White Pants, BBQs, and Summer Hours!

Memorial Day is upon us here in the US, bringing with it the un-official start of summer, warmer weather, and the rapidly approaching end of the school year. During the summer, both Debbie and I have our hands full! Debbie heads to Camp Akeela, where she and her husband (and their two kids) create amazing experiences for a unique group of campers. I will be spending the summer with my family, our kids are now ages 6 and 8, tackling several home-improvement projects, and traveling to the East Coast for a significant part of the summer.

We know that your sleep challenges don’t just take a vacation because it’s summer, and we want to continue to provide you with sisterly support. I have limited spots available for 30-minute and 60- minute phone consultations over the summer. We hope you will be able to find a convenient time through our online booking form, but if you don’t see something that works for you, please email us and we will do our best to accommodate you.

We’re on TV and Radio!

Last week, the San Francisco CBS affiliate ran a story on the 11pm news featuring the work we do at Sleep Sisters. One of our fabulous clients graciously agreed to participate by talking about her experience working with a sleep consultant and allowing her darling baby to appear on camera (going down for a nap, no less!). Melissa also shared some thoughts about our role as certified sleep consultants. Continue reading…

Spring Forward: Families of Early Risers Rejoice!

This Sunday in most of the U.S., we will be turning our clocks forward one hour. The Spring time change tends to less disruptive than the one in the Fall. At this time change, it’s easiest for most of us to do nothing in preparation – just change the clocks on Sunday am – perhaps because it’s easier to wake someone (thank you, alarm clock) than force him to stay asleep. If that approach doesn’t appeal to you, you can start moving everything in your child’s routine earlier by 10-15 mins each day now to gradually adapt to the one-hour time change. Continue reading…

What is Sleep Training?

When I mention sleep training to parents, their first reaction is typically to cringe. We’ve all heard the stories: days of enduring hours-upon-hours of screaming followed by perfect sleep, or the ones about the parents who still haven’t gotten a decent night’s sleep after more than a year, and even the tales of those seemingly mythical children who have no sleep troubles at all and just start sleeping through the night without fuss at a few months old. “What will our fate be?” new parents wonder. “And if we aren’t the lucky parents of a ‘unicorn’ and have to actively do something about sleep, how awful will it be?  Should we even bother or can we adjust to life without sleep?” Continue reading…

A New Mom…Again

I became a mom for the second time a month and 4 days ago – but who’s counting? I had forgotten how hard this part of motherhood is. I’m feeling like I have a human attached to me at all times of day. Our daughter would much rather be held than put down. And I’m tired!

This time around, I am much more aware of our baby’s sleep patterns. I try to encourage her to sleep after being awake for an hour to an hour and a half. I recognize that the “witching hour” that everyone talks about from around 4-8pm is probably an indication that Julia is tired. Continue reading…

ADHD and Sleep

People say things like this to us all the time, “My child is so hyper in the late afternoon – I’m sure he has ADHD.” This may be true. Another possibility is that a hyperactive child is over-tired. When a child is not getting enough sleep, his body makes more cortisol and adrenaline so that he can stay awake. Those hormones are his body’s way of fixing a problem, only, it’s a poor fix. When children are too tired, they can’t fall asleep when they need to and are missing out on important sleep time – time when their brains should be processing the day’s events, the learning that occurred and the emotions that were felt. Being overtired looks a lot like ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

A study summarized here on WebMD suggests that many children are misdiagnosed and in fact, are overtired. This doctor found that children who are getting the ADHD diagnosis mistakenly are children who sleep in a bed with their parents and who do not have a consistent bedtime. He emphasizes that sleep and ADHD are very complicated in their correlation. That is, many children with ADHD have a hard time with sleep and because they are missing sleep, their behaviors are more hyperactive. Of course, we don’t mean to say that all children who are getting an ADHD diagnosis are actually simply overtired, but we are saying that before you seek out this diagnosis for your child, it might be helpful first to examine how much sleep he’s getting and how firm your parenting is around sleep routines.

As with all children, it is important for children who have ADD/ADHD to have a very predictable and consistent pre-bed/nap routine and bedtime. For children who seem more active and who have more challenging behaviors, you might try some or all of the following:

  • Although your child may not want to nap anymore, we highly recommend that children (through kindergarten) take an hour every day for “quiet time.” Alone in her room playing quietly.

  • A weighted blanket may also be helpful. We use these blankets with kids who really find comfort in physical pressure (like hugs). Here’s just one weighted blanket – you can find more on Amazon.com.

  • Dim lights are really important 30 minutes before you would like your child to fall asleep – it helps your body produce more melatonin (the sleep hormone).

  • Limit screen time and no screens after 5pm. If you have a child who seems hyperactive, you might consider limiting screen time to an hour a day and should certainly not allow her to look at a screen within a few hours of bedtime.

  • Try an earlier bedtime – although it is counter-intuitive, your child may be overtired. Try moving bedtime a half hour earlier for 5 days and see what happens. If it’s been working, you can even try another half hour the following week.

  • Be patient! This is so hard – we know! When you’re dealing with a challenging child, it is easy to let your emotions rise to the surface. However, your child can tell how you feel and often, our emotions only escalate our children’s behavior.

If you have tried all of the above and are still finding that your child’s behavior is impulsive and hard to manage and if others who are with your child outside your home (teachers, care-givers) agree, it would be beneficial for you to speak to your child’s doctor and/or a developmental pediatrician.

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.


Need a Cup of Coffee? Go Ahead!

Exhausted moms can now gulp their morning joe with a little less guilt. A study out of Brazil published in Pediatrics this month shows that moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy or by moms who are breastfeeding their babies does not increase night-waking in three-month olds. Reuters has a good summary of the new research.

Parents of newborns have enough to worry about and stress over. It seems in the last several years that pregnancy and breastfeeding has become a field of land mines, with new risks to avoid at every turn. When I was pregnant the first time, I felt sick for months. The only thing that made me feel better was a Diet Coke and a handful of peanut M&Ms in the afternoon. Something about that magic combination of caffeine, chocolate, protein from the peanuts, and chemicals from the soda just settled my stomach and gave me enough of a boost to get me through the afternoon, more or less. I already felt so deprived of many of my favorite foods and beverages that were forbidden or frowned upon during pregnancy. I couldn’t imagine having to give up that one treat that made me feel almost human again during those tough months.

Debbie and I have always been proponents of “Everything in Moderation.” And I’m happy to hear that medical research can give some comfort when pregnant women and nursing moms reach for their caffeinated beverage of choice. In this case, moderation means keeping our caffeine consumption to less than 300 mg per day, which translates roughly to 16 oz of regular drip coffee, five 8-oz cups of tea, or six cans of soda. Watch out for those energy drinks – many of them have more than 300 mg of caffeine in a single serving.

One of the best things we can do to help our babies sleep well is to feel good ourselves, and if a cup of coffee after a rough night makes you feel better, please go ahead!


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…