naps do more for the brain than simply allow it to focus. It isn't just about the right about of sleep over all--naps are important. Weissbluth gives much information on how naps are different from nighttime sleep. "Naps are not little bits of night sleep randomly intruding upon children's awake hours" (page 26).

Not only that, different naps in the day accomplish different tasks. "When children do not nap well, they pay a price" (page 32).

The morning nap has the most REM sleep. "Research shows that high amounts of REM direct the course of brain maturation in early life" (page 29). REM sleep also restores us emotionally and psychologically.

Non-REM sleep is more important for physical restoration.

Stress is reduced during naps (page 31). Not taking the nap that is needed means that the body remains stressed.

What else?

Babies "...between 4-8 months old who do not nap well have shorter attention spans or appear less persistent when engaged in activities" (page 32).

By age three, "...children who do not nap or nap very little are often described as nonadaptable or ever hyperactive" (page 32). The three year old who naps will be able to adjust in life much easier than the three year old who does not nap (page 61).

Okay, so wow! Lots of information on why naps are valuable and important. Please don't read this information and freak out if your child is not the "perfect" sleeper. This information is here to give you the boost you need to continue to work on giving your child the opportunity for optimal sleep. You can't force a child to sleep, but you can provide the right opportunities for sleep.

Respect the nap. It is of value. It is worth the effort it takes you to establish good naps. It is worth the effort it takes you to maintain good naps. It is worth hearing your three year old say, "I don't want to take a nap. Never, ever, never!" and you say, "I know, but you need to" and follow through. Is she going to kiss you and thank you for sticking to the rule that she nap? No. But she might kiss you and be happy later in the day just because she is in a good mood after taking the nap.

Napping will not damage your child's intelligence. It will only improve it. Naps are worth it!


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Healthy Sleep Elements and Developments

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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child talks a lot about healthy sleep. Surprised? Probably not :) So let's highlight some points about Healthy Sleep. Since most readers of this blog follow Babywise, let's also discuss how true these points are of the typical Babywise baby.

There are five elements of healthy sleep for a baby. What does that mean? These five things are important in estabishing healthy sleep overall. Here they are:
  • Sleep Duration--Night and Day: Weissbluth says sleep durations starts off biological, but as early as 6 weeks is influenced by parents. He says you can basically have a better behaved, happy child if you help maintain sleep needs. He says to respect child's need for sleep and don't interfere with the natural sleep process (page 16). I think most of us BW parents believe we impact sleep duration sooner than 6 weeks old--otherwise we wouldn't work so hard before then :)
  • Naps: Weissbluth has lots of good info on naps much that I will do an entire post on it rather than a short paragraph. Suffice it to say he talks about the importance of naps at great length.
  • Sleep Consolidation: Starting on page 39. Consolidated sleep is sleep that is uninterrupted. Continuous. Ten hours of fragmented (aka disrupted) sleep is not the same as ten hours of consolidated sleep. All mothers know this well. Life with a newborn equals life of fragmented sleep. It is great to get 7 hours of sleep total in a night...better to get 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep in a night. When we don't get continuous sleep, we are less patient in the day. We can't focus well. We aren't very productive. Remember, babies are people, too. If you do better with continuous sleep, so does your little person.
    Weissbluth goes into detail about fragmentation, what causes it, what exactly fragmentation is, and points out that some are normal. When we talk about fragmentations and consolidation, we are talking about sleep quality. How well did you sleep. Sleep consolidation is not only important for night, it is important for day, too.
    Sleep consolidation is achieved by the person knowing how to fall back asleep on their own.
    We BW parents agree with the importance of sleep consolidation. That is why we shoot for continuous nighttime sleep. That is why we shoot for longer naps. That is also why we tend to drop the dreamfeed before going to a four hour schedule.
  • Sleep Schedule--Timing of Sleep: This information is basically seeking out optimal waketime lengths. This is such a valuable section, I will devote a post to it rather than a paragraph.
  • Sleep Regularity: This section discusses the importance of regular sleep. This means a regular bedtime (page 49). It isn't enough for your child to get 10-12 hours of sleep each night. It even isn't enough for him to get 12 hours of sleep every night. He needs a consistent bedtime. Weissbluth even says that a consistent bedtime that is too late is better than an inconsistent bedtime (page 50). Weissbluth does say that bedtime can vary by 30-60 minutes based on your observations of the child. How did naptimes go that day? How is behavior? How tired is your child?
    I would agree with a 30 minute sway in bedtime. I wouldn't make a 60 minute sway part of the norm. You can always have your off days. Try to stick to your 30 minute window as much as possible. I have discussed bedtime in the past and will link below.
    On interesting point about sleep regularity is Weissbluth says the natural biological sleep rhythm is on a 25 hour clock, not a 24 hour clock. He says most babies learn to time sleep rhythms to day and night. Others seem to get off every few weeks because of this 25 hour clock (page 55).
Weissbluth lists normal maturation points in sleep that babies go through. They are (page 14):
  • 6 Weeks Old: Night sleep lengthens. This is in close range of the expected sleeping 7-8 hours by 7-8 weeks old for BW babies. For Baby Whisperer babies, Hogg says babies are sleeping about 6 hours around this age.
  • 12-16 Weeks Old: Daytime sleep regularizes. This is around 3-4 months old. I have found this to be true of my children; naps seem to be a lot more predictable around this age.
  • 9 Months Old: Disappearance of night wakings for feedings and baby drops third nap. I am happy to say my kids all slept through without eating long before 9 months old. As for dropping the third nap, Babywise says 8 months is average (though that means some are younger and some are older). All of my children have been older when dropping the third nap.
  • 12-21 Months Old: Drops morning nap. Babywise says this happens between 14-22 months, so it is a pretty similar time range.
  • 3-4 Years Old: Afternoon nap less common. I have found this to be true.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Importance of Sleep

One of the best things about the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is the detail on the importance of sleep. I think a lot of people might think moms want baby to sleep in order to get a break. That is a nice bonus of sleeping, but that is not the reason for having baby sleep. This is not the reason we work so hard and spend so much time and effort into getting this baby to sleep. We do it because sleep is important. Here are some quotes from this book on the importance of sleep.

"Providing the growing brain with sufficient sleep is necessary for developing the ability to concentrate and an easier temperament" (page 7). (emphasis mine)

"Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm" (page 7). (emphasis mine)

"Sleeping well increases brainpower just as lifting weights builds stronger muscles..." (page 7). (emphasis mine)

"...when children learn to sleep well, they also learn to maintain optimal wakefulness" (page 8). (emphasis--larger text--mine)

"Sleep problems not only disrupt a child's nights, they disrupt his days, too, by making him less mentally alert, more inattentive, unable to do concentrate, and easily distracted. They also make him more physically impulsive, hyperactive, or lazy" (page 11). (emphasis mine)

"...infants who sleep more during the day are better able to learn from their environment; this is because they have a better-developed ability to maintain focused or sustained attention...They learn simply from looking at the clouds and trees, touching, feeling, smelling, hearing, and watching their mother's and father's faces" (page 24). (emphasis mine)

He talks about toddlers and how toddlers who get adequate sleep are more mild and in positive moods. "...three year olds who nap are more adaptable than those who do not" (page 24). (emphasis mine)

Some parents might want to hold off on teaching sleep abilities because some day the child will not need naps anyway. Parents will just wait it out. Weissbluth points out, " simply is not true that children who miss naps will "make up" for it by sleeping more at night. In fact, the sleep they miss is gone forever" (page 24). (emphasis mine)

"...the children who slept more [at age three] were more fun to be around, more sociable, and less demanding" (page 25). (emphasis mine)

" a study of one- and two-year old children, those who woke up frequently were much more likely to have an injury such as a broken bone or cut requiring medical attention than those who slept through..." (page 318). (emphasis mine)

"In my own pediatric practice, fat babies are almost always overtired babies. That's because their mothers have incorrectly attributed their babies' crying to hunger instead of fatigue" (page 433). (emphasis mine)

Let's talk some basic logic in association with these quotes. Think about yourself. You are a person, right? How do you feel when you don't get enough sleep? How do you feel when you don't get good sleep? Are you patient? Are you happy? Are you able to perform your job to the best of your ability? Or are you irritable? Do you need music and/or sugar to keep you awake? When you are driving, do you need to blast the cold air to keep you awake?

Now that I have toddlers and older, I really see the impact of sleep on me. When you have a toddler and/or preschooler to take care of, there is no where to run and hide when you are tired. You have to take care of them. When I was in college and high school, I could retreat to my studies or my bedroom to get away from people and avoid snapping at them. When I just had a baby, I could just go through the motions without much effort. But with toddlers, you need your patience! I am much, much less patient when I am tired.

Babies are people, too. Children are people, too. Just like you need sleep, they need sleep.

What about this idea of optimal wakefulness and the ability to concentrate and learn better when well rested? Your child will be better able to concentrate on things, observe things, and learn things when she is well-rested, just like you are. I love his thought about your child learning from simply watching the clouds. Your baby does not need flash cards and movies to make her smart; she needs sleep! Living life teaches her, so long as she gets the sleep she needs.

I get a lot of comments on how alert my babies are whenever we are in public. I live in a place with a lot of babies. I mean, a lot. It isn't as though people are surprised that babies are alert, they are surprised at how alert my babies are. I believe sleep contributes to this.

I also get questions from parents concerned at how much their children are sleeping or surprised at how much mine sleep. Sleep is so vitally important that I am willing to have my children sleep all that they need to as individuals for optimal brain devlopment. They are able to learn much more during a shorter amount of time awake than they would being awake for longer but in an overly-tired state.

Toddlers are much more fun when they get the sleep they need. They are happy, so you are happy, so they are happy...When Kaitlyn (2.5) doesn't get the sleep she needs, she is clingy, cries, and begs for sleep. At least she knows and recognizes what makes her feel better :)

Sleep is important for the whole family. Naps are important for your baby. They aren't a nicety for mom, they are a necessity for baby.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is a great book for convincing you of the importance of sleep. I really think every parent should read this book. If you are ever questioning why you are working so hard to establish good sleep habits in your baby, read this post, and read the book. This is just a small sampling of that is in the book.



Thursday, November 12, 2009

Book Recommendation: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

I know many of you have long-awaited my review on Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. A friend borrowed it, then I was also wanting to get Baby Whisperer posts done...I have since decided I can't wait for that. Thursday will just be review day and I will rotate through different books to review.

On to the review. This is a great book and a great compliment to Babywise. The book discusses the importance of sleep and the science behind how sleep works. It talks about the benefits of sleep and importance of teaching your child to learn to sleep unassisted.

Weissbluth discusses sleeping norms and what to expect from babies of different ages. He also talks about different methods of how to sleep train your baby.

This book is well worth the read, and I would say well worth the investment. The book is definitely incomplete by itself; it is really only about sleep. There are also many things I disagree with in the book, and things I think should have been clarified better. I will, of course, discuss those things in the future. Weissbluthalso contradicts himself a whole lot, and the book really isn't organized very well.

The book is a hard read. The first 70 pages are great. Then you slam into information that is frankly irrelevant unless your baby has true colic. Then it gets good again a couple hundred pages later. I really think I could take this book down from about 500 pages to 200 at most and still maintain all necessary information. You also really need to read the entire book before you start implementing things because he makes absolute statements early on that he later retracts for certain age groups.

Despite the flaws of the book, I highly recommend it, especially if you are sleep training. It will give you the courage to continue forward.


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