November 12, 2015
Tips for Extending Naps

Ahh, naps, a parent’s favourite time of day. There’s always a million things to do at nap time. But when your baby or toddler is waking up 30 minutes after a short snooze, that’s not much of an opportunity to do what we need to do as parents, nor is it likely enough for your child to make it through to their next nap, or bedtime.

Why Short Naps (aka Snaps)?

Child sleep cycles during the day are about 30-45 minutes in length. Often the exact length of the nap will be predicted by the length of your child’s sleep cycle. My son’s sleep cycle was 38 minutes, my youngest was 31 minutes. Parents can often set the watches by the nap length of their munchkins.

Your child will start out awake, enter a deeper state of sleep and then come around to a lighter stage of sleep again. At this point they may enter another sleep cycle, or surface completely from that sleep. Most babies would likely signal (crying or maybe words depending on age) for their parent. Some of you might have a child who stirs and is able to move along to the next sleep cycle. Some of you might have a child where you don’t even notice their transition onto their next sleep cycle.

This means a 30-45 minute nap is normal. Expected. Biologically appropriate. But we want more! Most kids can’t get by on a short nap. It will mean their next nap needs to be soon or they will be stretched to overtiredness by the time bedtime rolls around.

How do I get a long nap?

  • Independence: Your child must put their self to sleep at the beginning of the nap if you expect them to stay asleep. If you or another prop has assisted your child to sleep, they will be far less likely to stay asleep. Remember we have to give your child a chance to practice the skills it takes to go BACK to sleep through a nap.
  • Sleepy Environment: Ensure a dark space that’s conducive to sleep. Use blackout curtains to minimize the intrusion of daylight.
  • Timing: Is your child sleepy enough? Is your child overtired? Undertiredness and overtiredness can BOTH contribute to short nap syndrome.
  • Hunger: Many parents like to follow Tracey Hogg‘s E.A.S.Y (Eat, Activity, Sleep) schedule. I like it too, we minimize the feed to sleep association there. But if you’re young baby is likely to be hungry within an hour of putting them down for a nap, you’d be better to offer even a small feeding to help ensure their belly is full enough for a long nap.
  • Don’t rush the rescue: We’re expecting a waking at that 30-45 minute mark. Give your child (even a small) opportunity to resettle and continue on with that next sleep cycle. If we rush in immediately, we’re potentially taking away a chance to go back to sleep.
  • Not enough sleep: This is a pretty big one. I often see this with my clients… not until we get a child better rested do we have a better chance of extending naps. Don’t work on naps without considering the bigger picture of all your child’s sleep – night sleep needs to be working for naps to work (for suggested sleep quantities by age, visit here).

Even after night sleep has come together, lengthening naps can still be challenging. Night sleep and nap sleep are governed by different parts of the brain. That could mean your child is a champ with nights and a chronically short napper.  Naps are hard for some kids, requiring lots of consistency and patience for them to finally stretch out. Give your little one a chance to practice, but always make sure you’re setting them up for success!



About the author:

KristaGuenther Krista is a mother of 3 (+1 dog who believes she’s people), a wife to a wonderful husband, and the owner and founder of Sleeperific.  Even though she’s been in the sleep consulting biz for 6 years, she still feels excited and honoured when she’s hired by a sleepy family.
October 21, 2015

Night Feedings, Part 3 Why night weaning isn't working

Why night weaning isn’t working

Food and particularly night feedings, can be a really emotional topic for parents.  I get it.  Food is love. Feeding is nurturing. I feel it when I open the refrigerator when I’m stressed (I’m working on it!), but I especially felt it that time when I had a little, sick baby.  The daily weigh-ins were emotionally charged, like I was getting a numerical grade that assessed my parenting.  Eventually, everyone was pretty healthy and growing but no one was sleeping well.  Night feedings can (and did, in our case) hold us back from having healthy sleep habits.

Remember it becomes biologically appropriate to begin to prioritize sleep at night and feedings during the day. Generally, I see this point between 6-9 months of age.  There’s always outliers… the munchkins who are ready to wean earlier, or happily keeping a night feeding later.  But that’s my completely unscientific, anecdotal observations: 6-9 months of age is when night feedings can become problematic.  Persisting with keeping night feedings beyond 6 months, is unsuccessful more often than it’s successful.

So you’ve done all the right things up to this point, determining if dropping a night feeding is right for you family and reducing quantity.  But your child keeps on waking at night and you’re not sure you’re doing wrong or why this isn’t working yet?  Consider these:

  1. Baby isn’t awake at the beginning of the night  This is the most common and one of the most important considerations.  You can’t expect your baby to fall asleep on their own in the middle of the night if they’re nursing, pacifying, rocking, bouncing, etc… to sleep.  Falling asleep is a skill which needs to be practiced.  If you’re doing it for them, they’re not learning to do it independently.  Give your kid a chance to practice and hone their sleep skills.  Putting your child to bed too sleepy or drowsy, but anticipating they’ll stay asleep all night without your intervention, is setting up for failure. It’s the equivalent of expecting your child to knock it out of the park when they’ve missed batting practice.
  2. Your baby is just not ready Ideally we would have caught this in Part 1, but yes, it can happen that you’re going to try to pull out night feedings and they’re just not able to do it yet.  Back off, revisit in another month.
  3. Baby is not eating enough in the day  Is something preventing your child from eating well during the day? Sometimes it’s other kids or their environment distracting them, or maybe they’re just in a habit of eating more at night than during the day.  Revisit Part 2.  We have to build hunger in order to encourage better eating during the day.  (This doesn’t count nursing newborns who are eating more during the night to promote milk production).
  4. Baby is eating too much during the day Consider how dense those calories are during the day. Just because baby is filling up on purees doesn’t mean they’re going to be satiated.  I looked at some PC Organics formula and PC Organics Butternut Squash puree.  The prepared formula was 68 calories/100 mL while the puree was 33 calories/100 mL. Baby food is high fibre (leaves you feeling full), but calorie light (makes you hungry later).  Solids are fun and it’s great to encourage them. But don’t let them limit your reliance on the other calorie rich sources of nutrition you had been offering. Parents are often very concerned about starting solids before night weaning.  But the math tells us displacing formula or breastmilk for purees isn’t going to give them more.  And if someone is telling you to add a bit of cereal to their diet at 4 months of age, please check the calories and do the math yourself.  If the breastmilk or formula you are displacing is being replaced with something less calorie rich, that math doesn’t work for me and likely won’t work for your child.
  5. You’re preserving 1 or 2 feedings  Sometimes baby wakes and you feed.  Sometimes baby wakes and is obligated to go back to sleep.  That my friends, is an inconsistent response.  That is a reason for babe to keep waking. If I hit the lottery every 3rd time, I’d keep playing the lottery. If you’re trying to preserve only one or two feedings, but are having multiple wakings, revisit Part 1, and carefully consider responding in a consistent manner.
  6. Parent (mostly Mama) guilt Many of my families are professionals who are back to work quickly after having their child.  With this situation, parents can unwittingly sabotage their own progress because they’re hanging out for extra snuggles, addressing each sound/movement and generally feeling conflicted about responding at night because it’s the only time they spend with babe.  It’s ok to feel conflicted with this aspect of your parenting. In fact, I’d call it pretty normal.  Let go of plans to night wean until you feel like you’re completely ready.  Consistency matters.
  7. Wrong person is soothing Hey nursing Mamas, this one is for you. Are you sure you (and your milk-filled bosoms) should be attending to night wakings if you ultimately don’t want to feed?  Is that fair to go in their room? Even newborns know how to root for a breast… your older baby definitely knows what’s under your shirt.  Is that a tease?  Is this a job better suited for your non-nursing partner?  Send ’em in, tell ’em I said so and try not to look too smug when you do it.

That concludes my series on night feeding.  Unless you can think of other aspects of night feeding you’d like me to blog about!  Comment below with any of your experiences with night weaning or other ideas for blog posts you’d like to see.



About the author:

KristaGuenther Krista is a mother of 3 (+1 dog who believes she’s people), a wife to a wonderful husband, and the owner and founder of Sleeperific.  Even though she’s been in the sleep consulting biz for 4 years, she still feels excited and honoured when she’s hired by a sleepy family.
October 14, 2015
Night Feedings - Part 2, How to stop feeding through the night

You’re reading this because you feel confident it’s time to eliminate night feedings?  You must have been reading up on this and have already spoken to your doctor!  Don’t try this at home without evaluating thoroughly with your medical professional.

In the case of multiple night feedings, choose the one where your child eats the least or the one that you find the most difficult.  I would also recommend avoiding feeding the the “forbidden zone,” between 4AM and 5:30AM, unless that’s your child’s morning waking (and if it is your child’s morning waking, you need to call me).  Those are the feedings to wean first.

Option 1: Gradual Approach

This is exactly how it sounds.  For bottle fed babies, gradually reduce the volume in each feeding.  I suggest 1-2 ounces every day or every couple days.  Repeat as necessary for each night feeding.

*I don’t advise diluting the formula – most parents don’t approach this properly.  We don’t need to create an electrolyte imbalance.

For breastfed babies, follow as above.  But this time, reduce the number of minutes in each feeding.  Repeat as necessary for each night feeding.

The goal is to get the feeding down to nothing or a minimal amount.  From there, your baby may voluntarily stop waking and just sleep through. Which would be great!  If you child is still waking, and you’d like to offer reassurance or soothing to settle your child, send in the non-nursing parent or the parent who was less involved with night feedings.  The nursing parent could be a tease and may ultimately make settling more difficult.

I like this approach if we have lots of time, or find feedings are fairly organized. However, I find this can be difficult strategy for feedings that are more “snacks” or for a child who is waking very frequently through the night.

Option 2: Direct Approach

Exactly how it sounds.  Cold turkey.  I don’t always like this approach for children who are eating a lot at night, but for older children who are waking frequently, and just snacking, it’s our only way to be consistent.  You can always offer soothing, reassurance and support, but if you are trying to completely cut out night feedings, make sure you’re going to be consistent with that.

Above all, neither of these strategies will be successful if we aren’t working on all aspects of sleep training.  Pulling out night feedings without teaching your child to self settle is a lost cause.

Done all this?  Still not working?  Stay tuned for next week when we talk about why night weaning isn’t working at your house.



About the author:

KristaGuenther Krista is a mother of 3 (+1 dog who believes she’s people), a wife to a wonderful husband, and the owner and founder of Sleeperific.  Even though she’s been in the sleep consulting biz for 4 years, she still feels excited and honoured when she’s hired by a sleepy family.
October 5, 2015
Night Feedings - When to stop feeding through the night

We all know that babies arrive with itty bitty tummies. Round the clock feedings are a regular part of parenting in those first weeks and months.  Just a reminder as to how tiny those tummies really are:

Stomach Size - Infancy and Beyond

But infants turn into older babies who are more capable of eating well all day and less at night. When do night feedings become unnecessary? When is it more of a habit than a necessity for survival?

Talk to Your Doctor

First and foremost, I always recommend collaborating with your medical doctor. They have been monitoring your child’s growth and development and will be able to offer insight into your particular child’s unique needs.

Your physician will likely evaluate the following along with you:

  • Is baby healthy, growing well and hitting developmental milestones appropriately?
  • If you’ve started solids, is baby accepting those well?
  • Current age and weight
  • Duration of night (when is bedtime, when is wake time)

Some information you can consider to contribute to the decision-making:

Is my baby:

  • eating well? (full, quality feeding as opposed to just snacking)
  • going back to sleep well? (settles back to sleep well as opposed to ready to party)
  • only waking to eat? (or waking many other times)

If the answer is no to any of the above, ask yourself if the night feeding limiting your child’s ability to sleep?  If the night feeding isn’t working, is it necessary to keep it?


There comes a point where you can help your child prioritize sleep at night and prioritize eating during the day. These are important strides in self-regulation. Self-regulation refers to several complex processes that allow children to appropriately respond to their environment.[1] There are many experts in child development that suggest self-regulation in eating and sleeping patterns are some of the first to emerge in children.[2] Skipping these important first steps in self-regulation can impact a child’s ability to self-regulate in thoughts, emotions and behaviours in later life.

There isn’t any one-size fits all approach to take. I don’t think there’s a cut off that “every baby” need to be fed through the night until they’re 12 lbs, 4 months or 1 year old.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for further posts on how to eliminate night feedings and why night weaning isn’t working for your family.



[1] Bronson, M.B. 2000. Self-Regulation in Early Childhood: Nature and Nurture.   New York: Guilford

[2] Owens, Judith. “The Assessment and Management of Common Behavioral Sleep Problems in Children.” The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, ON. 6 March 2015. Keynote Address.

About the author:

KristaGuenther Krista is a mother of 3 (+1 dog who believes she’s people), a wife to a wonderful husband, and the owner and founder of Sleeperific.  Even though she’s been in the sleep consulting biz for 4 years, she still feels excited and honoured when she’s hired by a sleepy family.
September 30, 2015
Contending with Bedtime Fears - Monsters Under The Bed

I’m regularly asked about how to contend with children’s fears, especially this time of year when Halloween decorations, creepy costumes and scary stories are making their way into your child’s daily experience.

“I’m afraid of the monsters under my bed” is the most common complaint I hear from families with preschoolers and beyond.  Monsters, or other fears, can cause delays at bedtime, but more often lead to night wakings and difficulty falling back asleep.

Well intending parents might use a “monster spray,” “no monsters allowed” signage or even do a magic spell to exterminate the monsters.  Think twice about using that approach.  When we validate monsters, we acknowledge they exist. Children deserve honesty, especially from their parents. Validate the fear, but not the existence of fictitious creatures.

Avoid teasing or using language like “big boys aren’t afraid” or “only babies get scared.” Feelings are always legitimate, especially feelings of fear. Older toddlers and preschoolers are developing vibrant and vivid imaginations.  Acknowledge their fears by using language like “I can see you are scared.”

Additional strategies for contending with monsters under the bed include:

  • As part of the bedtime routine, look through closets and under beds together.  Make the experience a fun one with a flashlight your child can use.
  • If there’s anything like a bed skirt, remove it.  At least for now.  Having a visual of the space will give them more confidence.
  • For a child that is showing fears of not just their bed, but their room, make sure to spend some positive time together in their room, playing.  Bring a special toy or activity you can do together.  Keep the experience positive.
  • Night lights can help, but can build shadows too. Bright night lights can limit melatonin production which can make sleep more restless and minds more anxious. Sometimes a dim light in a hallway outside their rooms, with a door ajar, is a “less scary” bet.
  • Tell your child you will check on them when they’re asleep. It’s a reminder that you’re always close and checking on them, even when they don’t think you are.
  • Eliminate screen time (including television, tablets and game devices) especially it’s late in the day.  3 year olds are highly imaginative. Even benign programming can have their imaginations running away.
  • Cut out any books that might be “scary”. You’re probably not doing a lot of “scary” anyway, but I have lots of families put away “Where the Wild Things Are” and similar books when contending with fears of monsters.
  • If they’re having bad dreams that they can articulate (this is often for kids who are more 4+ and have a better understanding of the concept of dreams), talk about the dream and how they can “re-imagine” their dream to have a positive outcome.
  • Discuss it matter of factly (away from bedtime) and see if you can get to the source.

One last suggestion: Feelings of nervousness and anxiety are normal feelings for children to encounter. Aim to have your reaction be calm and reassuring. Use of the word ‘scared’ often elicits a strong reaction from parents.  Don’t give fears more power by reacting strongly, or encourage regular use of the word “scared” to gain benefits that delay bedtime.



About the author:

KristaGuenther Krista is a mother of 3 (+1 dog who believes she’s people), a wife to a wonderful husband, and the owner and founder of Sleeperific.  Even though she’s been in the sleep consulting biz for 4 years, she still gets really excited when she’s hired by a sleepy family.
September 20, 2015
Identifying, navigating and preventing night terrors

Night terrors are not bad dreams. You might not even know that what you’re seeing from your child is a night terror the first time it occurs.

Typically occurring in children between 3 and 12 years of age, an estimated 1 to 6 percent of children experience terrors[1].

Some characteristics of night terrors include:

  • Timing: Early after onset of night sleep or in early morning when coming out of a deep sleep (Night terrors occur in non-REM stages of sleep)
  • Yelling, screaming, shouting
  • Thrashing, kicking, pushing away you or objects that aren’t there
  • Child appears anxious, fearful or panicked
  • Sweating, increased heart rate
  • May appear awake but will not be responsive
  • Most significantly: child has no memory of the event (if your child recalls the event, it was not a night terror)

Risk factors

  • Overtiredness and fatigue
  • Variable sleep schedule
  • Significant changes or stressors in a child’s life (beginning childcare, new school, change in family arrangements, new sleep environment, etc….)
  • Illness or fever
  • Family history of partial-arousal parasomnia ie: sleep walking

How to manage?

If your child has a terror, don’t disrupt them. Ultimately, going sleep will end the terror. Speaking to or touching your child unnecessarily will prolong the terror. Stay with your child, keep him or her safe, guide back to bed as necessary, but try to keep intervention which might disrupt sleep, to a minimum. If your child is getting up and walking around during their terror, consider a gate at their door or the top of stairs, and ensuring exterior doors are not easily opened.


The majority of night terrors are caused by overtiredness. That means if we can get the child MORE sleep, we can often prevent the terror from occurring. The easiest way to achieve more sleep is with an earlier bedtime, as little as 15 minutes can do the trick.  Be diligent about following regularity in your child’s schedule until the terrors have stopped.

If terrors occur with regularity at a particular time of day, you can gently rouse your child (just enough so they might sigh and roll over and go back to sleep) in the 30 minutes prior to the regular terror. The goal of this strategy is to disrupt the sleep cycles just enough to prevent the terror.

If terrors persist, and recur at least 3x per week, talk to your child’s doctor. There could be contributing factors to the night terrors, like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.


[1] Rosenberg, Robert S. Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day. New York: Demos Health, 2014. Print.


About the author:

KristaGuenther Krista is a mother of 3 (+1 dog who believes she’s people), a wife to a wonderful husband, and the owner and founder of Sleeperific.  Even though she’s been in the sleep consulting biz for 4 years, she still gets really excited when she’s hired by a sleepy family.
September 14, 2015

Season’s change is upon us. Kids are back to school, leaves are becoming more colourful and nights have a chill that we haven’t felt for months. With the arrival of cooler weather, we need to be dress baby for bed differently than we did in the warmth of summer.  But adding extra layers can be tricky when seasonal temperature changes are subtle.  How do we go about dressing baby for sleep?

I encourage parents to keep their bedrooms cool at night. If you’ve flipped your pillow over for the cool side, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Sleep is more likely when you’re not hot. Studies show the ideal room temperature for sleep is around 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit or 15.5 – 19 degrees Celsius.  Layer up with clothing and coverings from there. For safety reasons, it is very important that you not overdress your infant.  Over heating increases the risk of SIDS. It has also been shown that using a fan can decrease the risk of SIDS by over 70%.

Keeping children too cool can disrupt sleep, and obviously too warm can do the same.  So what should my baby wear to bed?

How do I go about dressing baby for sleep?

How to dress baby for a great night sleep

A tog is a warmth rating.  Think of each tog as a thin layer of cotton. If you use fleece sleepers or have a warmer sleep sack, you’ll likely want to leave a layer (or two) out.  Use caution if you need a hat on your infant as well for sleep.  It makes more sense to keep your home slightly warmer.

As always, trust your judgement and assess your child’s comfort when dressing your baby for bed.  There’s variability in humidity, the warmth of the layers, and with your child’s own internal thermostat.  Fingers which are cool to the touch might be ok, especially in young babies.  Infants aren’t terribly good at regulating their temperature.  Icy hands or cold feet are likely to disrupt sleep.


National Sleep Foundation


About the author:

KristaGuenther Krista is a mother of 3 (+1 dog who believes she’s people), a wife to a wonderful husband, and the owner and founder of Sleeperific.  Even though she’s been in the sleep consulting biz for 4 years, she still gets really excited when she’s hired by a sleepy family.



September 8, 2015
Car Seat Naps - What to do and how to avoid them

Studies show that 98% of car naps happen within 500 metres of arriving at your destination.*

(*Made up fact from a non-existent study.  Unless the study was observed by me, from my mini-van, as we’re turning onto our street.)

That same study* indicates 10 minutes of snoozing in the car will replace a 2 hour nap in the crib.

The accidental nap.  The unintentional snooze on-the-go.  Whoops-sleep.  Napcident. Whatever you decide to call it, each car (or stroller) nap presents you with a few options:

1. Continue driving  The earthy (and busy) part of me says forget it. You’re probably a parent who needs to hustle, just like the rest of us.  I need my kids nap times for clean up, meal prep, checking in with clients, etc… not driving aimlessly.

It’s worth noting that not all sleep is created equal.  Motion filled sleep in a car/stroller/carrier is not nearly as restful as quiet, dark, non-moving crib sleep.  Think of the last time you fell asleep in a moving vehicle and how well rested you felt when you awoke?! Quality suffers with naps on-the-go.

2. Park it  Assuming there’s not extreme weather in the winter or summer which would make this inappropriate, you might try parking your vehicle and trying to sustain the nap.  This it isn’t going to work if you have other awake children who need your attention, and it still isn’t going to allow you do much else but wait for your sleeping beauty to awaken (see number 1).

3. Transfer to their crib  This almost never works, except with the soundest of sleepers.

4. Nap Drill  Gently waking the child, any trying for a crib nap again later.

“But what’s a nap drill?”

If the snooze in the stroller or car seat has been under 20 minutes, gently wake your child.  Have lunch or snack if the timing is appropriate, and then play for at least 30 minutes, trusting you’re still within an hour of when your child would usually begin their nap.  Then move along to their room to go through your usual sleep routine.  We’re trying to build back that “sleep pressure” or fatigue by staying awake for that half hour.

If the nap has been longer than 20 minutes, you may find this little car snooze is a replacement for the nap they were supposed to have in their crib.  Very likely a nap drill will fail.  Simply move up the next nap or ensure bedtime is earlier.

Avoiding Car or Stroller Sleep

No matter how you look at it, this scenario is challenging to manage. Avoid car naps if possible by:

  1. Timing – Avoid trips around nap times, especially within the 30 minutes before nap time.
  2. Engagement – Chat with your baby or child, sing songs, turn up the radio and sing along or make like a tour guide and point out the scenery. Give a small toy or a book  as you’re buckling them in.  A small, minimally messy snack is a great option too.
  3. Automatic Windows – They let in fresh air and wind, but the mysterious opening and closing windows are interesting enough to stay awake.
  4. One more stop – If you notice someone nodding off, do a safe, quick pull over, or see if you can add one more brief errand or stop to your outing. Getting in and out of the car seat might be just enough to encourage more wakeful time.

Are car, stroller or carrier naps occurring every time you head out for a trip?  A child who is fairly well rested and getting an adequate amount of sleep doesn’t nod off in the car or stroller very easily. If your child is prone to unintentional naps-on-the-go, evaluate ways to get more quality sleep into your child’s schedule.



About the author:

KristaGuenther Krista is a mother of 3 (+1 dog who believes she’s people), a wife to a wonderful husband, and the owner and founder of Sleeperific.  Even though she’s been in the sleep consulting biz for 4 years, she still feels excited and honoured when she’s hired by a sleepy family.
June 23, 2015

Getting regular, restful sleep is absolutely crucial for mental health, but according to the 2003 National Survey of Children’s Health, 15 million children and teens aren’t getting enough. Learn more about how important sleep is for your children, and how you can help them get more of it.

Sleep and your child's mental health

Sleep and Mental Health

North American adults, teens, and children are all at risk of sleep deprivation, and it’s a big problem, because sleep deprivation is a risk factor for mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. As well as this, people with existing mental illnesses tend to suffer from sleep problems. This means there’s what’s known as a “bidirectional link” between sleep and mental illness: people who have sleep problems are more at risk of developing certain mental illnesses, and people with mental illnesses are likely to have insomnia and other sleep disturbances.

According to studies that examine brain chemistry and brain activity, getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis is important for mental acuity and emotional stability. For example people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be emotionally volatile, and to have reduced cognitive function that can negatively affect their work or school performance. If the problem isn’t addressed, sleep deprivation can easily turn into a vicious cycle where lack of sleep causes minor emotional or cognitive problems that exacerbate sleeping difficulties.

What Does this Mean for Your Child?

While the link between sleep and mental health has been well established in adults, it was only recently, in May 2015, that scientists confirmed the existence of a similar link in children. The study, carried out at the Norway University of Science and Technology, found that when young children have serious sleep problems, they have a higher risk of developing psychiatric problems during childhood.

The study looked at the sleeping routines of children as young as four, and concluded that four year old children with serious sleeping problems had a higher risk of developing psychiatric issues by as early as six years old. The most common sleep disorder children are affected by is insomnia; in the Norwegian survey, around 16.6% of four year olds were affected.

The study also found that the reverse was true: young children with psychiatric symptoms had a higher likelihood of developing sleep disorders than children who didn’t have psychiatric symptoms. This is especially true of ADHD, which causes sleep problems in up to 50% of children with the disorder.

What to Do if Your Child has Sleeping Problems

This doesn’t mean, of course, that all children with sleep problems will develop psychiatric symptoms or mental illnesses. For most children, as well as most adults, sleeping problems are transient, lasting only a few weeks or a few months. For children especially, establishing healthy regular sleep routines is difficult, even for children who don’t have actual sleep disorders. However, there’s a lot you can do to help your child establish a healthy sleep routine, and teach them about the importance of sleep.

  • Establish a set bedtime and try not to deviate from it.
  • Make sure their bed is comfortable and isn’t too hot or too cold.
  • Avoid distractions in the hour before bed, for example, with a “no TV/computer” rule. Instead, opt for bedtime stories or soothing music.
  • Kids sleep better when they spend time playing outdoors, so encourage your children to take part in sports or other outdoor activities.

Transient sleep issues are absolutely normal, and there’s typically no reason to be worried if your child has difficulty with a new bedtime or a change in sleeping habits. But if their problems persist for more than a few months, or get worse over time, then seeking help is definitely a good idea.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children’s Mental Health. Accessed June 9, 2015.

Child Development Institute. Child Psychology and Mental Health. Accessed June 9, 2015.

DA – Helping Children With Addiction. Helping an Addicted Child. Accessed June 9, 2015.

Eureka Alert Press Release. Children’s Sleep and Mental Health are Related. Silje Steinsbekk and Lars Wichstrøm (2015). Stability of Sleep Disorders From Preschool to First grade and Their Bidirectional Relationship With Psychiatric Symptoms. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: May 2015. Volume 36, Issue 4. pp 243-251.Accessed June 9, 2015.

Harvard Health Publications Newsletter (2009). Sleep and Mental Health. Accessed June 9, 2015.

Healthy Children. Sleep and Mental Health. Accessed June 9, 2015.


About the Author: Mel Rivers now works as an independent freelancer, before she did this she had a varied career in the health care sector. Prior to working in this sphere, she’d battled her own issues with addiction, and used her experiences to help deal with other people who were struggling, during the course of her day job. She works from home now, after becoming a mom to two girls.

June 9, 2015

How Summer can ruin your family's sleep... and how to keep it on trackAh summer. We Canadians wait ALL year for this kind of weather (certainly when comparing it to this). But summer can wreak havoc on child sleep schedules and routines. Here’s some ways summer impacts sleep, and real strategies you can use to try to keep you child on track.


Longer days, early mornings and late nights.  Sounds like a recipe for a great summer, but long term, that can cause trouble for sleep routines.  Pick up some of these or bring some black garbage bags (be prepared to double or even triple layer them) and painter’s tape if you’re travelling.  For those who are travelling to cottages this summer: The sun sets even later and rises earlier in the north and often cottages have bigger windows to enjoy the long days. Don’t let light delay bedtime or encourage an early morning riser.


Apparently 20 degrees is ideal for sleep, which seems far too cool for me, especially with those scorching summer days. Generally about 1 degree cooler than temperature in your home during the day is fine. Adjust your child’s clothing and coverings accordingly.


Late night barbeques at the neighbours, older children biking the streets, even the birds chirping in the early mornings can impact sleep. Mitigate with white noise.  There’s are dedicated white noise machines on the market, but you may be able to repurpose something already within your home.  An oscillating fan (set up out of reach, especially for children in beds), a dehumidifier, even a radio tuned to static with the volume quite low will work.


Travel is a great experience for your family and inevitably, sleep might be more difficult when you’re away from all the comforts of home. Bring what you can (within reason) to keep everyone comfortable.  As much as possible, try not to deviate too much from your regular sleep patterns. I certainly don’t want parents to feel they’re a slave to the sleep schedule while they’re trying to enjoy a vacation.

The biggest rule is to not undo all the good work you’ve been doing.  Some kids are pretty flexible but some aren’t. Trust your comfort zone but also your child and their ability to get back into their routines when you return home.

Have a great summer friends!

xoxo  Krista