Back to School…Hit the Hay!

My daughter returned to preschool this week. Last year, after struggling at bedtime and with her waking a few times every night, we moved her bedtime back to 6:30 and all of our problems were solved. (Granted, we did have to pick her up from school 30 minutes earlier than we had been, and we had to shift bath time to the morning.) This year, I thought, “Well, she’s older now and hasn’t gone to bed that early all summer…we’ll go back to a 7-7:30 bedtime.” Boy, was that a mistake! Margo clearly needs more sleep, especially when she’s using her mind and body so much more at school. After two days of total melt-downs around dinner time, my husband and I agreed that bedtime had to be shifted earlier again and, after one night, it worked! We all slept through the night and had a pleasant morning before school. Everyone was happy and I know that our daughter is much better equipped to deal with the excitement of learning.

There was a fascinating article printed in NY Magazine a while ago that is worth reading. As our kids head back to school, we need to think about the importance of sleep and how it affects their ability to learn and develop. This article explains that even a short period of time (a half hour) can have a huge impact on our kids. The research indicates that for every hour of sleep lost, 2 years of cognitive and maturational development are lost. In addition, we learn from the article that a shift in sleep times (they gave the example of letting kids stay up later on weekends) also has a negative impact on ability to learn.

Bottom line: our kids need sleep. While we don’t like to give hard and fast numbers for how long your child should sleep, we have heard from pediatricians that school-aged children still need anywhere from 10-12 hours of sleep per night. Melissa and I have found that our children have a pretty large sleep need and our kids tend to do best when they can get the maximum amount of sleep possible. As parents, it is really important that we have consistent bed times and that we allow our children to sleep for as long as possible. If you have a child in school, it is important to maintain your routine even on weekends (when possible).

Check out our Bedtimes by Age guidelines. Figure out what time your child needs to wake up in order to get to school on time and count backwards to find the suggested bedtime. Tell us what you think – are your kids getting enough sleep? Do they have trouble adjusting when going back to school? If you struggle getting your child to bed or find that he’s grumpy in the morning or throws tantrums in the late afternoon, give an earlier bedtime a try for a few weeks and let us know if you see an improvement.


Postpartum Depression and Sleep

postpartum depressionMelissa and I were thrilled to see so much attention focused on infant sleep and maternal behavior this week. A fascinating study out of Penn State published last week states that mothers who are suffering from postpartum depression tend to wake their infants at night and cause sleep disturbances in their babies. Click here for an explanation of the findings.

Many people have questioned which comes first, maternal depression or a sleepless infant. To us, there has always been an obvious link – when you have a fussy/sleepless child, a mom is bound to become depressed as she herself becomes exhausted. This study indicates that this is true. However, what is MORE true is that mothers who are depressed are actually causing their babies to lose sleep.

Based on this study, it seems that depressed mothers are more anxious about the well-being of their new babies and therefore go to them when they make the slightest noise or movement. This then wakes the baby and disrupts her sleep. In addition, moms who are depressed seem to crave being close to their infants and therefore, wake them when they feel lonely or sad. In reading this, I understand the psychological motivation highlighted. As a new mom, I remember feeling worried and lonely at times and I can understand how a mom may want to be close to her new baby.

postpartum depressionMelissa and I want to stress how important it is to reach out to family and friends if you are feeling depressed. The first few months of motherhood are the hardest and there is nothing lonelier than being awake with your baby in the quiet and darkness of 3am! Depression can be devastating, and when you have a new baby and everyone around you expects you to be happy, it is that much harder to cope. That said, sometimes, family and friends just don’t know what to say or do for new moms. As a therapist, I know that sometimes an “unbiased” voice is the only voice of reason we can hear.

As sleep consultants, we know that new moms have lots of resources available – books, websites, videos – and they are all helpful and valuable. However, when you are overtired and/or depressed, sometimes a real, live person is the most helpful solution. We encourage anyone in this position to seek help from a doctor, therapist, sleep consultant, or other professional for help. We understand that emotions and sleep are not things that can be separated – they go hand-in-hand, both for mother and baby.


SIDS and co-sleeping

A new study published last week brings up a very controversial subject in the world of infant sleep – co-sleeping. For years, moms all over the world have debated the merits and drawbacks of a “family bed,” “attachment parenting,” and “co-sleeping.” Melissa and I don’t feel it’s necessary to take a side in this argument. Different arrangements work for different families and we’re not here to tell people what is right or wrong. We do believe in strong scientific research and feel it is our responsibility as sleep experts to share with our clients and friends any new information that comes to our attention about sleep and child safety. Continue reading…

Daylight Savings Time….And My 3-Year-Old!

People always ask us what do to when we change the clocks. I know moms who worry about this for weeks ahead of time! They tell us, “We’ve been working so hard to keep him on schedule and now, everything will just fall apart.” It can be a frustrating time. Believe me, I know! When we changed the clocks ahead last week, I was prepared…I’m a certified sleep consultant after all! I did exactly what I’d been trained to do and what I had been doing successfully for the past 3 years. I stuck to the clock. Continue reading…