Tag Archives: children

Mommy’s Sleep Holiday

Pretty regularly, women who are desperate for sleep come to me. These women say things like “I’m losing it,” “I’m going to go insane if I don’t get some sleep” or “I can’t take this anymore.”

Most of them are mothers whose sleep is being regularly disrupted by their children. You may think of mothers with infants or toddlers, but this isn’t always the case. Just last week it was a mom of 3 tweens who was being interrupted in the night, and felt completely frazzled because of it.

If this is describes you, or someone close to you – Take It Seriously! When people are so sleep deprived that they are “desperate for sleep” they need help, and soon. Professional sleep help may be needed, however, sometimes a few nights for a ‘Sleep Holiday’ can do wonders.

What do I mean by ‘Sleep Holiday?’ Arrange a few (2-3) nights when the mom can sleep completely uninterrupted. This can make a huge difference helping her feel more emotionally calm, rested, and better able to problem solve and stick to a plan to help her children sleep more independently. (Note – although it’s typically mothers who I see in this situation, it could easily be fathers, or anytone in the position of caregiving in the night).

For those 2-3 nights, arrange for the mother and children to sleep in different places – assign mom the guest room on another floor, better yet, have the children go to grandmas, or mom to go sleep at a hotel or a quiet friends house. The mother should go to bed at her earliest usual time, and sleep until she is done, without an alarm. Do all the things we’ve talked about to make the bedroom an ideal place to sleep, and turn off all phones and alarms.

For mothers who are breastfeeding, it may not be possible to have such long breaks from night-time caregiving, but is just as important. Figure out a strategy that will work for your family to get mom some long periods of uninterrupted sleep. Possibly mom can do the first feeding of the night, then dad can give a bottle later in the night. Even just using this strategy on weekends will result in a better rested mom.

Again, if you or your loved one is feeling ‘desperate for sleep’ take it seriously, and make a plan for them to have a ‘Sleep Holiday’ with less interruptions immediately, starting tonight.

Meet Us at the Bus Stop

So . . . how many of you are driving to work at 6:30ish? Ever see a kid suddenly caught in your headlights as they are waiting for the bus?

Over the last months the Start School Later movement has been gathering steam as almost 3,000 people across the nation have signed the petition, and the media has discussed the research showing that students do better when school starts later.

This week, on Thursday January 26th, the Meet us at the Bus Stop event is happening across the country to highlight how early children have to get up for school, so early that they are often waiting in the dark, on cold winter mornings, to catch the bus. Please join in by posting photos or video interviews of your children as they are waiting for the bus on Thursday morming. You can post them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/279393105455960/

See video from the previous Winter Solstice 2011 event at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rl0zvs43wjQ&feature=youtu.be

Sign the Start School Later petition at http://signon.org/sign/promote-legislation-to.fb1?source=s.fb&r_by=1521139

Family Sleep Health

Last month we discussed infant sleep health, today I’d like to follow-up with discussion of family sleep health. Whenever I’m working with a family to help them improve their child’s sleep, I also think about the parents sleep too. So many parents come in saying they get hours less sleep each night than they need, and they can’t think as well as they used to, or that they aren’t getting along like they used to. Here’s some more information.

Facts About Parents’ Sleep
Many adults in our culture don’t get adequate sleep. For parents, an additional sleep disturbing factor is the children who wake them up in the night or early morning. This sleep disturbance can have a broad impact on how parents function during the day, and even on how parents get along with each other.

In the 2004 Sleep in America poll it was found that among parents of children 10 years old and younger:
– 58% of parents think they need 8-9 hours of sleep each night
– But on average get 6.8 hours
– 62% said they are not getting enough sleep
– And 20% say daytime sleepiness interferes with their daily activities
– 5% of parents say their childs’ sleep causes marital stress

In mothers of infants and toddlers, after just 3 weeks of their child sleeping better, the mothers are less depressed, and able to think more clearly.

How to Get Healthy Sleep for the Whole Family
So if you find that someone in the family isn’t sleeping well, take the opportunity to create a healthy sleep plan for the whole family. Here are some questions you can think through for each parent. You may want to print this out and post it so everyone will know the plan and can be involved.

For each individual have a section with these answers:
1. Nightly sleep need:
2. Quiet (non-task) time will start at:
3. Lights out at:
4. Night waking responsibility:
5. Wake time:

Remember how not getting adequate sleep can affect physical and cognitive performance, and mood. When everyone is well rested you’ll be better able to enjoy your family!

Sleepwalking in Seattle

Sleepwalking

As an 11 year old child, I had a champion sleep walking event – let me tell you about it. Growing up in the Seattle suburbs, we lived in a one story rambler. We were friends with the neighbors, who were our age, and also lived in a rambler. One night, after having the flu, I walked down the long hall, out our front door, around the side of the house, up a 2’ rockery, and into the neighbors’ walk. From there I pulled the string to open the wooden gate, up the 6 stairs to their backdoor, in and through their house to the parents room. There I stood until they woke up, I woke after being walked to their kitchen, and my parents woke when the neighbors pounded on the door delivering me home.

Sleepwalking is a type of parasomnia. Sleepwalking typically does occur in children, and resolves as they go through puberty. Sleepwalking tends to run in families. As you can see from the story above, safety is a primary concern. If your child sleepwalks, you need to make sure that doors and windows are locked, stairs are safely blocked, and other hazards are contained. You can hang a bell over the door, so it will alert you when the child gets up. When someone is sleepwalking it is best to simply guide them back to bed gently.

Children are Sleep Deprived

Children are sleep deprived just as adults are – 27% of children get less sleep than they need each school night. How much sleep does a child need? Preschoolers (ages 3 to 5) need about 11 to 12 hours, children aged 6 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours, and high school students need 9 to 9.5 hours.

If a child doesn’t get enough sleep they can have mood and behavior problems. For example, they may be irritable, overly emotional, have difficulty cooperating or controlling impulses. Teens especially will take more risks when they are sleep deprived.

School performance is also impaired by sleep deprivation. It becomes more difficult to pay attention, creativity declines, and memory is impaired. Certainly not what we want for our children in school!

Tips to help your children get the sleep they need:
If you suspect your children are not getting the sleep they need to feel good and do well in school there are steps you can take today to improve their sleep.

First, set a consistent wake up time for your child. The time you wake up is the most important for setting your body clock. Next, get them to bed 15 minutes earlier every couple days, until they awaken refreshed on their own. When a preschool or grade school child is getting enough sleep they will be able to awake on their own (this may not be true of teens, more on teen sleep another time).

“Screen time” in front of a computer or television can interfere with easily falling asleep both because of the bright light and because it is mentally stimulating. So establish a bedtime routine that does not involved the TV or computer.

Caffeine stays active in the body for 6 to 8 hours. Ensure your child is not having any caffeine after noon to help sleep well at night.

Children’s Sleep and School Success

It’s time for school to start! For those with children this can be a busy time, doing those last minute summer activities, getting school supplies, and preparing children for a successful year. Let’s take the time to get children on a good sleep schedule that will help them in school.

Children’s Sleep
Why is it important to think about children’s sleep? To start, a majority of children simply don’t get enough hours of sleep. Here’s how much sleep kids need:
– children 3 to 5 years old need more than 11 hours
– children 6 to 12 years old need 10 to 11 hours
– teenagers need 9 to 9.5 hours
Looking at the school start times here in Seattle, and allowing just one hour from wake-up to being at school, grade school children should be sleeping by 9pm, middle schoolers by 9:30p, and high school students by 9:30-10pm. (If your child needs more than 1 hour from wake-up to school start time then move bedtime earlier accordingly). Are your children getting to sleep at that time? If not, your child is probably feeling the effects of insufficient sleep.

Impacts of Insufficient Sleep
Going to school can demanding, children are asked to concentrate, learn physical skills, and develop socially with their peers. Here’s some highlights:
– Only 20% of children grades 6-12 get the necessary amount of sleep (>9 hrs)! Can you believe it?! In younger children, only 47% get the sleep they need.
– Increased playground injuries in children who sleep <10 hours.
– Children with insufficient sleep are more likely to be angry, depressed, or overly emotional. Kids who sleep less take more risks, and this is especially true in teens.
– Cognitive effects include impaired memory, creative problem solving, and decreased verbal fluency, all skills that your child needs in school.

What you can do to improve your child’s sleep:
– Establish bedtimes for your children, so everyone in the household knows the standard. You may want to have a time when everyone finishes their activities and starts to “wind down.”
– Start a trend in your social group of starting activities early enough that they usually end an hour before bedtime. This gives you time to travel home safely, and wind down a little before going to sleep.
– Remove electronic media from your child’s bedroom so they are not tempted to continue with homework, TV, or texting after bedtime.
– Kids (and parents) can get excited about activities. Emphasize quality wake hours rather than quantity. Is it really fun to stay up late if you are so tired that you can’t think or are teary the next day?
– Allow your children to catch up on sleep on the weekends or vacations if necessary. The golden standard is to wake up on their own, feeling refreshed and energetic throughout the day. If your child sleeps a lot more on weekends, consider moving their school night bedtime earlier in 15 minute increments until it evens out.