I’m a nationally published sleep expert, journalist, and the mom of three young kids. I’ve been helping tired families sleep since 2007 (more about me here). Subscribe to The Well Rested Family for fresh news and tips on keeping your bunch happy and healthy. Thanks for stopping by!

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Entries in child (18)

Friday
Jun222012

Ask Malia: Help for a Sound-Sensitive Child

Respecting your kid's quest for quiet.Dear Malia,

My 7-year-old son is especially sensitive to noise. He’s always had trouble sleeping, and it’s been especially tough since we moved into a new house. This house is creakier than our old one and our neighbors are pretty noisy. Do you have any tips—beyond white noise, which we use—to keep his room quieter at night?

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In the quest to keep your child’s bedroom quiet at night, you may run into some obstacles—especially when your child is particularly sensitive to noise. Maybe you live in a noisy, creaky home with old hardwood floors, or a loud apartment building. Perhaps your child’s bedroom is near an elevator or stairwell. Maybe the sounds from traffic, airplanes, or trains are too loud to mask with white noise.

Some kids sleep well under these noisy conditions. For others, any sound is too much sound. When your home is simply too noisy for restful sleep, a few simple adjustments (and maybe a trip to the local home-décor store) may be in order. Though I don’t suggest encasing your son’s room in soundproof foam, there are other things you can do to help lower the racket:

  • Heavy curtains and thick textiles help to absorb and mask noise. This principle is at work in recording studios and soundproof rooms that are padded in thick foam from floor to ceiling. Choose thick drapes; quilts make excellent (noise-lowering) wall hangings.
  • Hardwood floors and tile may be beautiful, but quiet, they're not. Thick-pile carpeting masks noise, especially when it's wall-to-wall. Area rugs should be well-padded underneath. Hallway floors are notoriously creaky, so don’t forget about the floor outside of your child’s room.
  • Treat all of your home’s door hinges with WD-40 to prevent ear-shattering, sleep-disrupting squeals every time a door opens.
  • If possible, give your child a bedroom toward the back of the house, away from stairwells, busy hallways, and the home’s main living areas. That way, he won’t be disrupted by normal foot traffic or conversations.
  • To make an even bigger dent in the noise level, drape sheets across the ceiling to absorb and soften sound (the soft, tent-like atmosphere that it creates in the bedroom is an added bonus).

Please don’t fall prey to the myth that by creating a quiet sleep space, you are “spoiling” your child’s ability to sleep with background noise. To the contrary: a well-rested child has an easier time falling asleep, period. By quieting your home, you'll increase your child’s chances of sleeping well, both at home and while traveling to other, noisier locales. Over time, he may outgrow his sentivity to noise. But for now, do what you need to do to help him rest.


Monday
Apr092012

Making The Most Of Your Child's Naptime

Image courtesy of hoteldndsigns.comWhen I work with parents in search of better sleep, they’re often crushed to learn that they’ll have to kiss their child’s super-long naps goodbye in order to support nighttime sleep. These same parents are thrilled with the results of a shorter-nap plan, but those long naps are hard to lose.

I understand completely. We parents hardly get a moment to ourselves, and when naptime rolls around, we have a million things to do (we may even need a siesta, ourselves). And research shows that age-appropriate naps are important to growth and development in babies and toddlers. But overly-long naps are a big sleep-stealer and a frequent culprit in young kids’ bedtime problems. Think about it—can you fall asleep at night after a long luxurious afternoon nap? Your kids can’t, either.

So how can you make the most of your child’s naptime, when there’s less nap to take advantage of? By prioritizing. Over the years, I’ve picked up a few naptime tricks that help keep me productive, happy, and sane as a work-at-home mom of young kids.  

1. Separate naptime tasks from other work

I’ve learned to sort nearly every daily task into two categories: what CAN be accomplished with children awake, and what CAN’T be accomplished with children awake. This dual-category system helps me prioritize my daily work and take advantage of my kiddo’s naps, even when those naps are brief.

As a rule, I never, ever use naptime to complete a task that could be done while my child is awake. That means no cleaning, no folding laundry, and no paying bills or doing routine mindless work. Those things can wait.

Can you make phone calls while your child plays nearby? Can you prep dinner or wipe the table while they’re awake? Then don’t waste precious naptime on these tasks.

2. Prepare for battle

If you know what you’d like to accomplish, you can spare prized naptime minutes by doing prepwork before the nap starts. Planning to work out during naptime? Change into your workout clothes, cue up your exercise DVD, and get out your yoga mat before tuck-in. Hoping to blast through a blog post or fire off a few client letters? Charge up your computer and have your favorite brain-food snacks at the ready. Need a nap yourself? Change into sweats, make a cup of sleepy-time tea, and locate your eye mask before sending your little one off to dreamland.

3. Reign in social networking

I’m as guilty as anyone—as soon as my toddler is napping, I want to settle down with a cup of tea and check in with Facebook. But if I’m not careful, Facebook and Twitter can eat up precious naptime minutes that I could (should) use for work or rest. To keep social networking from zapping your free time, try setting a timer so you don’t zone out in front of the laptop for hours on end (unless that’s how you recharge!).

4. Put your feet up

I’ve realized that one of the best things I can do during my kiddo’s nap is rest. Even if I don’t sleep (and I usually don’t), I need to spend at least 15 minutes with my feet up. Relaxing is the main thing I CAN’T do when my kids are awake, so it takes priority over almost every other naptime task. And after a 10-20 minute break—which, if I’m honest, usually includes chocolate—I’m ready to get my munchkin up and start our afternoon.

Hooray for naptime!

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Monday
Apr022012

Boost Kids' Math Skills At Bedtime

Turns out, that old-timey tactic for summoning the sandman—counting sheep—might actually benefit kids’ math skills. Especially if you throw in a little sheep addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication (just keep it PG!).

A bedtime math problem might be the answer to our kids’ lagging math skills, according to Bedtime Math, a new non-profit organization that urges parents to give kids a new math problem each night at bedtime. The “bedtime story” tradition is firmly entrenched in our culture that emphasizes literacy, and that’s all well and good. But today’s kids need mathematic literacy, too. A daily math problem is an excellent way addition to a solid bedtime routine.

The folks at Bedtime Math are right on the money, science-wise. According to a new study from University of Notre Dame, learning new material right before sleep makes it easier to recall the material later. So after working on a bedtime math problem, your kids can actually get better at math while they sleep!

So how can you give Bedtime Math a whirl? Simple: just give your kids a bedtime math problem. No need to get fancy. You could probably come up with limitless story problems using the objects in your child’s bedroom.

  • “If there are seven days in a week, and you only have three clean pairs of socks, how many more clean pairs will you need?”
  • “It’s eight o’clock now. How many hours until you get up at 7?”
  • “We have 10 crackers. If we make three equal piles for you, your brother, and me, how many will we have in each pile? Will we have any left over?”

I’m sure you can come up with better ones, and you might even have fun doing it! Better yet, you’ll be planting the seeds for mathematic literacy that will take root while your child sleeps, and pay dividends when she’s awake.

Friday
Feb242012

Parenting a Short Sleeper

I'm guest blogging today at Easy to Love but Hard to Raise about the challenges of parenting a short-sleeper: a child who needs less sleep than most.

Horrendous bedtimes. Night awakenings that seem never-ending. Feeling as though you never have a moment to yourself. Sound familiar? You may be living with a short-sleeper—a child who needs less sleep than most.

Many of us arrive at parenthood believing that babies sleep around the clock, only to find ourselves parenting a child who seems to barely sleep at all. In truth, kids’ sleep needs vary widely. Average sleep times for children are 14-16 hours of sleep per day for newborns, 12-14 hours for toddlers, 10-12 hours for children three to six, but some kids don’t need this much sleep. A few need significantly less.

Although true “short-sleepers”—people who can get by on just a few hours of nightly sleep— make up just 3-5 percent of the population, the percentage of kids who need less sleep than average is much higher. And these short sleepers can tax their tired parents emotionally and physically. 

The post includes 5 tips to help you live peacefully with your short sleeper.

Read the complete article at Easy to Love, and let me know either here or there: Do you have a child who needs less sleep than other kids? How have you handled it?

Tuesday
Feb212012

Feeling Stuck? Try A Flip.

Many of the parents I work with on sleep problems are feeling stuck—their child has a stubborn sleep problem that seems unfixable, and they feel powerless to correct it.

Two of the most common examples are kids who start the day painfully early in the morning (like 4 a.m.) are kids who resist bedtime for hours on end, finally falling asleep after 11 p.m.

These parents feel stuck because no matter what they do, they cannot seem to get their child to sleep later in the morning, or go to bed on time. They try lullabies and white noise, install room-darkening blinds, up their child’s calorie intake, and nothing works. Understandably, their problem-solving revolves around their child’s “witching hour,” whether it happens to be 4 a.m. or 9 p.m.

They focus on this unpleasant part of their day during which they seem to be completely unable to control what happens—anyone who has tried to get an unwilling toddler to go back to sleep at 4:30 a.m. knows this powerless feeling. Unfortunately, that type of tunnel vision often prevents parents from seeing what they can do to help their child move past their problem.  

Focusing on feeling powerless isn’t fun, and it’s not a fruitful way to work toward solutions. What I tell these parents to do is lose the micro-focus on that one part of their child’s schedule—those groggy hours in the early morning, or the awful hours after bedtime. Instead, flip it—focus on the opposite end of your child’s sleep routine, the part that you can control. For early wakers, that’s bedtime. For bedtime-haters, that’s wake-up time.

So for a child waking at 4 a.m., this means that instead of focusing on forcing a not-tired child back to bed in the early morning, you focus on the flip side of her sleep schedule: Her bedtime. A child waking at 4 a.m. either needs an earlier bedtime or a later one. How do you figure out which? By tracking her sleep and using behavioral cues, which I describe in detail in my e-book “Ready, Set, Sleep: 50 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep, So You Can Sleep Too.

Likewise, when bedtime’s a battle, parents sometimes throw up their hands and say “There’s nothing I can do!” There is. By setting an appropriate wake-up time, you’ll help program your child’s body clock and pave the way for easier bedtimes. Again, this topic is covered in detail in RSS.

So when you’re stuck and feeling powerless over your child’s sleep, lose the micro-focus. Flip the problem by looking at the other end of your child’s sleep routine, and see if the solution doesn’t pop out at you.