Sleep Problems

I have changed the focus of the 3 year old original content (sleep problems in 5 year olds) in order to draw your attention to a societal problem for busy people.

A book, Sleep: The Complete Guide to Sleep Disorders and a Better Night's Sleep, ISBN 1552977889 , by Paul Caldwell MD, claimed research indicates people who consistently have excessive/insufficient sleep have shortened lifespans.

Like any statistics, there are exceptions. But for people who don't like to rely on luck, it is better not to cheat on sleep.

I am not sure whether extended sleep problems is a cause, or an effect of health problems. Anyone have research material to be shared?


Sleep related information advice from doctor at my workplace Sep04

Sleepy Driver quoted Centre for Sleep Research in Adelaide Australia info that after 17 hours of no sleep, driving would be equivalent to have blood alchohol level of 0.05. After 24 hours, it is equivalent to 0.10.

Alcohol Alcohol does not promote sleep as commonly believed. It lowers the quality of sleep, overloads and stimulates the bladder.

Sleeping tablets Use only as directed and never over long term.

Better quality of sleep and rest Minimum of 4 hours sleep but allow 7 hours in bed. Rest without sleep is still beneficial; take shower or relaxing bath before going to bed.

Notes on shift work The body clock does not permanently change to a different sleep/wake cycle even for those who work permanently at night. Note that chronic sleepiness or fatigue can cause problems with memory, judgement, reaction time and concentration.

Not from a doctor's advice, but from personal experience, I believe that inadequate physical activity also impedes quality sleep. In fact, contrary to accepted wisdom, I find that exertion just before bed helps. Try 20 pushups, and after that seems too easy, add another five, etc..

Purpose of Sleep

WikiPedia appear to have good articles (dicussions too) regarding Sleep. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Sleep.

Sleep problems in 5 year olds Your 5-year-old won't go to sleep until midnight, but is groggy when it's time to go to school. Your year-old wakes up every two hours for a bottle. Your three-year-old can only sleep in your bed, and you can't sleep when she's there.

All of these can reasonably be described as "sleep problems": a child's sleeping behaviors are adversely affecting the child's (or the parent's and thus the child's) waking hours.

An excellent (and controversial) book about what to do is Richard Ferber's Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems [ISBN 0671620991 ].

This book's contents are often misrepresented, which adds to the controversy. Ferber does NOT recommend allowing a child to scream, unattended, until it sobs itself to sleep; in fact, he says in no uncertain terms that this is a mistake. Ferber does NOT recommend applying his techniques to a child under six months old; infants below six months haven't formed patterns, and are too young to do so. Ferber is a professional researcher in human sleep; what he has to say is based on genuine expertise, not merely on strongly-held opinions.

The book contains two invaluable sections:

Much of the book is taken up by case histories. The great services the book did me were describing what is, and what is not, an abnormal sleep pattern, and reassuring me that it was genuinely good for the child to develop patterns that let me sleep too.

Now, to the controversial technique. Yes, Ferber does recommend allowing a child to cry. "Ferberizing" a child is no fun at all. But you don't let the child cry and cry and cry; you perform an appropriate bedtime ritual (stories, hugs, whatever works for your family), then firmly leave. When the child cries, you wait 5 minutes (or as long as you can bear to), come in, tell the child that you are there, you love it, but it is time to go to sleep, and then leave again. You do not repeat the bedtime ritual. You lengthen the interval between visits. The important things are (1) reminding the child that it is not abandoned and (2) allowing the child to fall asleep without your presence. Most parents find that they have only one or two bad nights before the child learns to go to sleep alone.

I used Ferber twice; once when my 7-month-old was completely unable to go to sleep without a several-hour ritual, and once when I was heavily pregnant with my second child, and my 3-year-old woke up (and woke me) every few hours from 9PM to 2AM. In both cases, Ferber's techniques saved my sanity.

If you never need this book, I'm glad for you. If you prefer a family bed, mazel tov. If you have problems sleeping, read the book, and decide it isn't for you, that's great. But if you have a child whose sleep patterns are keeping the household sleep-deprived, read this book before you decide it can't help you.

-- BetsyHanesPerry
My only problem with this approach is that it assumes that it is "normal" for a child to sleep in a separate room from the parent.

If by normal, we mean "common practice" then yes, it's normal. But if by normal, we mean natural ... then I am far from convinced.

I can't give references, but over the years I've read/heard too many reports about the low incidence of cot death etc in societies where communal sleeping is the norm. These societies are also usually closer to nature in many other ways as well.

We seem to be trying to find ways to let people continue behaviours which are convenient, rather than natural.

-- KeithDerrick

It would be difficult for me to say anything bad about this book. It has saved us several times with Alex, "The Boy Who Would Not Stay Asleep". Billy, his brother, also had minor problems 'getting' to sleep and with pacifiers - Ferber has solutions for that as well.

A must for parents. If you don't want to use his methods, fine, but you should at least read the book and learn about his theories of sleep for young children.

-- KenMeltsner
This book stopped me from going insane. My son went from no naps, a two hour going to bed ritual, only eight hours in bed per night, and getting up two or three times per night to sleeping twelve hours per night and taking an hour long nap every day. And it only took three days! People called my cruel, using the methods described in the book; but my son went from grouchy and unhappy to a happy, playful boy in just under a week. It took my wife and I two weeks just to learn how to sleep through the night again.

Ditto here on the sanity thing! We used it in 1987 for our first child. I think it was invaluable in training US (esp. my wife :) in helping the child deal with 'somewhat painful' realities, and convincing us that 'there really are things that we know to be good and true and that the child feels unhappy about'. BTW she was about 2 at the time. Subsequent children (3) were almost a non-issue because the concepts were applied much more gently but much earlier.

-- JohnClonts


Wow. Every once in a while I'm amazed to find something in wiki that I have totally missed. I had no idea this discussion was here.

We too, have used Ferber's book. It worked very well. Also, we've been referring back to it recently since Nathaniel has begun sleepwalking over the last couple of months. Get it if you have young children.

-- KyleBrown


For a different - less harsh - approach, see Nighttime Parenting by Dr. Sears [ISBN 0452281482 ].


I wouldn't describe Ferber's approach as harsh at all. It's firm but a very measured and loving approach.


Dr. Sears' approach, often called the FamilyBed, is IMSNHO, a better approach, given what we know of pre-industrial human societies. -- Pete Hardie

A friend told me that he tried this method - 1st 5 minutes, then 10, then .... after a couple of weeks my friend had trained HIMSELF to suffer 2 hours before going to his kid .... NissimHadar


On a related note, I have inherited some code recently that has about 50 calls to the Sleep() function - most of them occur inside loops. Quite annoying to weed them all out one by one.


Part of a potential PartnerPatternsLanguage


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