Sleep! It’s a topic that’s on pretty much every parent’s mind. We’ve already looked at this from a cultural perspective, where we learned our Western approach to sleep is by no means universal, and that this can result in quite a few of the problems we face in getting our children to sleep.
In this episode we dive deep into the practicalities of sleep with Dr. Chris Winter, who has practiced sleep medicine and neurology since 2004. His first book, The Sleep Solution, Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How To Fix It (affiliate link) was focused on adults’ sleep challenges, and I’ve been putting the ideas in it into practice and have been getting better sleep as a result.
His new book is The Rested Child: Why Your Tired, Wired, or Irritable Child May Have a Sleep Disorder–And How to Help (affiliate link), and is based on Dr. Winters’ almost two decades of experience of evaluating children in the sleep clinic that he founded.
We’ll look at ways that you can get more sleep (or maybe even more rest that feels almost as restful as sleep), whether you can shift your (or your child’s!) sleep patterns, how to banish bedtime struggles for good, and so much more!
This episode is for all parents, but especially for those who are expecting or have a child under the age of one, and who are desperately trying to get more sleep (or worried about being in that phase of life in the near future!). We’ll help you get started on the right foot so you can know you’re doing the best for your child – and for yourself as well.
If you are expecting or have a child under one and you’d like to join the Right From The Start course to help you find the path that’s right for you and your child on sleep and feeding and independent play and brain development and not lose yourself in the process, then we’d love to have you join us.
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Dr. Chris Winter’s Books:
The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It (Affiliate links).
Parenting Beyond Power
The wait is over! I’m thrilled to announce that Parenting Beyond Power is now available for you to explore.
Discover practical insights and fresh perspectives that can make a positive difference in your parenting journey.
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Click here to read the full transcript
Jen Lumanlan 00:02
Hi, I’m Jen and I host the Your Parenting Mojo podcast. We all want our children to lead fulfilling lives. But it can be so hard to keep up with the latest scientific research on child development and figure out whether and how to incorporate it into our own approach to parenting. Here at Your Parenting Mojo, I do the work for you by critically examining strategies and tools related to parenting and child development that are grounded in scientific research and principles of respectful parenting. If you’d like to be notified when new episodes are released, and get a free guide called 13 reasons why your child won’t listen to you, and what to do about each one, just head over to yourparentingmojo.com/subscribe. You can also continue the conversation about the show with other listeners and the Your Parenting Mojo Facebook group. I do hope you’ll join us.
Jen Lumanlan 01:00
Hello, and welcome to the Your Parenting Mojo Podcast. Today we’re going to talk about a topic that I know interests parents everywhere and that is sleep. We’ve already covered this on the show from the perspective of looking at cross-cultural ideas about sleep. But today we’re here with an expert who’s going to give us some practical ideas about how to get more sleep. Now I know that sleep is an important topic to parents with children of all ages, but it’s especially important to expecting parents and those with newborns. And if that describes you right now, I also wanted to let you know that the Right From The Start course is reopening for enrollment on Sunday, October 24th. I run this course with the amazing Hannah and Kelty of the upbringing podcast. And I truly love doing it with them. Because our skill sets complement each other so well. I bring all the research-based information you’ve come to expect from this show as well as 100 hours of coaching, training, and a good deal of experience in coaching parents over the years. And they bring a lot of training and topics relevant to new parents. But the reason that I wanted to work with them specifically on the course is that they’re trained in resources for infant educators or RIE methods, but they aren’t RIE associates, which means they help parents to take what they find useful out of RIE rather than seeing it as a prescriptive set of tools. And of course, as twins themselves and being the parents of four children between them, they’ve just about seen it all from the perspective of siblings, so they can offer a lot of guidance to parents who aren’t new at the parenting thing, but who also know that they can’t do things the same as they did them with their previous child, or they don’t want to do them like that. So the course has 10 modules and runs over nine weeks, all of the content is available in video and audio, and there are transcripts as well so you can learn in the way that you learn best. We have a supportive community of parents who are on this journey with you that isn’t on Facebook. And we also meet for group coaching calls regularly as well. The parents who have taken the course tell us that they got the knowledge they knew they needed, but what they didn’t even know they needed was the community of parents who really do get to know each other and us as well on the coaching calls, who offer support and guidance related to whatever struggles we’re facing during this period in our lives from trying to figure out who you are as a person with a newborn to your shifting relationship with your partner, and your own parents as well to navigating difficult sibling behavior. We cover it all. So if you’re expecting a child or you have one under one year old, the right from the start course was designed for you and I’m as I’m sure you can tell, it doesn’t mean that we’re going to tell you the one right way to raise a child but rather to help you find the right way for you. So once again, enrollment is open starting Sunday, October 24th. And we start as a group on Monday, November 8th, you can learn more and sign up at yourparentingmojo.com/rightfrom thestart. So our guest today Dr. Chris Winter is a board-certified neurologist and a double board-certified sleep specialist who is in private practice in Charlottesville, Virginia. He consults with athletes on improving their sleep and his first book The Sleep Solution: Why your sleep is broken and how to fix it, was geared towards adults’ challenges with sleep. His new book just published in August is called the Rested Child: Why your tired wired and irritable child may have a sleep disorder and what to do about it. So today we’re going to talk about sleep for children, sleep for parents’ and sleep for everybody. Welcome, Chris. It’s so great to have you here.
Dr. Winter 04:20
Thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor.
Jen Lumanlan 04:24
So I would like to start by addressing the elephant in the room because I know that parents who are listening to this I want to know your stance on these topics because they want to know if this person’s approach is aligned with things that I believe about sleeping, about raising my children, and about my values and beliefs. So bed-sharing. I will say that I found your approach in the book to be a little bit flippant and I will quote what you said, “We used to sleep piled on top of one another in a cave, I suppose. But we also used to banish people with leprosy and smoke cigarettes in operating rooms. We evolve.” And that to me sort of implies the only backwards people in backwards countries, you haven’t yet seen the light in the sort of Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic approach to sleep, they’re just, you know, our approach is clearly superior, and they’re missing out on some important development. When actually I know the research has shown that people who live in those countries, you asked them about their children’s sleep problems, and they’re like, “What sleep problems?” So tell me more about your stance on bed sharing and where that came from, and what you believe about it.
Dr. Winter 05:30
Sure. So, I think it’s important to define evolve, because you’re putting a judgment on it, when in fact, evolve just means take something that’s simple and make it more complicated. And we do that very well in this country. I used to be able to fix my own car, I cannot do that anymore, because the cars have evolved to the point now where it doesn’t allow that to happen. So I do think that sleep was very simple in the past, and it’s become very complicated. People did sleep in one room at some point in the past, and now you have a nice house in Gwinnett County, you know, Atlanta, and every one of your seven kids have their own bedroom and their own situation. So I’m not here to pass judgment on anything, my stance on co-sleeping is, you do what’s right for your family and your children, I don’t really have an opinion on it one way or the other. Outside of two things. One, I do think that it is important to be careful with little children when you sleep with them just out of a danger perspective and I don’t think that’s particularly radical, although I do think it took a while for the American Academy of Pediatrics to really come out with a position on it just because of this kind of, you know, feelings about it. It’s deeply personal to people the way they sleep, so I personally believe that it’s probably not a great idea to sleep in a bed with a child under the age of one. Just because, you know, I think that we have seen bad outcomes. I’ve seen, I think, as of today, 32,233 people in my clinic, and four of them have had issues where children have perished in the night because of a family member role on top of them. That’s a very, very, very small percentage, far less than what you know, would be quoted for SIDS. So to me if a parent understands that, and it’s very important to them to take that risk. I’m not really here to judge that. I can say that of the people that we spoke to when that happened, including a family member of somebody who works for me, it was deeply traumatic, and something that they never wanted to repeat again. I think that’s different, though, then a family bed or co-sleeping, I mean, I think that’s a very different situation. The other bias that I have is that of those 32,000 people that have come to my clinic, I have yet to encounter somebody who says, “I’m sleeping with all four of my children and it’s going great. I just wondered if you give me some tips on how to make it even better.” The vast majority of people that we’re seeing are sort of the opposite. It’s like help us to make the situation that we’ve chosen, which is to not have a child in bed with us, more functional and better. So I’m here to support anybody. I think that the people who are co-sleeping and doing well with it, don’t really have to see me or by the book. And I think co-sleeping can be really helpful because when you look at some of the disorders of sleep that we talked about in the book, there’s sort of a mystery to the parent or parents that aren’t with their children until they share the hotel room, until they go to grandmother’s house, and share a bed because grandma has one spare bedroom, where they’re like, “Dear God, my child does this thing at night. We had no idea.” So, you know, even if you’re somebody who believes not, you’re not in co-sleeping, it might not be a bad idea once a month to kind of check-in like, “We’re all sleeping together to make sure we’re not harboring bad sleep problems.” And so anyway, I think and then the only other thing I would say that again, there’s a selection bias here too, is that when kids come to have sleep studies apparent we make a parent accompany them. And so our sleep centers and hotels, it’s very comfortable that the child has a bed and the parent has a bed in this you know Hotel it truly, it’s a Hilton Hotel. It’s amazing how many times the parent is the one diagnosed with the sleep problem. The tech will say, “The kids are okay, dad is suffocating 38 times an hour kind of thing,” so I do sometimes wonder if, you know, if you’re going to co-sleep it might be a good idea to make sure your sleep is really healthy and positive before you subject your child to it, but that’s a small percentage, probably.
Jen Lumanlan 09:52
Yeah. Okay, cool. Well, thanks for clarifying that. And I guess my stance on co-sleeping has always been, I don’t believe It’s currently being itself, it’s necessarily dangerous. It’s currently being in the way that we tend to do it in this country, on a soft bed with a duvet and pillows and above the level of the floor, so the child could potentially roll off the bed. There is some potential danger of rolling onto the child, but my hypothesis based on the research that I have read is that the danger of that happening is much less than the danger of the child suffocating from a pillow or from getting a duvet on them, or rolling off the bed, or something else happening that’s based on the practices that we use when we sleep. And that if we didn’t use those practices, if we use practices that are more like the practices used where people do co-sleep routinely, then chances are that would be much, much less dangerous. Do you agree with that perspective?
Dr. Winter 10:50
Yeah, that’s probably very true. You know, a lot of the things that we talked about in terms of having bumpers and cribs, and soft pillows, and stuffed animals, you know, really having a hard surface and a simple surface, and, you know, just and creating things that make you as the parent comfortable, or we co-slept with our kids, they were just in a little bassinet, kind of like you described next to our bed just because I am not interested in sleeping on the floor, even though it might be better. And I know from experience that my wife would sometimes say, it’s truly disturbing how deep, deeply you sleep sometimes, because she’s been screaming for 30 minutes, and you haven’t moved to the point where when I was in residency, my wife would not let me be at home with the kids while I was sleeping unless I was sleeping literally on the floor, as you said, in the nursery away from them, so they could like throw stuff out of the nursery onto my head to wake me out just because I was always, even just kind of on a couch, which is the worst place you sitting there watching TV and you kind of drift off with them on your stomach, like, I was always very paranoid about that. Absolutely. But I would agree with everything you said.
Jen Lumanlan 12:03
Okay, I can fully empathize with your wife, too.
Dr. Winter 12:07
Yeah, she really feels like I mean, I probably shouldn’t announce this. But if people came into the house and announced at night, I would be no help in terms of dealing with the situation. I’m not sure what she thinks I could do in that situation but might be better to sleep through it. I don’t know.
Jen Lumanlan 12:22
Yeah, maybe. And then you do sort of casually toss out this idea that if we start out co-sleeping, then children are going to refuse to sleep on their own later. And you have this little footnote that says, “Sweetie, can you take your laptop somewhere else to do your calculus homework? Daddy and I need to sleep.” And I have this statistic that quotes a paper that “researchers suggest co-sleeping children slept fewer hours had more sleep disturbances and bedtime resistance, more behavioral and emotional problems than independent sleepers,” but that study involved school-aged children, and also found that the anxiety and nighttime fears predicted co-sleeping rather than the co-sleeping was generating anxiety and fears. So it seemed to me as though it was unlikely that co-sleeping was going to cause behavioral and emotional problems, which is what I understood when I was reading that in your book. What do you think about that?
Dr. Winter 13:10
I don’t think it causes it. Again, it’s just a matter of what does the parent want? And most parents are probably not letting those it’s sort of like, oh, no, I remember having a conversation about parents when they said you’re too old for a blanket. I have no idea why they chose that particular Tuesday to just take it away from me. My guess is at some point, I would have not been that interested in the blanket, we never told our kids to stop. We call them booze. Okay, no more booze because you’re this particular age. So again, I think the footnote was more in line with at some point, parents are like, we don’t want to let this sort of play out naturally, I have no doubt in my mind that it always does. I mean, I’ve never met a family who said, “He’s 17. He’s still in the bed with us and we really just losing our patience. So to me, that’s more about at some point, most co-sleeping families that are coming to see us have decided we’re done with it; It’s affecting our intimacy, and we want to have some time by ourselves at the end of the night that don’t involve the kids in the bed with us. I had an NBA player that had two children in bed, one went to bed every 3rd or 4th nights and he was like, “This is affecting my career because I’m having to get up and change sheets every night. My wife is like that’s okay, because this is what we’re going to do.” So, again, these are probably true, It’s just I think it’s hard to find some parents with the courage to let it play out. They kind of want their lives back. And to your point, that’s a big problem when it comes to sleep, I mean, one of my mentors said, you know, most kids sleep problems are parents’ sleep problems, and it’s an expectation that we have of our kid that’s not meeting our needs, “I’ve got a lot of work to do. And I’m falling behind and watching episodes of white lotus. So I gotta get this kid in her bed so I can do what I need to do.” If your expectation is they can be in bed with me, they might sleep, they might not, everything. Even adult sleep gets better. So a lot of what we’re managing is now, that’s why you said what is your stance on sleep training, I love that term as if we’re doing like, the parents that didn’t train their kids to sleep and now they can’t, you know, I mean, it’s, it’s not swimming, for God’s sakes, like they’re going to sleep, they may sleep differently than what you would expect or on a different schedule. But the idea that we’re training them, we’re just kind of guiding some little parameters here and there. So it’s interesting the way we think about these things, kids are good sleepers and good eaters, and good breeders and good drinkers, like we just kind of need to step back and let it happen and be on the lookout for problems in those areas. But our dominion over the situation, I think, is a lot less than what we think it is.
Jen Lumanlan 16:00
Yeah, and I wanted to translate what you’re saying into language that I think will be familiar to people who are longtime listeners of the show, we’re really talking about needs here. And if the parents’ need is being met, and the child’s needs being met by whatever situation you’re sleeping in, then you really don’t have a sleep problem. Even.
Dr. Winter 16:19
Or any problem. I don’t want to stay out late. Well, we don’t want you to stay out late there. We don’t have a problem with you staying out. I mean, like, you’re absolutely right. And that balance is important. But I think it should have always been towards the child, you know, in my opinion, I mean, not to the point where you’re hurting relationships and upsetting people, but, you know, sometimes a child’s needs are just they supersede that, and if you don’t like that, that’s okay. Maybe children aren’t your thing. That’s fine. That’s okay.
Jen Lumanlan 16:50
Yeah, okay. All right. So you touched on sleep training. And so specifically on the method of crying it out, where you train a child to stop calling out in the night by not going into your room. And I was really pleased to hear you distinguish between what you call the gentle weep. And that hysterical hyperventilating screen with purple face and bulging forehead vein that happens when a kid’s really hurt or upset, because I think it is really important to distinguish between those two things, and maybe parents who are expecting or they have a newborn, and they’re still learning how to do that, and may not yet realize that there actually are many different kinds of cries, and you can distinguish between them. And so you say trust your instincts, you’re going to know when to intervene but then in the very next sentence, you said, you need to pick a time interval that you’ll wait before going back into the room to console the child. And so I’m just trying to figure out how those two things fit together in terms of what we’re actually doing when a child is having trouble getting to sleep.
Dr. Winter 17:45
Well, to me, it’s sort of that again, that set point that even if the child would just kind of gently weeping or calling out, you know, or something that I wanted to have some sort of guideline in my mind, I mean, again, I’ll go in every 30 seconds if we need to do that. So to me, it’s just kind of a matter of he’s in a place where he’s okay, but he’s kind of upset, we’ve got that feeling of it’s not that hyperventilation, or he’s thrown up in his bed, he’s face down in it, and could I push it another 20 seconds, just to kind of stretch that out a little bit. But sometimes you can’t. So to me, it’s more of a, not only a guideline of what to do, but a guideline, hopefully, that allows a parent to say, “You know what, when we started this, we couldn’t even start the clock before because he was so upset by the time we walked out. And now he’s routinely going probably 10 or 20 minutes before that happens.” It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s there. And I just think that when the kid is little, and those things are kind of being done, again, there’s that expectation, if you’re kind of like, I have nothing planned tonight. It’s like, there’s a Great Mad About You episode that kind of did that Helen Hunt and Paul riser, it was all shot in one take, and they were kind of sitting outside waiting for her to make those little sounds, and they were kind of talking it was just a really cute little episode. But I think when you kind of set it up that we’re gonna have a night where we’re just going in and out of this bedroom and you know, maybe we could answer an email or plan out something for something here, but this is what we’re going to do. I think things go much better. So, you know, it’s just a rough guideline, I wouldn’t say, well, he’s screaming, but we still have 45 seconds left. No, I think you should go in there and do it. And the more you do it upfront, the probably the quicker it’s going to happen because you got to understand that you’re always there. You’re never far away. And you know, and again, if somebody says I don’t really want to do that, I’d rather just have the baby in bed with me and never even experienced this purple, full bulging vein thing, again, that’s fine if that’s what you need and that’s what you want. That’s great. You may never hear it, you know, but I just remember those days very clearly if it would kind of start off with this kind of like you like, and sometimes it would go away, and that would be that, and other times it would just kind of build. And yeah, I think it’s better actually to intercept early because when they get really upset and wound up that can interfere with sleep, just the anxiety and cortisol of all that situation can make it harder on yourself, so probably better just to jump in there early.
Jen Lumanlan 20:26
Yeah, and I think the really, the key part is, is having expectations that are aligned with what your child can actually do. Some children are going to go to sleep by themselves in that room, fine. And other children are not going to be able to do that. And if your expectation is that your child will be able to do that, and your child actually isn’t capable of doing that, then those misaligned expectations are going to set you up for a whole world of pain.
Dr. Winter 20:49
Yeah, just in me, I was talking about that at a lecture recently, I mean, one of my worst parenting moments was that situation. My second child was born when I was in residency, and I was just, I was not in a healthy place and not getting enough sleep, and I was like, “Oh you go do something, I’ll take care of him, we’re just going to take a nap together, and he was in his bassinet, safe. I’m not going to roll onto him. And he just was not going to sleep. And I remember getting home when my wife got home, I said, “He’s an idiot,” I just, and we looked at each other and I was like, “I can’t believe I just said that about our child, this poor little six-month-old or whatever.” But I just think that again, it was just such a terrible misalignment of what I needed and what I expected, you know, versus what he could actually do isn’t do anything wrong. He’s not an idiot. He just wasn’t ready to sleep in that moment, for whatever reason, and that problem is a parent problem. Not a child problem.
Jen Lumanlan 21:47
Yeah, for sure. Okay, cool. Well, thank you for clarifying that. And I think that people who are listening and watching can kind of exhale and say, “Okay, yes, I’m on board with this. And now I can relax into the rest of this now that I see a line here.” So thank you for that. So let’s, let’s start to go through some of the main ideas in the book. And you talk about the amount of sleep that people need at different ages and how this varies. And I think the way that we often think about it isn’t terribly helpful, so what would you tell us about the amount of sleep that we need at different ages and what should we understand about that?
Dr. Winter 22:26
Yeah, I think that western medicine doesn’t do a great job of differentiating you from an average, you know, that’s kind of what we learn. The average person has a gallbladder underneath their liver on this side of their body, well, there are people out there whose liver is on the other side of their body, doesn’t make them wrong or right, just a little bit different. So if you think 100% of people have their liver on that side of the body, you’re going to make a big mistake at some point coming up. So you know, I think that with sleep, we do that very poorly and I think it comes from the fact that we have a lot of interest in sleep, but the magazine only has about 350 words for that article. So what’s so great about podcasts, and I would just back behind the scenes of your viewers like we were having some back and forth and emails, I don’t know if I want to have you on my show, because I’m concerned about your and I was like, “This is so great like she’s got an opinion. We’re gonna get into this,” like, it’s not just your great and you’ve got two board certifications, which is kind of a joke, but that’s it’s not a funny one. But anyway, so the challenging of certain things and sharing ideas is what makes a podcast so great versus a writer who writes up. And God knows they’re just doing their job. How much sleep should a kid get? And you can tell they don’t really want to talk about it. I just need you to tell me real quick so I can write this little 350 word thing for this magazine, it’s nothing wrong with that. But I often find myself sort of incapable of answering a question. So sleep needs a tough one because number one, it’s changing all the time, even in us. And if you look at like the National Sleep Foundation’s, you know, short on sleep average, you see from the time they’re born, until you’re senior citizen getting the early bird special to the cafeteria, it’s like this constant reduction in sleep. And there’s a lot of debate is that normal? What accounts for that? What makes that happen? We know growth hormone is secreted primarily in deep sleep. Deep Sleep is sort of that driver of the diminishment. We have about the same light sleep and REM sleep as we go through our life. But that deep sleep is diminishing and it makes kids grow, it makes us healthy. It’s probably a big reason why we age as we get older. But in addition, if you just look at one particular age category, the infants are the one that fascinates me, because there can be an eight-hour difference between my child of that age group and yours which is why parents should never talk to other parents who have children like it should be. You’re not allowed like you’re not allowed to compare your sleep or ever talk about that. It’s like talking about your kids SATs scores, you would never do that with another parent, why would you talk about their sleep? So those things are so individualized and what starts to happen is that we start to worry when we have children on that shorter end, because of everything you’ve just said. It’s expectation. My expectation is that the Ryan Reynolds Blake Lively book on sleeping kids, their kid is beautiful, and sleeps 14 hours a night, so I’m going to set my schedule up to make my child sleep 14 hours. And it doesn’t work because nobody ever asked the question, what does my child specifically need? And we do a good job of talking about that, I think maybe with food. I’ve never seen an article that says how many calories you should be eating because I think there’s an insinuation that what do you do? Well, I’m a long-distance runner, and I’m five foot one, or I’m a bodybuilder and I’m 6’6 or I’m a senior citizen, and I’m an 18-year-old, like, so those caloric needs can change radically depending on circumstances and genetics. But we don’t seem to want to talk about that with sleep, it’s always just—”Give me a number; eight hours, we got to get eight hours.” Well, that’s great if you’re in that normal distribution but if you’re on those tails, that’s a real problem. So I think that understanding how can we look at our individual child or children, and figure out what is their individual needs for sleep, and know that, once you’ve got it figured out now, in a couple of years, it’s going to change, so just be ready, and understand that. But it’s not hard if you kind of come to it with a sense of openness and questioning. And there’s a lot of cool technology that, you know, again, I’m plus-minus about technology too, but there are some cool things out there that can allow a parent to be pretty scientific, about figuring out how much sleep their kid needs. So then, once you’ve got that number, you can kind of construct the schedule that works best for you and your family that also meets the needs of the children. So you’d like you said that equality—what I need with the child is kind of meets perfectly.
Jen Lumanlan 27:10
Yeah, okay. So we’re going to talk about how you get to that number and a little bit. Firstly, I just want to acknowledge something I learned from this, during the research for this episode, which is around 9% of individuals may sleep less than fewer than six hours at night. Although that was based on some survey data that had sort of methodological challenges, but approximately, and they were only looking at adults as well, not children. So I think that we don’t necessarily allow for the fact that our child might be one of those people. And in both of your books, I think you’ve talked about how this can be hereditary.
Dr. Winter 27:46
Yeah, absolutely. It’s one of my favorite things to ask parents, because not only in terms of duration, I don’t want to jump ahead, but not only in terms of duration, but timing, and preferences, which is a big thing, too. And it’s so fascinating to say, you know, what did your parents, your biological parents do for a living? But what do they do? And, you know, we see a lot of moms, a trauma surgeon, and that is, you know, something in the military or a lawyer or something, and you’re like, okay, well, I bet trauma, surgeons don’t sleep a whole lot. And maybe your daughter has kind of fallen on that side of things. And so it’s really interesting. And there’s nothing wrong or right about it. It can have some real advantages. Now, if your daughter wants to be a trauma surgeon like mom was a trauma surgeon, she might have an advantage there in terms of it’s not an intelligence thing, It’s just can you deal with being, you know, I didn’t want anything to do with that, but I’m glad somebody does. And that might give her a sense of being able to do that better. But it does come some downsides as well, too, especially if you’re reading books, say you better get eight or nine hours of sleep, where you’ll develop dementia or heart disease, it can put people and especially kids under a strange pressure to deliver something they’re not really capable of doing.
Jen Lumanlan 29:04
Yeah, yeah. And I think that also coming from that pressure is the sleep identity that you talk about where we adults, we parents project, these ideas of our child being a bad sleeper onto them. And so often we see in so many aspects of behavior that you think of your child as being the bad child or the difficult child, and they fulfill that prophecy. Interested to see the same concept come up in the idea of sleep?
Dr. Winter 29:33
Well, I was interested in your I mean, just in terms of your background. I find it interesting the way we describe our children, that there’s certain things that are sort of off-limits that I’ve never heard a parent say, “Oh, come down here Teddy.” Teddy is our dumb child during the mean like, even if Teddy struggles, you would never describe them in that, in fact, there’s often an effort to accentuate the things that Teddy does. Teddy is a great communicator; he just can’t do complex math or whatever it is. But it’s interesting to me how sleep seems to be something that parents are almost describing like hair color. This is our child, he’s blond, this child has got darker, more wavy hair, bad sleeper, good sleeper, almost as if you’re just describing a trait. There’s no judgment there. He’s just bad sleeper where you know, the way kids internalize that is so important. And I see adults too, just to let your viewers know that. And it’s really fascinating to see all ages related to sleep, I just see sleep patients in my clinic. And how many older people will talk about how bad they’ve slept for so long. I’ve always been a bad sleepers kind of the thing and it’s always interesting to ask what have led you to that determination? I’m a bad basketball player. If you asked me why because I’m short, and I don’t handle the ball. I can give you very objective things that I doubt you’d be able to argue me out of that assessment. But the sleep thing is, it’s fascinating sometimes where those things come from, that has no real grounding anything particularly real. And if you and based upon the things that you do, I’m sure the way we view ourselves like that identity can sometimes be more impactful to our day-to-day functionality than the sleep itself, like, and I always divide people into good sleepers, you know, the way they think about their sleep good and bad, but the way they really are good or bad. So you can have people who are really good sleepers who know they are they’re impossible. The people who are terrible sleepers who know they’re terrible. But then you also have terrible sleepers and think they’re great. The trauma surge, as long as I get two hours, I’m fine. No, you’re not. That’s not a true state like you’re gonna die at 52 If you don’t do something, and then you’ve also got people who are terrible sleepers who are actually pretty good. There’s nothing wrong with it, but they believe that and it really is pretty damaging.
Jen Lumanlan 32:08
Yeah, okay. And so I think it seems as though one underutilized tool in understanding children’s sleep is really accurate journaling, right? Instead of just thinking, Oh, my kids a bad sleepers, because they woke up again. Yeah, and you talk in the book about how we’re sort of our minds are predisposed to remember the one time this week that they did wake up, rather than the three other times that they didn’t wake up. And that journaling can actually be really helpful to understand what’s really going on instead of just the parts that really stick out to us because we didn’t want them to happen.
Dr. Winter 32:50
They’re important, not only for the parent but also for the child. Do you know what I mean? Like, that you’re sort of putting a stop to there was so bad? Well, look, you know, if you compare it to January, you had seven nights out of that month, where you really struggled this month, and last month, it’s only been two and three, that’s a huge improvement. So always kind of be encouraging, or it’s going the wrong direction, in which case, at some point, you might decide, well, we might need a little bit of help here because we think there might be something going on. So I think that journaling is very important. And, you know, we talked about selection bias earlier, which is sleep research tends to be kind of fraught with it, doesn’t mean you can’t get a lot of cool information about but we always want to look at what that is. But that selection bias is always important in terms of you know, if I have one bad night in a month, I’ll not mention it at the dinner party. How have you been sleeping? I’ve been sleeping great this month, you know, maybe if my wife, well, he slept pretty badly last week, that Tuesday when something. oh, yeah, I guess you’re right. So it can work both ways to that, you know, I often feel like my bias is I get eight hours sleep every night—my sleeps great. And my wife is like laughing in the back. She’s not here right now so I can say whatever I want to say about my sleep. But, you know, sometimes that technology or the journal is wonderful to kind of say, you know, what I’m thinking as being the exception is kind of becoming my rule. I need to be smarter about that. And I think that’s important for older kids. Yes, you’re gonna have a soccer game or a test or choir rehearsal or you know, volunteering at some soup kitchen or something. We want to make sure those are exceptional nights and not becoming a more normal night.
Jen Lumanlan 34:37
Yeah, okay. And how does napping relate to all of this? Should we nap? How should we nap? How should children nap?
Dr. Winter 34:47
And I love talking about napping. Napping probably is sort of like we’re deviating outside of I think of everything in terms of evidence as a spectrum. I’m pretty sure plants use chlorophyll to make oxygen and make oxygen from carbon dioxide. I’m not sure about these things over here. Napping, I’m pretty certain that that it’s a good thing. I think we have to be careful. Now I’m talking about napping and older kids and little kids. I think it’s essential in terms of when they dropped their naps and how you structure that. I’ve got ideas for people who are trying to figure that out, but there’s no real right or wrong way to do it. I do think naps that are consistent are better—meaning that it’s something that the child can predict, versus we’re just going to try to fit an hour-long nap in at some point. Now, that might be the case when your schedule doesn’t allow for it. But I think if you could choose—Chris, which would you rather us do? And nap whenever we want to or nap at a scheduled time. It’s probably better scheduled I mean, meal times being scheduled some exercise time, and nocturnal sleep at night. We just know that those sorts of Zeit givers really help to influence a child’s circadian rhythm. And we can extrapolate from research as they get older; people who don’t really develop that or have jobs that are pushing them outside of a consistent circadian rhythm. I work 7pm to 7pm in the emergency room, then flip over to 7pm to 8pm two weeks later, might be a carcinogen. Our bodies don’t like not understanding what’s coming. Outside of that I think that napping is also an important tool for when a child has had inadequate sleep. There’s been a recent research study that says napping is inadequate to make up for sleep deprivation. I thought the interpretation that study was a little bit skewed in the sense that yes if you’re truly really sleep depriving yourself a 20-minute nap may not fully make up for the situation that you’ve created for yourself. But to me, it’s kind of like if you’re starving, and you come across a cracker should you eat it? The research would probably say this does not make up for the starvation. But I’d say probably eat the cracker because maybe we’ll find another one in a few minutes, like to me take what you can get. So to me, sometimes I think about napping in terms of, we want to be careful about napping when a child or an adult is inefficient with sleep. Meaning that you want didn’t have consecutively hours to fall asleep last night, so I woke up went to work came home, it took a four-hour nap. I think that could facilitate a problem not going away. Now your body’s kind of understanding that we’re kind of all over the place with it. So to me, napping can be a wonderful way to make up for lost sleep. I mean, I think it’s perfectly adequate to look at sort of sleep data and say, “My child needs not so much 10 hours a day, but maybe 70 hours a week. So if you go stay at Grandma’s house, and she’s got weird hours, and something screws up your sleep and you get home, John had a bad night asleep. Grandma had friends over so she didn’t get two of her naps that you have the next six days to kind of maybe tweaks and things extends the naps to maybe make up for that sleep loss that really wasn’t your fault. I think napping is very important in that way for kids and adults to kind of keep tabs on, you know, sleep debt because we’re not going to have a perfect night of sleep every night. It’s just not going to happen.
Jen Lumanlan 38:14
Yeah. Okay. And then, of course, that begs the inevitable question. What happens when the child resists napping? And you can see that they’re so tired and they just don’t want to do it.
Dr. Winter 38:23
Yeah. And that’s a really important concept of the fact that children manifest sleep very differently than adults do. One of the reasons I called the book The Rested Child was because I don’t think we talked about rest and meditation and relaxation and quiet time enough, it’s sort of we judged success or failure in bed by the speed of unconsciousness, like that’s the only thing that’s good. Do you know what I mean? And so I think that if a child is resisting napping, there’s a lot of questions to answer. Number one, is he always or she always resisting it? Meaning that it’s time to drop the third nap because 3% of the time she’s utilizing it’s 97. She’s not. So I think that’s important because I think those little things often give us a little window into, “Oh, I think that things might be evolving,” you know, she was a 16-hour kid, maybe she’s more of a 15-hour kid now. I think that’s number one. Number two, I don’t mind a child resisting a nap. I think the dialogue we want to have with the child is it’s okay not to sleep, like, we never talked about sleep being something that had to happen with our children, in fact, we tried to avoid the topic altogether. And you know, why don’t you just read a book or draw me a picture because we saw that cool fire truck. Why don’t you see if you can draw how much you can draw from memory? So we always kind of couched it as rest time or quiet time. And we would say if you fall asleep, that’s fine. But if you don’t, you’re still doing something really wonderful for your body. And you’re giving everybody a chance just to kind of be still and be quiet, just for a little bit, because that helps me to be a better parent for you and helps us to be more healthy. So trying to destress that beginning and give a child a little bit of freedom, if they can understand it to not sleep, that’s perfectly okay. And so, in fact, we would often say, “I can’t sleep. I don’t want you to.” “I want you to read a comic book all night.” And maybe you could write an essay about what it was like to stay up all night reading comic books. And remember, kids would be like, “Really? You don’t care?” Like, “No, I don’t really know, we’ll wake you up. And you know, we’ll go about our day.” But we really tried to create a sense of there’s no pressure here. In fact, you could not sleep if you tried like, that’s not something that you really find in nature, so let’s not complicate it by a lot of performance anxiety. I don’t want to lie to a kid that is not important. So it’s that parenting mojo of I need to make sure you understand sleep is important, and money is important, and school is important. But it’s not some sort of crisis If that thing if you get a C on a pace, okay, like, it doesn’t matter, like, so where can you find that balance of value sleep? But understand, it doesn’t always work perfectly. That’s a tough thing for everybody, myself included to kind of figure out, you know.
Jen Lumanlan 41:35
Yeah, and I really believe that the earlier that starts, the better we all are. And we have practiced what we call no set bedtime since my daughter was probably three. She does not have a set bedtime, we read stories at eight o’clock, and we brush our teeth right after that. And then she decides her in bedtime. She tells us when she’s tired. And she is we’re homeschooling right now, so she doesn’t have a set wait time, but she was in daycare and preschool for a long time. And yeah, there were there was a period of time where she would go to bed at 10 o’clock. 10:30. You know, you’re sure you’re not tired? And that lasted a few days. And within a week or two, she’s self-regulating in bedtime. And so I was pleased to read your book.
Dr. Winter 42:22
We started around six or seven. And I thought we were radical. That’s amazing. But I think that’s exactly what should happen. It was a great study, one time, the kids were taken into a cafeteria with every kind of food available to them, including desserts. For the first three days, they just ate cake, and then they kind of regulated themselves. So I think we don’t give kids credit for doing it. And just having that sort of situation of oh, your body knows what to do.
Jen Lumanlan 42:52
Yeah, and that’s so interesting that you bring up the food issue because there’s so much research on they call it making the vegetables the gateway food, you have to eat the vegetables as the gateway food to get to the dessert that you really want. And so of course, if we’re saying you have to go to bed now, what does the child want more than I think? The child wants to stay up. And so, if you just take that away, we talked a lot on the show about dropping the rope, you’re going to drop your end of the rope and the at the child has nothing to pull on. They can pull their other end, but there’s nothing to pull against. And so it’s like, okay, you want to stay up? That’s fine.
Dr. Winter 43:25
Yes, you want to see me answer emails, you can sit right there and watch me do it until I go to bed if you’d like. It is interesting. I don’t know what your three-year-old was like, but for a six-year-old It was a fun conversation. Like it was just, you can have all the candy you want. We’ve got a truck pulling up right now it’s full of candy and we’re gonna dump it in a room. And you just get whatever you like. Give us that kind of, we’re gonna have Christmas every day because it’s so much fun. Like it was just that kind of, like, are you kidding me? Like they just had this look like this is great, then it just kind of takes the whole. And I bet there’s a lot of things that we could do with our kids that would remove those kinds of mistakes and weirdness that develops around it because we create it.
Jen Lumanlan 44:14
Yeah, and I think the important part is that yes, you’re removing the staying up as being the holy grail of the thing that I want to do because you don’t want me to do it. And what you’re also doing is you’re not just saying well, okay, then you can have free for all in the house, we are saying is I have needs too and I have a need for quiet time. And here are some ways I can think of to meet my need for quiet time. And you can meet your need as long as I can also meet my need.
Dr. Winter 44:44
The conversations like you said, starting with a three-year-old but how important sleep is and how sleep reaches into so much about what you do. Things that a three-year-old could easily understand that those are not mutually exclusive. I’m just giving you, I mean, I think lunch is important. You may not be hungry for your sandwich right now. Don’t eat it. I don’t care. I still think eating is important and eating the right foods, so you can have those two conversations in a way that are not mutually exclusive. We’re just giving you the freedom and the space to recognize sleep when it’s time for you to get it in a healthy way versus 11 o’clock, nine o’clock, or seven o’clock. What I mean, is the number of adults that come to me say it takes me two hours to fall asleep. My first question is, “Why have you decided x is your bedtime?” And they have no answer to it. Probably because that foundational piece of learning how to sleep was never discussed. It was just Dad told me I needed to go to bed at this time and if you caught me in bed with the flashlight in the book, I’d get in trouble. Yeah, so I guess I go to bed at this time all the time. And I’ve never questioned it. Even when your body is saying, “I don’t want to go to bed at nine o’clock. Hear what I’m saying! Eleven much better for us.” Like they don’t. It doesn’t resonate, because I don’t think they’ve ever had that conversation or that freedom to kind of choose that, which is a huge weight off a child.
Jen Lumanlan 46:10
Yeah, okay. So, I mean, obviously, I know, because I’ve read the book. But if we can sort of tell where we’re going with this conversation; medications for children, and having sleep problems. My guess is you’re gonna say, not ever without talking to your sleep specialist first. What would you advise parents with children that are not sleeping as much as they think they are?
Dr. Winter 46:34
Yes. I mean, I don’t use a lot of sleep aids, I don’t think they make a lot of sense. Not only fundamentally, but if you actually look at the research, it’s extremely, you’d wonder how does this drug ever get approved for that because there’s nothing here. And more than that, you’re having this beautiful conversation with your three-year-old, there is an assumed conversation with a melatonin gummy bear, which is, your brain is just not good at sleeping so I’m going to give you something to make you good at it. And I know I’m not really fit now. If your child has narcolepsy, if your child has restless legs syndrome, your child has nocturnal reflux or asthma, of course, because we’ve created a diagnosis here, that might have a medication that could improve that. The problem we often have with using pills to make people sleep is that there’s never been a diagnosis established, okay, well, maybe your child doesn’t sleep, or can’t sleep without a pill. But what is what’s the name of that? Disorder, I’d like to know, maybe I need to know about I’m in a constant state of learning, but never stops, you know, maybe I can learn something here. But more often than not, there’s not been any kind of diagnosis, it’s again, that expectation, what I’m observing, they’re not matching up. So, I’m going to try to crowbar my child into something that works better for me. I’ve never had a child ask for a sleep aid. They’re just kind of sitting there kind of trying to get the phone out of their mom’s purse like that’s what they’re interested in at that point. They’re not. You got to help me Doc, I’m really not learning my consonants and vowels, because I’m not getting enough sleep. So it’s just unfortunate that we have so little understanding of these things. And that fear and anxiety that parents feel kind of get washed out in terms of something oh, here, just given this. I’m not very medicinally inclined.
Jen Lumanlan 48:43
Yeah. And I was struck by the statistic was in your book, where you say that 20% of pediatricians have ever had any training regarding the prescribing sleeping pills
Dr. Winter 48:53
I think I mean, it’s almost a quarter. And even the ones that have it’s like, a couple hours, I mean, I got to Emory medical school, and I was doing sleep research when I was an undergrad. But in my four years of medical school, we just got an hour-long lecture, right? And when you look at adults, it’s two of the top seven complaints that all patients bring to their doctor is can’t sleep, and I’m tired or fatigued. And there’s pain and some other things or whatever. So it’s interesting that in four years, you get an hour for that. So I remember thinking, wow, I guess that’s not something you maybe see a lot and that’s all you see. So it’s really unfair, that we’re not arming people with that knowledge and so that was a big reason why I wrote the book, I felt like, let’s just go to the parents, they know more anyway, and so let’s just inform them and let them be the advocate. And if your doctor kind of pushes back or gets upset because you know what about sleep and eat us and go find another doctor. We don’t know a lot about a lot of things and if your doctor does I’m not aware that maybe find another doctor.
Jen Lumanlan 50:03
Yes. And I think that the critically important part of that quote was actually the second half of this statistic. We talked about a fifth to a quarter of pediatricians have had any training regarding prescribing of sleeping pills, and yet 66% routinely prescribed them.
Dr. Winter 50:21
I mean, they’ve got seven minutes to spend with your kid and keep the lights on in the clinic. You and I could talk about sleep a long time, I imagine. And sometimes the parent and the sleep doctor need to talk a lot. I don’t know your child yet. I know the average. And I’ve seen some outliers in my career, but I’ve never met your child before. So it’s all about understanding and history and collecting good data and journals and, and me listening and not me telling you what to do, because the average child does this. And so if you don’t have time to commit to it, that’s okay. I don’t fault pediatricians for the timepiece. I fault them for taking it on and just being like, “Oh, you just need to go see Chris,” or whomever. Just much better sleep doctors where you live in I am. But that’s what they want to do. That’s what they’re sitting there waiting to do, so let’s let the baby delivering doctors deliver the babies and the surgeons take out the tumors in the sleep doctors deal with the sleep problems. And I think everybody be a whole lot happier.
Jen Lumanlan 51:26
Yeah. Okay. All right. So you’ve mentioned what is the circadian rhythm is but we didn’t, we didn’t really define it. So I wonder if you can help us to understand what a circadian rhythm is. And then whether it’s possible to shift those because I hear all the time from parents, you know, my circadian rhythm is this and my child’s are getting rhythm is this and the two are not well aligned. What can we do about this?
Dr. Winter 51:48
So circadian rhythm is essentially something in our brain that is a timekeeper. So if you think about a heart, a heart has a rhythm, a menstrual cycle has a rhythm, and our bodies have lots of rhythms. I say all the time, a brain never does anything accidentally. Like there’s you know, whether we can see the rhythm or not is different. And with sleep, it does provide a little window into that circadian rhythm. So what I always want people to understand is that circadian rhythm is not just related to sleep, it’s related to the blood cell production in your marrow. It’s related to hormone release and digestive peptides and whether your left nostril is congested versus your right, there’s even a circadian I mean, everything is got a little pattern to it, body temperature is a big one. But the sleeps is interesting because we see it, you know, we can say, oh, you know, mom is a real night owl and dad likes to go to bed at seven o’clock. And you can see that, or if you’re sitting up at night, you know, I’m sitting there in my underwear, my wife’s like freezing because she’s a morning person, I’m a night owls or her body temperatures dropped a little earlier than mine has, you know, if I’m staying up late cramming for an exam at two in the morning, that’s when I started to get cold. So there’s the drop. So there’s little ways you can see it. And it’s really important because sleep is a great measure of that circadian rhythm. So everybody tends to be in about the same range, but there are people who just are more morning oriented and that temperature drop might happen early. That’s usually how you measure circadian rhythms in a study, you get a little thermometer somewhere that’s not terribly pleasant, and you get it every 15 minutes, and you can track it out. And now everybody’s got thermometers with COVID, you can do it just take the low thermometer and read your thing and write it down in 15 minutes later, do it again, and the whole family can do it for a science fair project. And you can actually see that undulation we tend to sort of peak around four in the afternoon and troth about an hour before we wake up. So it’s important to understand those things because they govern things like when is your kid going to do best on a spelling test? When they see going to be athletically at his peak? When is he going to feel better? And if you’re homeschooling there’s a lot of real positives. My wife’s a teacher, both my parents were school teachers, I think about once every six months during our child years, we would be like, we’re homeschooling. Forget it, we’re doing it. And there’d be so many advantages to that because then you could allow your child to have that bedtime when he wants to and the wakeup time when he wants to that’s you could create consistency, It’s just consistent over here. So the question you asked can you change the circadian rhythm? You can, you’re not really changing the rhythm so much as your you’re changing sort of that positioning on it, meaning as soon as you stop rowing—the current starts to take you back. And anybody who’s a night owl. Some guys in my neighborhood sometimes would get up and work out in the summertime, so I’ll be a nice neighbor. I’m gonna get out and work out with them. And as soon as wintertime comes, I stopped. I go right back to wanting to sleep later so then the question becomes, what should you do? And I think the answer would probably be you should homeschool your kids. And how I’m not gonna do that? or I can’t do that or I don’t think that’s the right thing for our family. Okay, so can we get your school to make some adjustments? No, we can’t do that either. Okay, so you’ve got your night owl son is going to take AP Calculus first period because there’s no other option, you can’t get at the community college, and couldn’t take it online. There are things you can do. The problem is it requires a lot of a kid. I mean, if you had told me when I was a college student, Chris, you should probably go to bed at this time every day and get up and exercise and see some sunlight and eat breakfast, I mean, I would have just thought you were crazy. I have a memory from College of like coming home from something at 6 am and I remember these two guys got up, they were in fitness gear, and they were going to the gym. And I thought they were insane. I was like, “What are they doing? Why would you even come to college if you’re just gonna get up at 6 am and go work out, then you realize you get older. Oh, yeah they were correct, you were really messing yourself up. So to me, you can do it. But you really got to have a bit of participation of that child and I find that again, you want to talk about mismanagement of expectation of parent and expectation on child really crashing, it can be around some of these circadian disorders. And just like we were talking about sleep needs, it runs in families, you know so if you’re a night owl, and your partner is a night owl, just you might have a kid that’s a real night owl. And so if you’re homeschooling, that can be easy. Everybody gets to wake up or COVID. For some night owl families, this has been, I always hate to say COVID has been a blessing. That’s terrible. But that schedule relaxation of we don’t have to get up for the bus. He doesn’t have early bird jazz, his first classes are at 10 o’clock on the computer. And he’s making straight A’s now. And we don’t have to get up to get him out the door like we have, you know, so there’s different things for everybody. But you can do it. It’s just hard. It’s really.
Jen Lumanlan 57:07
Yeah, and you describe the process in the book, and I read the rested child first. And frankly, the process isn’t that pretty? It involves a lot of kind of making your child do things that are not particularly pleasant to get them to stay awake so that you can figure out actually how much time do they really need to sleep, and then figuring out what their wait time has to be to get to AP Calcu or whatever is going on in their lives. And then they can go to bed before then set number of hours before that. And I have to say the whole thing sounded incredibly mean-spirited to me until I read your first book in the Sleep Solution, where you’re essentially describing doing the same thing for adults who want to shift their circadian rhythm. And so the method is there, but with what you’re saying about as soon as you stop the training as it were, you’re going to be swimming against the current, I guess then my question becomes, well, what happens if your kid is a night owl? Or the opposite? Actually, you’re the night owl, and your kid is a four o’clock in the morning kind of person. And yes, you can train them, but do you want to be training your child for the rest of your life? Do you just suck it up for a few years until they can learn to stay in bed? I mean, it seems as though essentially that’s what you’re saying, right?
Dr. Winter 58:25
Probably the thing. Hopefully, as time passes, those sort of extremes do soften. I would say yeah, this is not a I’m deviating outside of science would say this to like, my opinion would be yeah, I mean, I’m a real night owl, fortunately, my wife is not. So it’s a wonderful balance. But I do think yeah, there’s a certain degree of suck it up or my clinic starts at this time in the morning, I don’t start my clinic at noon. So at some point, I think it was around medical school, it was kind of like, “Oh, you don’t have to show up. You can sleep till noon, if you want to, we’re just gonna kick you out.” So you know, at some point, the motivation got there, but I don’t know that it’s necessarily the healthiest situation for me to be in. This is definitely against my tendency. But so yeah, I think that if you were the night owl and your kid were the morning person or maybe you create a situation where you take turns with your partner or something where you can kind of make it such that it’s not so bad. But again, I think that getting the amount of sleep you need probably trumps that as long as things are consistent, and there’s lots of people who’ve kind of made their lives a lot better. But it is interesting to follow people’s careers because I do think that there’s a lot of magazine writers who are night owls, computer programmers or night owls, they gravitate towards jobs that facilitate that. I always say that people time my wife had been a much better doctor than I am. But her need for more sleep and an earlier schedule, she became a teacher. And I don’t think that’s entirely accidental. And I think a lot of really great people get weeded out of the process that were super smart but they just like, I don’t want to, I don’t have the horsepower for that. Which is probably added years to their lives by doing that.
Jen Lumanlan 01:00:27
Yeah, okay. So, and what about night wakings, then? If we’re finding that as parents to be really detrimental to our ability, and you’re talking in your first book about it is not good for us to have these short periods of chopped-up sleep. And you cited your own sleep as a resident as an example of that. So if we’re essentially getting resident quality sleep because our kids are waking up to us,
Dr. Winter 01:00:52
That’s right. Yeah, no, I mean, I think that’s probably the biggest red flag in terms of sleep. Now understanding that, if you watch your child like on a baby monitor, you’re going to see that they awaken quite a bit, you know, wake up, move around, go back to sleep. So we think humans wake up 30 times and average, a night on average, little arousal. Now, if you ask them, “How was your night?” they should say was fine, I didn’t wake up at all, which is not entirely true If you’ve got some little leads on their head. And kids can be really all over the place with that kind of thing, they wake up and reach for things that aren’t there and sit up. I remember another doctor saying, “Don’t ever allow a parent to watch their child’s sleep because they do so many weird things that are kind of normal.” They’re not necessarily pathological, I should say. But I do think that if you’re feeling like my child’s irritable, there are a lot of awakenings when they’re coming into the bedroom with us, or even not like we just hear them awake in their bedroom a lot messing around, they don’t bother us, but we do feel like there’s a lot of disruption to their sleep, their beds a mess in the morning, and everything’s torn up and they’re turned around, they’re sleeping on the floor. I think when you have those sort of indications that this doesn’t seem like a really calm, peaceful night. Those are things to maybe bring up with a doctor, especially if they’re associated with bedwetting. That’s that disappeared for a while and came back. Growth that’s falling off a curve, you know, they were always 80th percentile, now, they’re kind of dropping off of that. Behavior and irritability that’s new. For older kids, you know, behaviors at school, school performance problems, like, my child has always done well and seems to be struggling suddenly, again, nothing wrong with struggling, maybe the class is just getting harder. But I think that you always want to pay attention to that because in my experience, really, really good parents do a pretty good job of ignoring that sometimes. I don’t know, I’m bad at it. I ignore stuff wrong with my car. Like, why is that? How long is the carbon making that sound? I don’t know. Not too long. You know, I think it’s gonna work itself out. Never works itself out. So I think that we don’t want to ignore those things away. But I think parents and mentors have a good reason to ignore it because they might bring it up with somebody like a doctor and then they just kind of dismissed it. Oh, well, that’s okay. Kids wet the bed. Goodbye. My kid is 14 now, and he’s still wetting the bed, well, they’re gonna grow out of it. I just feel like a lot of times, it’s probably coming from a place of I don’t know what to do, so I can either tell you, I don’t know what to do, and I’m not sure about that. I could send you somewhere or I could just dismiss you and unfortunately, choice see sometimes is the answer. So don’t feel that way. If you feel like something’s going on with your, kid, I always tell people, the worst thing that can happen is you get a sleep study. That’s normal. You know what I mean, like, Okay, that’s great. I love a normal EKG, even at my age, like normally gave me all right, that’s great. But I felt something there, but maybe it was the pork sandwich or something. I’m so excited about that. Normal studies are great or they’re not, so fragmented sleep, is something to pay attention to. And that’s not just the kid wanting to come in, get another hug or sleep in bed with you again, that’s your choice. But if you’re feeling like we can’t get past the awakening, awakening, waking all through the night, let’s start digging a little deeper.
Jen Lumanlan 01:04:28
Okay. All right. And then as we wrap up then for parents who are on the newer end of parenthood, maybe they’re pregnant, they’re expecting, they have a newborn. They’re like, how do we get this started on the right foot? And I know there’s not going to be one recipe for this because every child is going to have different needs. But what advice would you give to somebody who is very new to this process and who wants to get started in the best possible way that we can for an individual child?
Dr. Winter 01:04:57
I think education is great. I mean both of my books and it’s awesome that you read both. But it doesn’t just again, for your viewers to understand that they probably get this from listening to you. We haven’t been communicating that long and she’s already gotten a hold of both of my books and clearly read them, which I just think, I don’t think my own mother has read both my books, that’s really amazing of you. But you know, I think that education is important. So in both of my books, I wanted to start off with at least some idea about how sleep works, because it’s amazing some ideas people have about it. So that’s where I would start off with the understanding that your child is going to be completely unique, so it’s fine to have sort of a sense of, well, my best friend’s daughter this is the schedule that she used, and it worked really well for her or they really like this, how to get your kid to sleep to the night book. And I’ve been reading that too. I think that one of the things I find really interesting about that prenatal period is that if you’re on a schedule, you’re going to the gym at the same time every day and have a little bit of a quiet time every day, then that could influence your child’s rhythm once they’re born. I mean, the only input they’re getting right now is sort of sounds and movement from you, and so I think the more structure you can make your life with this amazing baby growing inside of you, probably the better your child will be. Now, that’s not to say that if you’re just life’s all over the place, you can’t rein it in some way, but I would also just be confident because there’s not a lot of things you can do to really wreck it. I mean, if you’re coming at it from a really good place, again, what method are you gonna we’re going to use for sleep training? I don’t know, my husband wants to cry it out and I think that’s terrible. Just again, common sense that nobody wants their child when they’re screaming and wailing and so you just comfort giving your child love, put your child’s needs up there with your own. Don’t have a lot of expectations initially, like, I think those first few months, or just kind of survive it. Like I don’t have great advice. I call it gorilla sleep like oh god, the kid fell asleep. Let’s go take a nap. You just kind of get through it, but just have a plan and understand that the plan is not going to work right off the bat. I remember like our child’s little nursery we had a little light box on the table and even when the child woke up at five we wanted the child to wake up at six. You go in there because they’re kind of fussing and you sit with them and you’re quiet and you don’t get too crazy with them and then at 6 am we would open up the windows and change the diaper and turn on the light box right next to the child’s head and you know play, and put on some Bob Seger because my first child love Bob Seger, the nights soothes her now you know whatever. So there was this big state change at six o’clock dark to light faster the fed, dirty diaper, clean diaper, dark light and they got it down pretty quickly. I don’t think it’s because we were doing anything particularly exceptional and we just had a plan and when the plan worked that was great when it didn’t you make some adjustments but you’re gonna do fine. I’m jealous of the new parent for sure. It’s so much fun.
Jen Lumanlan 01:08:06
It’s the problems seem easier. They seem insurmountable now, but then when they get older they do
Dr. Winter 01:08:12
They do but they’re just kind of their problems that have less sort of consequence and yeah, you’re tired and you feel afraid and you to tell your kid he’s an idiot but it’s wonderful and it will work out and if it’s not, there’s lots of people around that can help you out. Promise about that.
Jen Lumanlan 01:08:31
Okay, super well thank you so much for approaching me and asking me to come on the show and for bearing with me because when you said that I wasn’t sure I wanted to have you on the show you weren’t joking. And you were very game about allowing me to kind of poke a little bit about some of the things that you said in the book and so I’m very grateful that you would allow me to do that. And yeah, I really enjoyed reading both books and I am implementing some of the ideas from the Sleep Solution your first book for adults so I’m excited about that for me as well.
Dr. Winter 01:09:04
Good. I think it’s so great. I’m going to talk about you from now on because every one of our say when our kids turned six or seven, we told them to use their bedtime there’s always like the audience like. I’m like are you kidding me? I know somebody started three like basic language and they’re like, you no sleep like whenever, like what I don’t know how you even conveyed that to a kid. I love that. Goodnight Moon. What are we good night moon? Whenever you want to.
Jen Lumanlan 01:09:30
The story still happen on schedule because that meets my needs, right? So we’re not a free for all. But for anyone who wants to read Chris’s books can find references to both of them. The Rested Child is the most recent one and Sleep Solution is the one that’s geared toward adults. All that can be found at yourparentingmojo.com/restedchild. Thanks for joining us for this episode of Your Parenting Mojo. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show a your parenting mojo.com To receive new episode interpretations, and the free guide to 13 reasons why your child isn’t listening to you and what to do about each one. And also join the Your Parenting Mojo Facebook group. For more respectful research-based ideas to help kids thrive and make parenting easier for you. I’ll see you next time on Your Parenting Mojo.
The Rested Child: Why Your Tired, Wired, and Irritable Child May Have A Sleep Disorder – And What To Do About It. New York: Avery.
The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken, And How To Fix It. New York: Berkley.
Blair, P.S., Fleming, P.J., Smith, I.J., Ciarlegilio, C.M., Axley, J.C., Strauss, B.R., Gamble, K.L., & McMahon, D.G. (2011). Perinatal photoperiod imprints the circadian clock. Nature Neuroscience 14(1), 25-27.
Cortesi, F., Giannotti, F., Sebastiani, T., Vagnoni, C., & Marioni, P. (2008). Cosleeping versus solitary sleeping in children with bedtime problems: Child emotional problems and parental distress. Behavioral Sleep Medicine 6(2), 89-105.
Henderson, J.M.T., France, K.G., Owens, J.L., & Blampied, N.M. (2010). Sleeping through the night: The consolidation of self-regulated sleep across the first year of life. Pediatrics 126(5), e1081-e1087.
Knutson, K.L., Van Cauter, E., Rathouz, P.J., DeLeire, T., & Lauderdale, D.S. (2010). Trends in the prevalence of short sleepers in the USA: 1975-2006. Sleep 33(1), 37-45.
Patrick, J., Campbell, ., Carmichael, L., & Probert, C. (1982). Influence of maternal heart rate and gross fetal body movements on the daily pattern of fetal heart rate near term. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 144(5), 533-538.
About the author, Jen
Jen Lumanlan (M.S., M.Ed.) hosts the Your Parenting Mojo podcast (www.YourParentingMojo.com), which examines scientific research related to child development through the lens of respectful parenting.