The Value Of Sleep

All Articles in the Category ‘The Value Of Sleep’

When A Child First Dreams At Night

boy sleeping My youngest had a dream a few months ago. In it he was a giant marshmallow (or maybe it was just about a giant marshmallow). Not necessarily clairvoyance or genius coming out here, but a monumental dream nonetheless. The reason: it was the first dream he remembered and reported to us at the breakfast table unprompted. It stuck with me (can you imagine dreaming about marshmallows and balloons and robots –these are things I hear about from my boys). I mean, do you remember the first thing you dreamed about that stuck through until morning? Some think of nighttime dreams as telling subtle stories of those we enjoy, facilitating memories we cherish or unleashing and un-roofing things we worry about it. I’ve also heard people opine that dreams are threads of life we need “to process” more. Reality is, we may know very little, scientifically speaking, about dreams, especially for our children.

The definition of dreaming is: “a universal human experience occurring during sleep in which fictive events follow one another in an organized, story-like manner and into which are woven hallucinatory, primarily visual, images that are largely congruent with an ongoing confabulated plot.” It’s been proven that those images tend to become more bizarre the longer we sleep, but does the actual act of dreaming have a link to child development? When and why do children dream and what do we know about it? I have been wondering…

Thankfully, sleep expert, the lovely Dr. Maida Chen weighs in. Here’s a quick back and forth we had about dreams. Stunning stuff she shares so well here… Read full post »

Boring, Bare, Basic: Keep The Crib Safe

bare, boring,  basicWe’ve known for several years that a crowded bed and a decorated crib (pillows, quilts, stuffed animals, bumpers) can put babies at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and unintentional sleep-related suffocation. Boring, bare and basic beds are still best for babies. Tell every mother, father and grandparent to an infant you know. A Pediatrics study out today shows hazardous, soft bedding is still being used by as many as 50% of US parents despite years of public health messages urging the opposite. I see where these numbers come from– we parents love to dote on our babies. We instinctively provide warmth and coziness to our babies all day so images of abundant bedding at nighttime can look divine. Further, our families (mothers or mothers-in-law!), coworkers and neighbors may encourage soft bedding because of old habits; many feel warmer bedding is better. However when it comes to the crib, our instincts may deter us from providing the safest sleep. As friends, parents, relatives and co-workers we have to support new parents in creating a basic, boring, and bare crib. Our responsibility extends from our own home to the workplace and to our neighborhood — what we buy and hand-down for that baby showers matters! The study out today reminds us we have lots of work to do, especially as data finds some groups of parents may be at more risk for using the soft stuff…

Soft Bedding Increases Risk

Several studies around the world dating back to the 1990’s have found SIDS risk increases with soft, loose bedding. This includes blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, quilts and similar materials either covering/on top of or underneath the infant. Read more about risk modes for SIDS, and why I hate sleep positioners. What we know: data in the early 1990’s was so compelling that in 1996 the AAP began recommending that infants sleep in firm, stark bedding environments on their back. The great news is that parents took notice of the “back to sleep” campaign and there was a sharp decline in the use of bedding in the 1990’s. Between 200-2010 the progress slowed. More from the study about moms and babies at risk: Read full post »

Shifting To An Ideal Bedtime For School

We know children are sleeping less now than they did 30 years ago. Our children are unfortunately more tired and can suffer side effects in life because of it. Studies show that school-age children who create a sleep debt (chronic sleep deprivation) and are chronically tired have a more difficult time completing school work, they don’t score as well on tests, they may be more distractible, they can have difficulty maintaining attention, and they may be at higher risk for having an unhealthy weight. Even if your kids have already started school, you can provide a boost for your child’s attention, mood, and health by focusing in on sleep.

Starting out the year with better habits can help everyone at home (ahem, wouldn’t it be nice to avoid late evening battles?). If you’re not already there, think about moving to ideal bedtimes during the next couple of weeks.

How Much Sleep Do Children Need?

Sleep debt is created when we don’t sleep enough — it causes kids to crave “catch-up” sleep like those after-school naps, sleeping in until noon on the weekends, or falling asleep in the carpool on the way home. That being said, each child’s sleep need can be a bit different but in general children need:

  1. sleep needsPreschoolers: 11-12 hours of total sleep
  2. School-age children: 10-11 hours total sleep
  3. 12 year-old to teens: 8 1/2-10 hours total sleep

5 Ways To Support Good Sleep

  • Keep to an 8pm bedtime for young children. Move bedtime back slowly (move it by 30 minutes every 3-5 days) to prime your child for success and avoid battles!
  • 10pm bedtime for children age 12 & up is age-appropriate. More info here.
  • Habits: No screens 1-2 hours prior to bed, no caffeine after school, no food right before bed.
  • Exercise or move 30-60 minutes a day to help kids sleep easier
  • No sleeping with cell phones (create a docking station in the kitchen)
  • Don’t use OTC medications (cough & cold, for example) to knock your kids out and get them to sleep. Using medications that have a side effect of drowsiness can cause sleepiness to extend into daytime which can negatively affect school and sports performance.

Read full post »

Let Them Sleep, Start School Later

Over the past decade mounting evidence finds that teens are chronically sleep deprived and subsequently suffering significant health effects. Chronic sleep deprivation is becoming the norm for our high schoolers and is known to cause both mental and physical health challenges. In fact The National Sleep Foundation found that over 85% of high schoolers aren’t getting the 8-10 hours of sleep they need while over 50% of middle school students are already falling behind in their zzzzz’s.

The evidence is in: teens who don’t get enough sleep can have academic challenges, an increase risk for sleepiness-caused car accidents, inattention, risk for overweight, risk for anxiety, greater use of stimulants like caffeine or prescription medications, and mood disorders.

This is a biology thing not a laziness thing. That teenager who can’t get out of bed until 11am on the weekends is just tired and trying to catch up! Puberty changes all sorts of things in our life, one major biologic shift occurs in the brain as children morph into adults. Around the age of 12, instead of naturally falling asleep at 8 o’clock like children in middle childhood, tweens and teens’ sleep cycle shifts about 2 to 3 hours making it a real challenge to fall asleep prior to 10 or 11pm. That means those teens up and awake until 11pm are really just acting their age.

The causes of sleep loss for teens are complex. Early school start times, use of electronics, smartphones, and tablets interfere with sleep as do homework, extra-curricular activities, and sports. But so do misperceptions — the same research that found over 85% of HS students weren’t getting enough sleep also noted that >70% of parents to those tired teens felt their child was getting enough sleep! We have to make sleep a priority in our homes. Read full post »

Let The Teens Sleep

As teens nestle into their deep, unrestricted summer sleep, let’s think clearly about setting them up for success in the upcoming school years. Today there is a pressing need for our attention and our action. An opportunity to improve the lives of teens exists this upcoming week here in Seattle and I suspect, in ways, the outcome will inform the nation. The School Board is revisiting their commitment to do an analysis of feasibility & community engagement in 2015 around start times and will discuss this next week. They’ll vote July 2nd.

Nationally, there is mounting pressure to move school start times later for middle and high-schoolers due to a known health impediment: teens don’t naturally fall asleep until around 10pm and yet need 8 1/2 to 10 hours of sleep for good health. If you do the math and consider a need to eat in the morning and commute, if school starts prior to 8am it’s unlikely teens are set-up to get the rest they need.

The far majority of high schools in the US may make it impossible for teens to get necessary sleep with an average start time prior to 8am. The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2011 showed that 69% of U.S. high school students get fewer than 8 hours of sleep on school nights, and 40% get 6 or fewer hours.

I touched base with Dr Maida Chen, a sleep expert about why this movement matters so much. “I have to start by saying that it is impossible to place a ‘price’ on the health, safety and achievement of a child,” she told me. She mentioned she’d spent significant time this week documenting the evolving data and cost-effectiveness of moving school start times. She’s written, “Rational start times, which align with students’ fundamental sleep needs, are a cost-effective and scientifically robust approach to improve equity, opportunity gap, and academic achievement on a large-scale with the greatest positive impact on students at the most disadvantage.”  Translation: this makes sense and will affect a large amount of teens.

We should always be driven to do what is best for the child, and not what is convenient for society.  And ultimately, there’s no money that will take back the life of a child who has died in a sleepy driver related accident – a known consequence of early start times ~Dr Maida Chen
Read full post »

3 Reminders For Summer Sleep

Bed as throneOur house is teeming with excitement about the impending reality: it’s almost summer break. As the hard-core school, sports and carpool coordination chaos eases up, you wanna know one thing I’m really hoping for this summer break? A bit more sleep. I do a great job protecting my children’s sleep and a mediocre job protecting my own. I work on sleeping with my cell phone off and away from while getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep but reality is my phone has a tendency to creep back up next to the bed and I am often up early to start working. Clearly I’m not unusual in this way. Parenting and sleeping a lot don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Studies find 14% of grade school children are still getting their parents up. The news is grim when it comes to sleeping with our phones, even 4 out of 5 teens say they sleep with their phone (on or near the bed). It’s becoming clear that quality sleep is one of the most undervalued power solutions to preserving wellness in our families. The more data I review, the more I know we have to get the word out on the value of sleep and the way that we protect it as we raise our children. Culturally, this is a swim upstream; we’re bred to revere those who do so much during the day they are left with limited sleep at night. Some new data, a funky article ending, and a 4-minute TED talk lay the foundation for my 3 quick reminders: Read full post »

Consistency May Be The “Secret Sauce”

Consistency may be the “secret sauce” in parenthood. Anything from helping children survive temper tantrums to helping your children eat more diverse foods, providing consistency with expectations and daily routines may be the very special thing we do that allows our children to thrive. Like most challenges in life, talking about and identifying the need for consistency is easy, implementing it throughout our daily lives is much more of a challenge. Finding and securing a consistent bedtime is one place where this “secret sauce” may really work. New data on sleep patterns for young children drives this point home. Getting your children to bed at the same time each night is powerful.

A study out today in Pediatrics evaluated data from over 10,000 children in the UK. As a part of a larger study (UK Millennium Cohort Study) researchers collected bedtime data at age 3, 5, and 7 years for children. They found children with nonregular bedtimes had more behavioral difficulties. Further, as children progressed through childhood there was incremental worsening in children’s behavior scores as they were exposed to more and more inconsistent bedtimes. Read full post »

Why Do Babies Wake Up At Night?

Most babies wake up at night. And although some superhero babies sleep 10-12 hours straight starting around 3-4 months of age, most infants wake up during the night and cry out for their parents. There are scientific reasons and some developmental and behavioral explanations for these awakenings. I spoke with my friend Dr Maida Chen, a pediatric pulmonologist, mother to three, and director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Center to put a list together regarding why babies do this. Leave questions and comments below if we can explain more. I’ll author a follow-up blog on ways you can help your baby when they wake up, too.

10 Reasons Babies Wake Up At Night:

  1. Sleep Cycle: Babies wake up during the night primarily because their brain waves shift and change cycles as they move from REM (rapid eye movement) sleep to other stages of non-REM sleep. The different wave patterns our brains make during certain periods define these sleep cycles or “stages” of sleep. As babies move from one stage of sleep to another during the night, they transition. In that transition, many babies will awaken. Sometimes they call out or cry. Sometimes they wake hungry. It’s normal for babies (and adults) to wake 4-5 times a night during these times of transition. However, most adults wake up and then fall back to sleep so rapidly that we rarely remember the awakening. At 4 months of age, many parents notice awakenings after a first chunk of deeper sleep. This is normal, and often due to development of delta wave sleep (deep sleep). The trick for parents is to do less and less as each month of infancy unfolds during these awakenings; we want to help our babies self-soothe more and more independently (without our help) during these awakenings so that sleeping through the night becomes a reality. Read full post »

Help Your Anxious Child: Blow Colors

This is a little trick I use to help coach anxious children whose minds just seems to “spin.” Patients have given me great feedback over the years that “blowing colors” really helps. Sometimes it’s for children and teens who can’t drift off to sleep, sometimes for those who are worriers, and sometimes for those who get anxious or overwhelmed at school. Blowing colors is a great exercise to return to regular belly breathing patterns, buy time and space for mindfulness, and improve control over feelings of overwhelm. See if it helps…

Greatest thing is–this is a good tool for a child or teen to regain control.  They can use the exercise anywhere, at any time. Lots of children and teens who get anxious feel ashamed of their anxiety and don’t want to reach out for help. Reassure them that no one will ever know they’re blowing colors or changing the hue of a room. Practice at home before bed, in school during moments of overwhelm, or even remind a child or teen they can blow colors while out with friends or at a sleepover.

Why No TV Before Bed is Better

Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 12.14.09 PMTV before bed delays children going to sleep. We’ve all heard that TV isn’t necessarily good for our children right before bed, but something about that fact tends to go against instinct. In my experience, most of us feel like television and video-streaming is relaxing to our minds. Bum news is, it’s the opposite. Viewing TV or video or screens prior to sleep tends to rev up our brains, disrupt our sleep, and may even cause nightmares (especially for preschoolers). The light from computers and screens may inhibit melatonin, the hormone that helps us drift off to sleep.  A new study published this week reminds us about TV realities at bedtime.

I’m as guilty as everyone else. I love to let my children watch a TV show after dinner in the hour before bed. We all crave that downtime with our full bellies and the work of our day behind us. We all want some quiet. Here’s the thing:

Researchers surveyed over 2000 children between 5 and 24 years of age. They inquired about the last 1 1/2 hours of their day–not surprisingly they found that TV before bed was common. Across all ages, watching TV was the most common activity for children before bed, about half of the children watched TV for at least 30 minutes. When they surveyed what time children went to sleep, they confirmed the concerns about TV and bedtime. The children with more TV viewing went to sleep later. Conversely, those with an earlier bedtime had significantly greater time in non-screen sedentary activities and self-care prior to going to sleep. Most research shows that our children’s sleep deprivation is due to late bedtimes, not early rising. Children sleep about 1 hour less now than they did 100 years ago. Consequently, we’re also more fatigued, distracted, obese, and hyperactive these days–all things associated with sleep loss. Strategies that help us go to sleep on time are essential for our very tired country…

TV Tips To Improve Our Children’s Sleep:

  • If your child is having trouble falling asleep, work hard to make sure they don’t spend any time in front of a screen 2 hours prior to bedtime. Explain to them why you’re doing this–the TV winds them up, not down.
  • Get all screens out of the room where your children sleep. No TVs, cell phones, tablets, or iPods in bedrooms or in bed with children. Make rules for a sleeping station for phones in your kitchen. Phones go to bed at say, 9pm.
  • Buy a new alarm clock if a child says that their phone must wake them up in the AM. I find alarm clocks online for less than $15.
  • If your child loves TV, shift the time of day they watch television. Consider using all screens as devices of privilege. Let children earn an hour with their TV or video game while you prepare dinner for great citizenship at home and/or school.