Maternity and Child Sleep Blog
4 Sleeping Tips For Babies And Families One expert (Dr. Sasha Carr) weighs in on adjusting to a better sleep schedule for Daylight Savings and beyond.
Nick Bell New York Family 3/8/13
Daylight Savings is kicking in again on Sunday, this time in the dreaded “spring forward” edition. With an hour of sleep to “lose,” we caught up with family sleep expert Sasha Carr, Ph.D., for tips on helping little ones get better sleep.
1. If your baby has a precarious temperament or is still used to multiple naps and feedings every day,gradually adjust his or her schedule over a few days, in increments as small as 15 or 30 minutes. For older children who either nap once per day or not at all, or with children with a more adaptable temperament, Dr. Carr suggests taking the “band-aid” approach–a singular, swift change of the clock without the gradual transitioning.
2. Adapt your child’s entire schedule (not just bedtimes and waking up) to adjust to the transition can also be helpful. That means eating dinner and taking baths earlier, too. However, Dr. Carr still recommends “making the switch on Friday night or Saturday morning rather than Sunday, just to give everyone an extra weekend day to adjust to the change. This is especially helpful if your child is in school.”
3. The amount of light you’re exposed to affects your alertness, so try exposing your family to more bright light in the mornings and dimming the lights or drawing the curtains when it gets closer to bedtime. Even when you’re not adjusting to a different sleep schedule, this is generally conducive to good sleep hygiene.
4. It’s almost spring! As Dr. Carr reminds us, “the sun shows up earlier in the morning and sticks around longer into the evening, [especially] the further north you live.” If you have light-sensitive sleepers, invest in some blackout curtains so that the family doesn’t rouse too early. Plus, they’ll help keep the house warm if a random springtime blizzard hits the city.
Sasha Carr, Ph.D. is a certified child sleep consultant by the Family Sleep Institute and founder of Off To Dreamland. She believes that healthy sleep is essential the whole family, especially mothers who often neglect their own sleep. All members of her family, whether two or four-legged, enjoy the benefits of a good night’s rest. To read the original article please click the link:http://www.newyorkfamily.com/sleeping-tips-babies-kids-children-families-daylight-savings/?fb_action_ids=10151326841997951&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%7B%2210151326841997951%22%3A555246414496238%7D&action_type_map=%7B%2210151326841997951%22%3A%22og.recommends%22%7D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D
Wake Up Honey! It’s Day Light Saving! – an article featuring FSI Graduate Dr. Sasha Carr tips to keep Teens on track!
By Diana Simeon
It’s that time of year again: daylight savings, when we turn the clocks forward and, ugh, lose an hour of sleep.
Already wondering how it’s going to go on Monday morning when your teenager’s alarm goes off? Probably not so great, says Sasha Carr, Ph.D., a certified sleep consultant with the Family Sleep Institute and founder of Off to Dreamland.
“If you have a teenager, you should be concerned,” explains Carr. “It’s going to be rough on them on Monday morning to get up for school.”
Carr has some suggestions for making the transition easier. These include:
Turn your clocks forward early on Friday evening, not late Saturday when you’re headed to bed. Yep, you read that correctly. By changing your household routine two days early, your teenager will have time to adjust to daylight savings over the weekend, making Monday morning all the easier. “Start daylight savings as of dinner on Friday. That gives that cushion of the weekend. It also helps that on Saturday and Sunday morning, your teenager doesn’t have to get up for school.”
Or, if you’d rather ease into it, you can move your clocks forward a half hour on Friday and then another half hour on Saturday, adds Carr.
Don’t let your teenager sleep in. Teenagers are biologically designed to want to go to bed later at night and sleep later in the morning than children and adults. But this weekend in particular, says Carr, parents should get their teenagers up at a reasonable hour. “When a teenager sleeps super late on Saturday or Sunday morning and then has trouble getting up on Monday morning, that’s called weekend jetlag,” explains Carr. “I would suggest, especially this weekend, trying to get them up around 8 a.m.”
Turn off computers, phones and any other devices, even the television, for 30 minutes before bedtime. “Staring at a screen does a number on melatonin, which is the most important sleep hormone we have,” explains Carr. “It’s been shown that just looking at a screen for even 10 seconds in the half hour before you’re trying to go to sleep will affect the secretion of melatonin in the brain … it’s like turning all the lights on in your house.”
The good news, says Carr, is that within a few days, your teenager should have made up for whatever sleep deficit daylight savings causes.
But in the meantime, anticipate some grumpiness.
“Unfortunately, I would put teenagers in the group that has the hardest time with daylight savings,” says Carr. “But they eventually make up for it because they’ll start to go to bed earlier once they make the adjustment.”
Daylight savings starts at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 10. To read the original article go here: http://yourteenmag.com/2013/03/daylight-savings-teenagers/
Here are some tips for the upcoming time change. Erin Meckfessel of Pickles and Ice Cream Sleep Consultancy discusses this time change with Good Day St. Louis. 3/4/13
Q. My daughter turned 4 months old last week and her sleeps seems to have fallen apart. She was sleeping for a stretch of 8-10 hours at night and now she is suddenly waking every 2 hours. My friends have told me she is going through the 4-month sleep regression. How do I get my good sleeper back?
What you are experiencing is a change that all babies go through around 4 months of age. While many refer to it as the “4 month sleep regression”, it is actually a sign that your daughter is growing and maturing and making an exciting leap forward. A sleep regression is defined as a cognitive, physical and/or emotional development that disrupts a child’s normal sleep pattern. A child younger than 4 months actually has not developed any sleep patterns – so it is not possible for a regression to have taken place! Up until now your daughter’s daily needs have been random: she has slept when she wanted to sleep and eaten when she wanted to eat. Now suddenly her body is developing biological rhythms that tell her when she should be sleeping.
We all have internal clocks called circadian rhythms that are genetically controlled. These biological clocks have evolved from daytime (light) and nighttime (dark) cues. These biological rhythms make us feel drowsy at certain times and sleeping in sync with them will produce the most restorative and best quality sleep possible. As we age these times shift. Up until this point, your daughter’s brain was too immature to sync with this internal clock. For this reason, her body had an easy time sleeping anywhere and at anytime. Now that her brain has started to mature, she is in need of a schedule that works with this rhythm – including a bedtime that fits in and allows her to sleep before she is overtired.
For a child her age, I recommend getting her on a schedule where her first nap is starting between 8-9am, her second nap is starting between 11:30-12:30pm and her third nap starts about 90 minutes after she wakes up from nap two. As her naps are just starting to develop, you will need to watch her for her sleepy cues and then get her down within these windows. Remember, at 4 months old her circadian rhythms are just starting to develop. They will continue to evolve over the next few weeks; therefore you will see some inconsistency with her napping. Some days will be great and others will be all over the place. You will need to be consistent with your approach and put her down for her naps in these biologically age appropriate windows – while not allowing her to become overtired. Having her on a schedule where she is sleeping during her biological sleep waves will allow her to achieve her best quality sleep, however she will still need to learn some self soothing skills. If you have not started already, this is a good time to allow her to learn to put herself to sleep.
Bedtime should roll right into this schedule and be about 90 minutes after she wakes up from her third nap. So if she napped from 3-4:30pm, bedtime would be at 6pm. It is a common misconception that putting your child to bed this early will cause them to wake early. This is not true. An early bedtime that occurs before a baby can become overtired, actually allows them to sleep longer and later into the morning. It is very common for babies her age to start sleeping 12-13 hours a night at this point if they go to bed early enough.
I understand that this change can be frustrating as it has caused her sleep to seemingly take a step back, but I can assure you that this is a necessary step to getting her on a consistent schedule and allowing her to learn to be a great independent sleeper.
Amy Lage is a Family Sleep Institute certified Child Sleep Consultant. She is co-owner of Well Rested Baby. She offers a host of services including in person, phone, email and Skype/FaceTime consultations that can be tailored to meet any family’s needs and schedule. Please email her at email@example.com with any questions.
To read the original article go to Hoboken Mommies 24/7
Is Your Child Ready for a Big Kids Bed? – Natalie Shure – Metro US Lifestyle Section – February 18, 2013 Issue – Quoting Amy Lage of Well Rested Baby
Easing your child through the transition from sleeping in a crib to a new bed doesn’t need to be a nightmare. Child sleep consultant Amy Lage has made a career out of helping families best approach this crucial moment in a toddler’s life. If your child cannot stay in a crib safely any longer (for example, your little monkey is making a great escape every night to crawl into bed with you) or is asking for a toddler bed, it might be time for Lage’s advice.
Why is the transition from crib to bed so important?
We want to make sure that the entire family is getting as much sleep as possible, and that your children are well-rested. To avoid those middle-of-the-night wake-ups, it’s important to set the tone and do it right the first time. It keeps everybody on track.
Your suggestion of letting a child pick out new sheets or a bed frame is an interesting idea. Do kids find this exciting?
Yes! Children are always a little nervous about the change. This makes them feel in control of the situation, which is so important for toddlers. They are so often grasping for control in their lives.
What sparked your interest in this topic? Did you have trouble transitioning your children?
I have a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old. The older one is actually still in her crib, and will stay until she asks to switch. In the sleep community, we really think it’s important to keep children in their crib until they are really ready. I’m a big believer in waiting until 3 if you can.
Why is 3 the magic number?
At 3, you can reason with them. Before that, most kids really can’t comprehend guidelines or why it is important to follow directions. Until they can understand and recognize boundaries, it is so much easier to keep them in the crib where they can have the best sleep.
If your child cannot stay in their crib safely or you feel that they are ready for the big move, here are nine tips on what you do — by Amy Lage, Child Sleep Expert and Family Sleep Institute Graduate
Do some prep work: Get your child involved so they feel in control of the situation and also excited about the new change. If your child is going to stay in their crib converted into a big kid bed, allow them to pick out some new sheets or a new big kid blanket. If they are going to go into a completely new bed, allow your child to be part of picking out the new bed. Pick up a book or two about the transition to help them understand what will happen and to ease any fears. Talk about the transition with them and explain that bedtime will remain the same, they will just be sleeping in new big kid bed.
Keep your current routine in place: By this time you should have a solid bedtime routine in place. Children count on consistency as it makes them feel safe and helps them to understand what to expect. Keep your pre-bedtime routine as consistent as possible as this will just help things go more smoothly.
Implement a set of sleep rules for the new bed: Before you make the switch make sure your child understands that they are expected to stay in their bed until the next morning. Expect your child to wander out of their bed the first few nights. Make sure you have a plan in place to deal with this a head of time.
Make sure their new found freedom doesn’t spiral out of control: With all of this excitement, your child will likely try to get out of their bed during the night at some point in the first few days. When this happens, you need to deal with it quickly and consistently. Every time your child gets out of the bed you will immediately take them by the hand and walk them back to the bed. During this time, you will not acknowledge them by talking or making eye contact. You need to remain completely silent. If you talk to them you are reinforcing the reason why they are getting out of bed in the first place — attention. If there is no communication, the novelty wears off pretty quickly. Our children are quick learners.
Be firm and consistent: While it is easy to cave at 3 a.m. and allow your little one to crawl into bed with you, be consistent and stick to your plan. With just a few days of absolute consistency your child will understand the rules and stay in their bed.
Purchase a sleep clock; this is helpful for your child to understand when it is ok to get out of bed in the morning.
If possible, try to make the transition while your child is in a well-rested state.
Make sure your child is not over-tired by allowing for an earlier bedtime if necessary.
Avoid making the switch when there are others changes going on in your toddler’s life — a new baby, potty training, a move, etc.
CKLQ 880 – Radio Interview with FSI Certified Child Sleep Consultant – Joleen Dilk Salyn of Baby Sleep 101
How Do I Get My Baby to Sleep Through the Night – by Amy Lage of Well Rested Baby – for Hoboken Mommies 24/7
Amy Lage of Well Rested Baby wrote this article for Hoboken Mommies 24/7 about How to get a baby to sleep through the night!
Q. How do I get my baby to sleep through the night?
Aw, the age old quest that every exhausted parent shares. If only there was a quick fix answer! When pressed for a single sentence response I always say: “You must provide your child with a healthy sleep foundation”. But what does that mean really? Oddly enough, we are not born knowing how to sleep. Most adults do not realize that sleep is a learned skill; we all learned to sleep so long ago that we assume for our kids it should be second nature. However, one of our most important jobs as parents is to teach our children how to sleep well. All babies are different – some start sleeping through the night at twelve weeks of age and others still need a single nighttime feeding until they are nine months old. However, when babies are able to sleep through the night and when they actually do are often very different things. This depends mostly on you as the parent and the sleep habits you have instilled in your child. If you can consistently implement the components of healthy sleep I list below, your child will be well rested and have the skills in place to drop night feedings all on his own. I know it sounds like a daunting task, but if you apply these five simple rules your baby will be sleeping through the night in no time.
1. Sleep Should Take Place in Your Child’s Bed
Life would be much easier if we could tote our kids anywhere, at anytime and expect that they will get the sleep they need, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Babies and toddlers will achieve their very best sleep in their bassinet, crib, or bed, and it should be your goal for them to do the majority of their sleeping in this consistent location. Yes, very little babies have the amazing ability to sleep through anything, but once they reach about 2 months old they start to become social beings and have a much harder time blocking out what’s going on around them. Sleeping at home in their own darkened room will make sure there are no distractions. Also, babies and toddlers have better quality, more restorative sleep when they are sleeping in a stationary location like their own bed. Vibrations or motion during sleep (think strollers and car seats) force the brain into a lighter sleep state and reduce the restorative power of the nap. It’s similar in comparison to the sleep that you get on an airplane: ok, but not really restful. A nap on the go here and there is fine, but most naps should be taken in your child’s bed.
2. Follow Your Child’s Biological Clock:
Make sure your child naps at the times that are biologically appropriate for a child his age. We all have internal clocks called circadian rhythms that make us feel drowsy at certain times. It is easiest at these times to fall asleep and to get our lengthiest and most restorative sleep. These times change as your child grows older. If you can base your child’s nap schedule around these rhythms they will be able to achieve their best sleep. While it is sometimes daunting to follow a schedule, it will provide you the confidence to know exactly when your child will need to sleep and that he is getting the sleep that he needs.
3. An Early Bedtime
Bedtime should be early enough to ensure that your child goes to bed before they become overtired. A child who is overtired has a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep. Bedtime should not be a set time on the clock (for example 7pm every night). Instead it should shift from day to day based on how naps went that particular day. On a day where your child took poor naps, bedtime should be earlier. Conversely on a day where you child took great naps, they can go to bed a little bit later. Although it sounds counterintuitive, an early bedtime WILL NOT cause your child to wake earlier in the morning. In fact, early bedtimes help children to sleep later as they are better able to self soothe and consolidate sleep.
4. Have a Consistent Ritual in Place:
Babies and toddlers crave routine in their daily schedules as it helps them know what to expect. They follow patterns and your cues, so if you create a consistent soothing routine before sleep times then they will know to expect sleep to come next. Your soothing routine does not need to be anything complicated – maybe a book and a nice soothing song – but it needs to be consistent and should always end with you child going into bed sleepy, but awake.
5. Teach Your Child to Fall Asleep
If your child relies on you to be with them until they are fast asleep, how will they know how to put themselves back to sleep when they wake at night? Self-soothing is a skill that every child must learn. Once your child is on the correct schedule and is falling asleep before he becomes overtired, self-soothing will come much more easily. If taught early enough it is very easy to get your baby to learn to put himself to sleep with minimal effort and little or no tears. As a child becomes older and has not learned to self soothe, it is a bit more difficult as they have come to rely on you to do this skill for them. There are lots of methods for teaching your child to self soothe – some methods involve more tears but work very quickly and some have little or no tears but take a bit longer. They all accomplish the same end goal – teaching your child to fall asleep on their own. This is one of the best skills you can teach a child as it enables them to become well rested, independent and better able to handle the opportunities and challenges each day presents.
Amy Lage is a Family Sleep Institute certified Child Sleep Consultant. She is co-owner of Well Rested Baby. She offers a host of services including in person, phone, email and Skype/FaceTime consultations that can be tailored to meet any family’s needs and schedule. Please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Tips to Help You Decide When is it the Best Time to Transition from a Crib to Bed – Amy Lage of Well Rested Baby
Q. My son recently climbed out of his crib and I am transitioning him to a toddler bed…Any advice?
Our first suggestion is to make sure your son is 100% ready for this transition. Safety is our number one priority so it is our goal to make sure your children’s sleep environment is as safe as possible. So if your child is climbing out of his crib, a change is definitely needed. Our second priority….making sure your child and you get the sleep you need! This transition is a big deal as it affects your child emotionally, physically and mentally. Our advice is to keep your toddler in a crib as long as possible (we recommend waiting until your child is as close to 3 years old as possible). So before you take the leap to a big kid bed, you want to make sure that your child is really ready for this transition. If they are not quite there yet, we want to see if we can safely modify their sleep environment to keep them in their crib until they are ready.
How do you know if your child is ready?
♥ They have been consistently climbing out of their crib (and the modifications listed below did not remedy the situation).
♥ They understand boundaries and can follow directions.
♥ They actually ask for a big kid bed.
♥ They are 3 years old!
If your child is not quite ready – check out these changes to see if you can delay the move:
♥ Remove The Bumper – If your child’s crib has a bumper in place, remove the bumper. If your little monkey is making his great escape by hoisting himself up with the help of his bumper, this usually solves the problem. Without the added height of pushing off the bumper it will be much harder to climb out.
♥ The Sleep Sack – Put your child to sleep with a sleep sack over their pj’s! This is such an easy modification, yet it is so effective. Most kids cannot climb out of their crib while wearing a sleep sack because it does not allow them to lift up their little legs. You can make it seem like a fun and exciting change to your toddler. Take them shopping and allow them to pick out the color or print themselves. You may need to modify your child’s pajamas to a lighter weight or lower the temperature slightly so they do not become hot in their sleep sack, but these changes are well worth it if the sack safely keeps them in their crib.
♥ Catch Him in the Act – If he is only climbing out at bedtime or at nap-time and you own a video monitor, this tactic is extremely effective. Position yourself near your child’s bedroom door video monitor in hand. The very second he starts to attempt to climb out, you quickly open his door and firmly say “NO”. Without further conversation (you don’t want to give him any added attention as that will just make him want to do it again), you lay him down and leave the room. For most kids, they are so shocked that they got caught that it just takes this reprimand one time to work. However, you will want to watch for a few days and repeat as necessary. If you are 100% consistent with your reaction, the climbing will cease to occur ever again.
If your child cannot stay in their crib safely or you feel that they are ready for the big move, here’s what you do:
♥ Do Some Prep Work: Get your child involved so they feel in control of the situation and also excited about the new change. If your child is going to stay in their crib converted into a big kid bed, allow them to pick out some new sheets or a new big kid blanket. If they are going to go into a completely new bed, allow your child to be part of picking out the new bed. Pick up a book or two about the transition to help them understand what will happen and to ease any fears. Talk about the transition with them and explain that bedtime will remain the same, they will just be sleeping in new big kid bed.
♥ Keep your current routine in place:By this time you should have a solid bedtime routine in place. Children count on consistency as it makes them feel safe and helps them to understand what to expect. Keep your pre-bedtime routine as consistent as possible as this will just help things go more smoothly.
♥ Implement a Set of Sleep rules for the New Bed: Before you make the switch make sure your child understands that they are expected to stay in their bed until the next morning. Expect your child to wander out of their bed the first few nights. Make sure you have a plan in place to deal with this a head of time.
♥ Make sure Their new Found Freedom doesn’t Spiral Out of Control: With all of this excitement, your child will likely try to get out of their bed during the night at some point in the first few days. When this happens, you need to deal with it quickly and consistently. Every time your child gets out of the bed you will immediately take them by the hand and walk them back to the bed. During this time, you will not acknowledge them by talking or making eye contact. You need to remain completely silent. If you talk to them you are reinforcing the reason why they are getting out of bed in the first place – attention. If there is no communication, the novelty wears off pretty quickly. Our children are quick learners.
♥ Be Firm & Consistent: While it is easy to cave at 3am and allow your little one to crawl into bed with you, be consistent and stick to your plan. With just a few days of absolute consistency your child will understand the rules and stay in their bed.
Here are some additional tips:
♥ Purchase a sleep clock; this is helpful for your child to understand when it is ok to get out of bed in the morning.
♥ If possible, try to make the transition while your child is in a well-rested state.
♥ Make sure your child is not over-tired by allowing for an earlier bedtime if necessary.
♥ Avoid making the switch when there are others changes going on in your toddler’s life – a new baby, potty training, a move etc.
Good luck with this transition, please visit us at wellrestedbaby.com for further information about infant and toddler sleep.
Amy Lage is a Family Sleep Institute certified Child Sleep Consultant. She is co-owner of Well Rested Baby. She offers a host of services including in person, phone, email and Skype/FaceTime consultations that can be tailored to meet any family’s needs and schedule. Please email her at email@example.com with any questions. For the original post and link to future sleep tips go here http://hoboken.mommies247.com/hot-topics/well-rested-baby-qa-with-amy-lage/
Stamford, CT — Jan 31, 2013 / (http://www.myprgenie.com) — Patty Tucker, PA-C from the Family Sleep Institute says that sleep is natural, normal and necessary to achieve optimal physical and mental health. If you are having regular trouble sleeping you know how poor sleep on a nightly basis affects your days. It’s a struggle to wake up in the morning. Maybe you are late for work or school. You have trouble concentrating, focusing and it’s harder to be creative. Your mood suffers when you are sleep deprived. You are more likely to be irritable without good sleep behind you. The tendency to blurt out something you don’t mean or shouldn’t say is much higher when you’re tired. It’s harder to exercise and it may seem you are always hungry. Certainly your health and your life in general would be better, if you could just start getting some decent sleep.
A few nights of restless sleep before a big event, in a new environment or during times of illness are normal and to be expected in everyday life. The problems begin when “a few nights” becomes “most nights” and any good reason for the sleeplessness has become a distant memory or is a complete mystery.
By definition, a chronic sleep problem has developed over time and existed as a concern for several weeks, at least. It is therefore unrealistic to think it can be repaired in one or two nights. It took awhile to get this bad; it will take awhile to get better. Although this may be disappointing to us with our need for instant gratification, it is true. However, there are simple steps to take to get real results. Here are 10 sleep tips to get you back to a consistent, healthy and normal sleep pattern:
TIP #1: Set a regular time to get up every day (this means weekends, too).
The actual time you choose doesn’t matter that much, but being regular about it does. If you have to be up by a certain time to make it to work 4-5 days a week, then that is going to be your time — workdays and weekends. This is a crucial step, and really, really hard for most people.
The human body, like the squirrel body or the bear body or the chrysanthemum “body” dances with rhythms of the natural world. The sun rises and sets, the temperature goes up and down, the seasons change. We need to get into that dance, move in regular rhythms to become regular in our responses.
TIP #2: Set an “intended” bedtime.
This too should be the same every night so that you can be certain you are allowing adequate time in your schedule for sleep. I say “intended” because you may not be sleepy at the same time every night and, as we shall later see, you should only try to sleep when you are sleepy.
It is absolutely necessary, though to designate a time when all else will be laid aside and sleep will be the priority. We live in a very busy, overscheduled, hyper-stimulated society. Sleep has taken a backseat to everything else and it needs to be given the respect it deserves. Post your bedtime in your PDA. Set an alarm clock in the living room or kitchen that will proclaim your bedtime as surely as the one in the bedroom proclaims your morning. Do not allow the 30,000 other distractions of life to eat into your sleep schedule.
TIP #3: Allow enough time for sleep.
How much is enough? Most humans need close to eight hours of sleep per night. 7 ½ to 8 ½ is a good range to test for yourself. Some will require 7 hours and others 9, but science has shown us that we are likely to die earlier if we do not average at least 6 hours every night. That does NOT mean that 6 hours is enough for a good life, just enough to keep going.
Sleep is an extremely important opportunity for the body to heal, build, restore, re-balance and to clean up tissues, organs and systems. Without enough sleep the simple maintenance functions may not get completed. What would happen if you never took your car to the shop? If you never emptied the wastebasket in your office? If you never restocked your refrigerator?
TIP #4: Create a bedtime ritual.
If you have kids, or if you ever were one, you are probably familiar with this idea. At a certain time each evening, the children are helped or reminded to take a warm bath, change into their snuggy jammies, brush their teeth, read a pleasant bedtime story, recite their hopes and gratitudes, kiss their loved ones and then turn out the lights.
This would be an excellent routine to copy for yourself. The advantages of doing these kinds of things every night, at the same time are twofold:
First the regularity of timing, as discussed in Tips #1 and 2 is reinforced. Having a regular sequence of activities that leads up to “lights out” serves as a signal to your body that the chance for sleep is approaching. This lets the systems begin to reset and ready for their sleep tasks, rather than abruptly trying to change course in midstream.
Secondly, the quiet relaxing nature of the pre-bedtime activities gives you an opportunity to shift gears mentally and emotionally as well. You disengage from the stressors and the pull of daily responsibilities and ease into rest.
Relaxing reading, soothing music, a bath, a massage, an intimate moment with a lover; these all can create an effective “moat” to safely separate your active day and your restful night.
TIP #5: Make your bedroom a Sleep Sanctuary.
When you walk into your bedroom at the end of a full day, ready to start your successful sojourn to slumber you should receive one and only one message: Sleep…..! (OK, sleep and intimacy — but two and only two messages!) If you walk into your bedroom and see a treadmill, a computer, a TV, a telephone answering machine, a pile of bills, a pile of laundry, a pile of anything other than pillows, your brain is getting mixed messages. With so much distraction the brain doesn’t know what you want or intend.
Just like training a new puppy, there needs to be a very clear message about what needs to happen where. Bed = Sleep. Bed = Sleep. Bed = Sleep (and intimacy). That’s IT! So move everything out of your bedroom that does not relate to or promote good sleep. Choose your favorite restful colors. Hang pictures that remind you of relaxed times and places. Make it soft like a hug and quiet like a sanctuary.
TIP #6: Get out of bed if you can’t sleep.
In the beginning, when trying to reset you sleep patterns, you may find that even though you have set regular hours, followed a relaxing bedtime ritual and gone to bed in a tranquil cocoon, sleep still doesn’t appear on demand. Remember it took awhile for it to get inconsistent and erratic, it’s going to take time before it becomes reliable again. In the meantime you have to stay true to your intentions and continue to retrain yourself into better responses.
If you find yourself awake in bed and getting upset about it, get out of bed! Whether this is at the beginning of the night, the middle of the night or in the hour before the alarm, do not teach your brain that it is acceptable to be awake in bed. This goes back to training the puppy-sleep-brain.
Remember the message is Bed = Sleep. If sleep is obviously not there, get up. Go to another room and do something quiet and restful until you feel sleepy. Then go back to bed and try again. If you “wake up” as soon as you get back in bed, then get up again. Repeat until you fall asleep easily.
TIP #7: Control Your Environment.
You will sleep better if it is dark. This may seem to be obvious, but I’m frequently amazed how many people discount this simple fact. The brain gets one of its biggest clues about when to sleep from the daily changes in light. In fact melatonin, the most famous of the natural sleep chemicals, is only produced when the ambient light begins to fade. Melatonin production can also be shut down by as little as seven minutes of light exposure. Streetlights, nightlights, the glow from a computer screen, TV or even the alarm clock can be cutting into your ability to produce adequate melatonin to fall asleep, stay asleep or get back to sleep.
It needs to be quiet. This can be a challenge in some neighborhoods, but good earplugs can be transformational. There are dozens of different earplug designs and you can find most of them at your local drugstore.
Turn off the TV…or better yet, move it out of your sleep sanctuary all together! There are hundreds of people who try to get decent sleep with the television on in the background. These flashing lights and quick dialogues, often with varying volumes between shows and commercials are just the opposite of the environment required for healthy sleep to develop. Remember, the human brain is wired to alert to the human voice. When the ears pick up human voices, the brain wave patterns change to alert status. This is not what you want if you are trying to sleep.
Temperature affects sleep too. The ideal temperature range for sleep is between 72 and 58 degrees. Try lowering the bedroom thermostat a couple notches or trade your blanket for a lighter one.
Where you sleep greatly effects how you sleep. Change what you can to minimize outside disturbances and you may be astounded to discover how much difference a seemingly small adjustment can make. And please, no TV…
TIP #8: Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and sleep disrupting drugs and prescriptions near bedtime.
This is a big one. Each of these substances has a distinct effect in the sleep centers of the brain.
Caffeine, found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and some pain medications, keeps the brain’s alerting system turned on. The effects can last up to 9 hours! That means a diet cola at 3 pm may be what’s keeping you up at midnight.
Nicotine has similar alerting effects. Cigarette smokers can also experience withdrawal symptoms during the night that can cause restless and broken sleep, especially in the last half of the night.
Alcohol is perhaps the most common self-medication strategy used by people who have trouble falling asleep. This can really backfire, though. It is true that alcohol can lead to some relaxation and quicker sleep onset. However, the sleep that ensues is short on the restorative deep sleep most people want and it carries an ironic Trojan horse that is revealed when the alcohol is metabolized.
The body cannot safely eliminate alcohol in the same form you drink it in. The liver has to change it into other safer chemicals first. One of those chemicals has stimulant properties similar to caffeine! This happens about four hours after the glass of wine, whiskey or brandy hits you stomach. That would explain why you can have a drink at 9, fall asleep at 10 and be suddenly wide awake at 1 am! You will have some difficulty getting back to sleep, too, until the new chemical is cleared from your system.
Obviously recreational drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines interfere with sleep, but even pharmaceutical drugs that seem to cause drowsiness generally do not lead into normally restful sleep. The pills sold as “sleep aids” are usually anti-histamines that can make you sleepy, but they don’t bring about normal sleep either.
There are many over the counter and prescription drugs that also alter sleep patterns in surprising ways. Be sure to talk to your doctor and pharmacist about how these may be affecting you.
TIP #9: Eat well to sleep well.
Sleep is just one of the three legs on the tripod of good health. The other two legs are exercise and nutrition. To do anything well, including sleep, the body and brain need adequate, clean and appropriate fuel. Feed yourself good food that you prepare yourself or know has been freshly made.
Regular schedules are important for healthy meals, too. Avoid large, spicy, fatty or rich foods near bedtime. Dinner should be finished at least 2 hours before your intended bed time to allow time for initial digestion. Lying down with a full stomach is an open invitation to heartburn and acid reflux.
Likewise, it is important that you not go to bed hungry. If your body is hungry, lacking nutrients, minerals and amino acids, your sleep will be restless and the body’s housekeeping chores will not get completed properly if the raw materials for repairing and restoring tissues are not at hand.
There are many different foods that can improve your ability to get to sleep. Warm milk is a famous example. The reason this works is because milk has tryptophan which the body uses to make serotonin. Serotonin is one of the brain chemicals, neurotransmitters, necessary for normal, consistent sleep. Other sources of tryptophan are turkey, soy products and sesame seeds.
There are also foods that can keep you awake; ginger for example. A meal high in protein without balancing carbohydrates, may block serotonin. If you are having trouble sleeping a big meal of spicy ginger beef, just before hitting the sack, would probably not be your best choice!
TIP #10: Don’t worry about it.
Worrying about sleep, stressing over it and making it bigger than is has to be won’t help. In fact that goes for all the other nagging worries in our lives!
We mentioned before, that losing some sleep before a big event, a trip, during a move or any exciting time, is normal and natural. The trouble begins when the sleepless pattern seems to linger when the triggering event or circumstance is no longer present or relevant. For many people the trouble worsens when they start to worry about their during the day as well. What started out as merely a problem soon turns into a true sleep disorder.
Fretting over it, stressing and getting upset over it does NOT make it easier to sleep. If worry and anxiety, about sleep or anything else, is there with you when you go to bed at night, you need to find a way to deal with it in the daylight first.
Stress reduction strategies and techniques include meditation, yoga, martial arts, simple play, counseling, prayer, hobbies and fresh air exercise. Music, guided meditation, creative visualization, progressive relaxation and biofeedback can also be incredibly effective tools.
Patty shares, “One of my favorite tricks is to perform a nightly ‘brain dump.’ When everything seems to be on overload, I will be sure to take time each evening to sit down and write out all I would normally be worrying about in bed. This might include big stuff, like how to pay the mortgage, smaller stuff like remembering if the tires need rotating, as well as stupid stuff like, wondering if my favorite summer shirt will still be in fashion next year. After writing furiously for 10 minutes or so, the scribbling will come to a stop on its own. Later, in bed, when those worrisome thoughts start to come up I can say ‘no, I wrote you down, so I don’t need to think about you right now.’ It really works!”
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Patty Tucker, PA-C, Sleep Coach and Consultant and Adjunct Faculty of the Family Sleep Institute, is a graduate of the Stanford School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program. The Family Sleep Institute is the very first comprehensive yet affordable child sleep consultant certification program based on 15 years of experience by the leading Child Sleep Expert, Deborah Pedrick. The Family Sleep Institute lives up to its name as it is truly a “family” to all graduates who go through the program.