February 19, 2015
Why is my kid waking so early?!

This is easily one of parent’s biggest pain points about sleep. The early morning riser. The kid who is up at the crack of ridiculous and is eager to take on the day.  All you’re eager for at 5AM is to finish your dream sequence where you went to the grocery store and bathroom alone.

Why is my kid waking so darned early?

How to contend with early morning wakings

Let’s qualify early. Babies and children (up until adolescence) are predisposed to wake early. 5:30AM and 7AM are biologically normal and appropriate times of day for babies and children to wake. This means those little bodies could be perfectly well rested and ready to go. Generally speaking, kiddos who are up before 5:30AM are waking TOO early.

Why are early mornings so common?

There are aspects of sleep that we, the parents, can easily control. We can give kids awesome environments, appropriate bedtime, great routines and generally set them up to be successful with their sleep. But we lose a bit of the control after that… when a child wakes is simply an aspect of sleep we don’t get to decide.

If my baby wakes in the early morning, why can’t we all go back to sleep?

Going back to sleep after an early morning waking (anything after 4AM) is hard! We’re designed to sleep well at night because of our underlying circadian rhythms. But those start to lift as early as 4AM.  Meaning the biological drive to wake becomes stronger than the biological drive to sleep. Even with an early morning waking, the majority of sleep needs for the night are starting to be met. Perhaps you’re in a region where the sun starts sneaking up very early. All of those factors mean a big fat chance for you or your child to go back to sleep in the early mornings.

So why is my kiddo waking so early?

Some primary reasons for early morning wakings that I see:

Lack of sleep skills: The child is put to bed asleep or quite drowsy at nights and possibly for naps. They have never really practiced or strengthened their independent sleep skills. When that child wakes in the early morning, they don’t have the sleep skills to put themselves back to sleep.

Over tiredness: Too late bedtimes, disruptive night wakings or missed naps will cause early morning risings. What? Stay with me. Overtiredness actually is a cause for early risings. Kids who are overtired have a MORE difficult time going to sleep and staying asleep. When an overtired child wakes, it’s their overtiredness that makes it hard to for them to go back to sleep. Remember that this isn’t logical, this is biological.

Triggers: Sunlight, neighbours going off to work, coffee maker presets, alarm clocks, furnaces starting up – look for the triggers and do what you can to mitigate them by optimizing your child’s sleep environment.

Validation: Early morning feedings, screen time (television, tablets, computers), crawling into bed with Mama or Dad. These are just examples, but if you think there’s some incentive system which might be in place for you kiddo to be waking early, consider a change up to your morning routine.

It’s a habit: They’ve been doing this for a long time and are accustomed to an early start to their day. The longer these early risings are habits, the more difficult they are to change.

How to make the swing back to later mornings?

Understand if it’s a reasonable early (your child is waking well rested) or if your child is waking because of one of the reasons above. Consider a behavioural clock for older toddlers or preschoolers.  From there, continue to be kind and firm, while exercising plenty of patience and consistency. Extending mornings IS possible when you’ve addressed all the right factors.

December 31, 2014
new year resolution

Be a more fabulous, well rested version of yourself!

I’ve never been much for new year’s resolutions. Since becoming a parent, I’ve become increasingly sentimental. Year end is when I take stock of the time passed, and reaffirm the hopefulness I have for myself and my family in the future.

At the top of my resolution list is better sleep, mostly for myself (and of course continued sleep for the rest of my family). As a mother of three (plus a dog who thinks she’s people), along with running my own small business, my sleep quantity and quality is often compromised. And I KNOW how important sleep is, but I still allow it to slide. I wanted to remind you (and myself!) that sleep is not a luxury enjoyed by the lazy, the inefficient or unproductive. Quite the opposite: sleep is an absolute necessity to bring out the best in you and your family.

Here’s 4 ways sleep make us better, which are good reasons you should be sleeping better too:

Sleep makes your healthier – There’s a growing body of scientific literature which  links heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, compromised immune function and obesity to poor quality and quantity of sleep through sleep deprivation studies.  Longer term studies (consistently going without adequate sleep for years, decades) are just starting to uncover how our lack of sleep can cause disease or cause disease to worsen.

Sleep makes you smarter – Sleep leads to more brain power in a couple different ways. Without sufficient sleep, it’s difficult to focus on the task at hand, which inhibits the ability to learn. Added to that, sleep plays an important role in consolidating memory, which we all need to learn new information and skills. And that’s just what’s been observed in grown-ups.  Those tiny, precious, developing minds in children, where brains are doubling! tripling! in size in a matter of years… sleep is a much more precious commodity.

Sleep makes you happier – I’m the first to admit being pleasant and patient is downright impossible really hard after a poor night.  I’m not alone in feeling grumpy, temperamental and listless after a lack of sleep. Compromised sleep is a risk factor for depression (and depression is a risk factor for compromised sleep… vicious cycle). This is a great video which ties together items 2 and 3 in this list.

Sleep makes you better at everything else – In order to make good on all those other resolutions, you need to sleep well first. Admit that your sleep has far reaching impacts.  Whatever you want plenty of, less of, or to excel at in 2015, sufficient sleep will help you meet your goals.

“The way to a more PRODUCTIVE,
more INSPIRED  and
more JOYFUL life is getting enough sleep.”

Arianna Huffington

From my family to yours, I wish you a productive, inspired, joyful and sleep-filled 2015.

xxoo Krista

Use the hashtag #sleeperific2015 to tell us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest YOUR personal sleep tips to help make 2015 a better rested one for you and your family.  I’ll retweet, repost and share my favourites!

December 21, 2014

How Winter Affects Our SleepHow Winter Affects Our Sleep

Without question, seasonal changes impact our sleep. Here are 4 ways the winter gives sleep the cold shoulder, but some tips on how you can keep your family’s rest in check all winter long.

1. Lack of Light – Darker days are upon us, especially for our friends in very northern locations. Let’s remember that darkness boosts production of melatonin in our bodies. Melatonin is a hormone we ALL produce, but our bodies produce more of in the absence of light. Increased darkness and melatonin production can mean we feel unusually sleepy and sluggish.

Sleeperific Tip: Ensure exposure to light each and every day, especially in the mornings upon morning rising, or the time you would like to encourage rising. Consider using broad spectrum UV light bulbs for particularly dark and/or dreary locations.

2. Cold, dry air – The cold air outside is already dry, then add to it the affects of drying heat inside homes. Both of these types of air dry out our mucous membranes, making a great opportunity for germs and viruses to enter our bodies, but dry nose, throat and mouth make sleep increasingly difficult.

Sleeperific Tip: Encourage your family to drink lots of fluids. Consider humidifying the air in your home or bedrooms. Choose a cool mist humidifier (warm mist humidifiers are breeding grounds for bacteria) which can be easily cleaned.  Pajamas and bedding choices should be seasonally appropriate.

3. Eating Habits – Summer months tend to bring an abundance of fresh foods but winter months tend to focus on a different type of fare. Calorie rich foods often start with Halloween, and carry through Hanukah, Christmas, New Year’s and even on to Valentine’s Day.  Heavy meals, especially late in the day can disrupt sleep by increasing reflux in prone bodies, but also impacting sleep quality by having an active digestive system.

Sleeperific Tip: Being hungry can disrupt sleep as much as being over-full. Encourage eating big meals at least 2 hours before bedtime for older children, possibly with a small, healthy snack before bed.

4. Decreased Activity Levels – Combine the shortened daylight hours with bone chilling temperatures, and we’re all prone to hibernate.  We’re less likely to get outside for physical activity, especially with our children.

Sleeperific Tip: Prioritize time for even short bursts of physical activity during the light hours of the day. Consider moving activities indoors with child friendly gymnasiums and indoor play centres.

December 3, 2014

One of the first things I try to assess when I work with a new family is the child’s fatigue level. How much sleep does that child need? These are some of the aspects of sleep I look at to determine if that child is well rested, or if he/she could be logging a few more hours of zzzs. Primarily, I ask about two things that parents can typically give me an indication of:

Quantity of Sleep – In a 24 hour period, how many of those are spent asleep? Approximately 90% of babies and children will fall into these ranges. About 5% of kids need more, about 5% of kids need less sleep than what is indicated. It’s not going to fit each and every child, but ranges of “normal” are helpful.

Quality of Sleep – Is the baby or child having long, restful stretches (depending on the age, this may still include wakings for feedings) and regular/predictable naps? We all know that a night of broken sleep is not nearly as restful as a night of consolidated sleep. Without longer, consolidated stretches of sleep, it’s unlikely that child can be well rested.

Some other “fatigue symptoms” to consider include the following list. It’s not necessarily just one factor to consider, but the combination of all of these together:

signs of tiredness
1) Falling asleep in their car seat or stroller, even when it’s not around nap/bedtime or on the shortest trips.
2) Waking from naps or in the morning grumpy.
3) Difficulty waking the child in the morning.
4) Early morning risings (generally before 5:30AM) or possibly other night wakings which aren’t related to hunger.
5) “Tired but wired” behaviour. The child appeared drowsy earlier, but as the day or evening wears on, the child is energetic, having trouble settling, lying quietly for their nap or bedtime (think along the lines of a second wind).
6) Fussiness/clingy, general mood decline, especially in the late afternoon or early evening.

If you feel any your children (or you!) aren’t getting adequate rest, consider what you can do to start getting more sleep into your families daily routines. Fatigue and exhaustion doesn’t need to be a way of life for your child or your family.

November 26, 2012


The nurse who works the night shift, the university student who parties into first rays of daylight (this may or may not have applied to me in a past life), the traveler traversing time zones and the professional pulling an all-nighter to meet a deadline have all felt the repercussions of manipulating our bodies natural rhythms.

Circadian rhythms were first documented in early 18th century France by a scientist experimenting with plants. He noticed that these plants opened and closed their leaves, even when kept in complete darkness (Source). Since then much research has been done, but it all proves that there are forces at work, within all living things, functioning much like a clock. When I talk to my Sleeperific families about circadian (or biological) rhythms, I’m always trying to convey this major point:

There are optimal times for our bodies to rest and wake.

One of the most important drivers of our circadian rhythms are day and night (light and dark) cycles.


So what does this mean for my kid?

Circadian rhythms means there are ideal times for our bodies to be sleeping. We will obtain the best benefits from sleep and our bodies will be most willing to go and stay asleep when we sleep in phase with circadian rhythms. When consulting with families, I try to maximize sleep by taking advantage of the natural “wave” that children experience throughout their day. I ensure they’re sleeping at ideal times and not trying to go to sleep when their bodies are telling them to wake. There’s a bunch of other stuff involved with the plans I put together for families, but working within our biology is a vital component.

It’s important for parents to recognize that these biological rhythms do not really emerge until a baby is closer to four months of age. Prior to then, babies are just too immature to have established rhythms. Although there are other (and other) things we can do to encourage healthy sleep for infants, but worrying about ideal sleep rhythms isn’t relevant in these very early stages.