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 nightmares (3)


Does your child wear footie PJs? Read this.

Over the past couple of weeks, several parents have come to me with questions about their child's nightmares, night terrors, or sleepwalking. In the course of the typical question-and-answer process I use to help parents unsnarl sleep problems, I stumbled onto something: in every case, the child had just started wearing winter-weight fleece footie PJs to bed. Nightmares/terrors/sleepwalking started immediately afterward—interesting, no?

If you’re read any of my work on nightmares or sleep environment, you know that sleeping too hot is a major risk factor for nightmares and other sleep problems (including SIDS). When it comes to nightmares, too much heat is bad news, big time. In my article “Fright Night: Eight Easy Ways To Beat Nightmares” I note that parents can often “cure” nightmares by turning down a child’s too-heavy blanket or replacing too-hot pajamas with lighter ones.

So take note if you’ve recently switched your child to winter PJs, swathed his bed in flannel sheets and heavy blankets, or started turning on the furnace at night. If nightmares (or other disturbing nighttime behavior like sleepwalking) come calling, there’s no mystery. Dial the thermostat back to 68 or below, and peel off those hot footie pajamas. Ahhh, sweeter dreams for everyone.

For more on keeping the whole family sleeping well in the colder months, see my post about Sleeping Well in Winter.

Happy Turkey Day, all!

I’m a nationally published sleep expert, health journalist, and mom. My articles about sleep, health, and parenting appear regularly in over 80 national and regional magazines and on television. Can I help you? Subscribe to The Well Rested Family to have sleep news, tips, and tactics delivered to your inbox or feed reader by clicking here.

Need more sleep? My e-book Ready, Set, Sleep: 50 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep So You Can Sleep Too is chock-full of mom-tested solutions to help babies and toddlers start sleeping well, tonight!


Easy Ways To Beat Nightmares

There’s a chill in the air, football’s on, and it’s (finally) getting dark before 8 p.m. Hooray for fall! With Halloween right around the corner, it seems appropriate that I’ve been fielding plenty of parent questions about nightmares. Since my own daughter has hit the age—five—when bad dreams start bubbling up, many parents of her friends and classmates are asking how to squelch nightmares. One reason recurring nightmares are such bad news is that they disrupt nighttime sleep patterns just as kids are leaving toddlerhood sleep problems behind and settling into their snooze groove.

After researching and writing “Fright Night: Eight Ways to Beat Nightmares,” in this month’s Calgary’s Child magazine, I know that it’s not necessarily possible or even desirable to get rid of all nightmares; unsettling as they are, they may serve a developmental role. But parents can take action to help minimize and prevent many scary dreams. Check out the article to learn more.

And, bonus: if you’re wondering about the difference between nightmares and night terrors—two very distinct states that are often confused—check out this post from my archives: Night Terror Myths and Facts.

Don't miss a post! Subscribe to The Well Rested Family to have sleep news, tips, and tactics delivered to your inbox or feed reader by clicking here.

Need more sleep? My e-book Ready, Set, Sleep: 50 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep So You Can Sleep Too is chock-full of mom-tested solutions to help babies and toddlers start sleeping well, tonight!



Ask Malia: Do Nightlights Help Kids Sleep?

Dear Malia,

Your ebook has been amazingly helpful for our family. We’re all sleeping better. But I have a question. You recommend keeping kids bedrooms pitch-black during naps and bedtimes and we’ve followed your suggestions. But my 3-year-old son is having trouble in a super-dark room. He seems more anxious with no light in there, and since we recently moved him to a big-kid bed, we’re worried he might fall and hurt himself at night. Is some light OK?


In general, nighttime light exposure is a no-go. At night, light exposure shrinks melatonin production, making it difficult for your child to fall asleep and stay asleep. A darker bedroom nearly always equals better sleep. It makes sense, when you consider that a century ago, before the advent of electronic clocks, alarms, and the nightly news, a darkening sky was the primary sign of the day’s end.

Even pinhole-sized beams of light can disrupt sleep patterns. Sleep doctors say that the ideal bedroom is so dark that you can’t see a hand waving in front of your face. In my ebook Ready, Set, Sleep, I recommend darkening bedroom windows, removing nightlights and lighted electronics, even blocking light spilling in under bedroom doors.

But there is a bit of wiggle room on the black-bedroom thing. In some cases, kids may sleep better with a small amount of bedroom light.


At night, light hinders the body’s natural production of melatonin, so nighttime light should be avoided. But naps are another story—older toddlers and preschoolers may appreciate a naptime nightlight that allows them to play quietly before sleeping. Case in point: at naptime, my 2.5-year-old repeatedly requests “one more minute” of playtime in her crib before lights out. With a nightlight’s soft glow, she’s free to play for a few minutes before snoozing, which means she's happier to go down for a nap. She usually zonks out within minutes. (The nightlight is equipped with an on-off switch, like this one, and it’s switched off at night.)

Toddler beds

When kids graduate to a "big kid bed," they love to revel in their newfound freedom by climbing in and out of bed during naps and at night. A small amount of light can help protect these kids from stumbling in a pitch-black room.  

Nighttime fears

Please note: A nightlight will not cure separation anxiety or help babies sleep better. Infants and young toddlers aren’t scared of the dark. But genuine nighttime fears can appear during the preschool years. If your child balks at a blacked-out room, a dim light can help keep the boogeyman at bay.

In many cases, a nightlight isn’t needed—ambient light from clocks, windows, and doorframes provides enough glow to quell fears and illuminate hazardous corners. If you do choose a nightlight, pick the dimmest light possible and place it in a spot where it won’t shine directly on your child’s face.