Entries in Sleeping (11)


Parents Can Let Sleepless Babies Cry It Out: Study

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Nearly half of mothers with babies over six months of age report problems with their baby's sleep. This common problem not only leads to sleepless nights for parents, but it also doubles the risk that moms will suffer from feelings of depression.

Now, a new study released today in the journal Pediatrics suggests it is OK to let babies cry while trying to fall asleep -- a finding that may help settle a long-running debate among both parents and experts over whether allowing a baby to cry itself to sleep harms the child in the long run.

Australian researchers looked at 225 babies from seven months to 6 years of age to compare the difference between parents who were trained in sleep intervention techniques and those who were not. Specifically, researchers allowed parents in the sleep intervention group to choose one of two sleep training techniques to use with their baby. Parents who chose "controlled crying" responded to their infant's cry at increasing time intervals. Parents who chose "camping out," also called "adult fading," sat with their infant until they fell asleep, removing themselves earlier each night over three weeks.

Parents in the control group were not taught the sleep training techniques and instead provided their own routine care.

What the researchers found was that children and mothers in the sleep training group had improved sleep, and the mothers were less likely to experience depression and other emotional problems. These benefits lasted up to the time the babies turned 2.

Moreover, the study looked at various factors to determine whether harm was done to children in the sleep training group, including mental and behavioral health, sleep quality, stress, and relationship with their parents. They found no differences between children in the two groups, leading researchers to conclude that these sleep training techniques are safe to use.

"[P]arents can feel confident using, and health professionals can feel confident offering, behavioral techniques such as controlled comforting and camping out for managing infant sleep," the researchers write in the study.

Experts not involved with the study said the findings make sense.

"It's kind of like having the ability to get a rental car at the airport, but why would you get one if a limo shows up?" said Dr. Ari Brown, an Austin, Texas-based pediatrician and author of Baby 411. "The parent is the limo."

"While stressful for the infant, it almost certainly falls under the 'positive stress' heading," said Rahil D. Briggs, director of the Healthy Steps program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. "Positive stress creates growth in the child, in the form of coping skills and frustration tolerance that serve to be critically important throughout the life span."

But for parents, the message may be even more important.

"This study empowers parents to be active in shaping their infant's behavior to be consistent with appropriate developmental milestones," said Dr. John Walkup, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at NY-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Violent Cartoons Linked to Sleep Problems in Preschoolers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- Swapping Batman for Big Bird could help young kids sleep better, a new study found.

The study of sleep habits among 565 preschool-age children found that those who tuned in to age-appropriate educational programs were less likely to have sleep problems than those who watched sparring superheroes or slapstick scenes meant for slightly older kids.

"Content that's funny for older kids can be too violent for really young children," said study author Michelle Garrison from the Seattle Children's Research Institute, adding that even Bugs Bunny is "too much" for kids younger than 6.  "We really don't want them exposed to any violence at all."

Previous studies in children have linked violent videos to disrupted sleep, raising the risk of behavioral and emotional problems.  To test whether reducing exposure to violent media could improve sleep, Garrison and colleagues ran a clinical trial.  The treatment: Curious George, Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street.

"That kind of media content really models good social skills, like empathy, cooperation and problem solving," Garrison said.  "And we found that taking steps to reduce violent media produced tangible and sustained effects on sleep."

The study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, adds to mounting evidence that screen time -- and screen content -- can negatively impact sleep.  How exactly? The jury's still out.

"There are so many possible pathways," said Garrison, theorizing that kids exposed to less violence may find it easier to fall asleep or have fewer nightmares.  "But trying to reduce media violence is an important goal for all families.  And the good news is: There's lots of great, healthy content out there for preschool children, a lot of positive options."

Garrison recommends checking for information about media violence.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Can’t Sleep? You May Be Afraid of the Dark

Erik Snyder/Photodisc(BOSTON) -- If you’ve been suffering from sleepless nights, you may have more than simple insomnia -- you may be afraid of the dark.

Results from a new study presented at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies annual meeting in Boston are the first to suggest that some adults can’t sleep because they fear darkness.

Researchers in Toronto studied nearly 100 college students who were either good sleepers or poor sleepers. They monitored small twitches in eye muscles during sleep while exposing the subjects to unexpected bursts of sound when the lights were either turned on or off, and what they found was startling.

Poor sleepers were more easily disturbed by the noises and their reactions were exaggerated by darkness.  And over time, while good sleepers became increasingly accustomed to the disturbances, poor sleepers became even more anxious and startled at these alleged bumps in the night.

While treating people with insomnia, Dr. Colleen Carney, principle investigator of the study and director of the Ryeson University sleep and depression laboratory, would continually hear how her patients could only fall asleep if they turned on the television or left the bathroom light on, mannerisms shared with children who are afraid of the dark.

Sure enough, when surveyed, a surprising 46 percent of poor sleepers admitted to harboring current fears of darkness, almost double that observed in good sleepers.

More than 50 percent of Americans report having experienced insomnia in the past year, and 19 percent have chronic sleeping problems.

The high incidence of insomnia among Americans has been attributed to risk factors such as high levels of stress, shift work, or mood disorders such as anxiety or depression.  This study, however, is among the first to suggest that an underlying fear of the dark could be a major contributor.

“Listening to unexpected noise is a useful way of assessing fear of the dark because we can’t inhibit our startle reflex,” Carney said.  “And these behaviors are typical of a phobia.”

Currently, the National Institute of Health recommends improved sleep hygiene and behavioral therapy as first-line treatments for insomnia.  A common recommendation for someone who hasn’t fallen asleep after 20 minutes is to do something else away from bed before reattempting sleep.  But for someone trying to get over a phobia of the dark, turning the light back on may have the unfortunate effect of making them feel even more awake.

The good news about this is that phobia treatment is one of the big success stories of non-drug therapy, and many frustrated poor sleepers may have finally found a new and easy answer to their problems.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Negative Family Relationships Could Be Affecting Your Sleep Patterns, Study Says

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Having trouble sleeping? A new study says sleepless nights could be attributed to social situations or family complications.

The study, led by Jennifer Ailshire, PhD, from the University of Southern California and Sarah A. Burgard, PhD, MD, from the University of Michigan, sought to determine what role social or family circumstances had on sleep cycles using the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States, according to Medical Daily.
Not too surprisingly, they discovered that those who were more in contact with family were reported to have more trouble sleeping, especially if they were have a negative altercation with said family member. Not getting the emotional support needed from family could also affect sleep patterns.
Corinne Reczek, PhD, from the University of Cincinnati, says that relationships with young children and spouses particularly mold sleep patterns because of the demands of those relationships, Medical Daily reports.
Healthy sleep patterns benefit the body. A lack of sleep could increase the risk of diabetes and obesity. Over 50 million Americans suffer from sleep problems, according to Medical Daily. Understanding the problems with your family could help reduce problems with sleeping.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sleepwalking More Common Than Suspected, Study Says

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- About 8.5 million Americans walk in their sleep, according to a new study, the largest ever to document the prevalence of these nighttime walkers.

Researchers from Stanford University interviewed nearly 16,000 adults in 15 states about their nocturnal habits. They found that 3.6 percent of them reported sleepwalking more than once during the previous year. About 1 percent said they had two or more sleepwalking episodes in a month.

Previous studies found that sleepwalking was pretty common, especially in children. But Dr. Maurice Ohayon, the study's lead author and director of Stanford's Sleep Epidemiology Research Center, said he was surprised to learn just how many sleepwalkers there were.

"There are very few sleep disorders with so high a prevalence," he said.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, is the first in 30 years to look at how many Americans sleepwalk, and the only study to do so on so wide a scale.

Scientists still don't know exactly what makes people walk in their sleep. But it is clear that the behavior can be risky if they get into dangerous situations without being conscious of what they're doing.

Ohayon and his colleagues found a number of factors showed up more often in people who reported sleepwalking. People who got less than seven hours of sleep each night were more likely to report sleepwalking, and those with sleep apnea (meaning they stop breathing in their sleep) were 3.9 times more likely to do so. People with major depression were 3.5 times more likely to sleepwalk, as were people who abused alcohol. Other psychiatric conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and social phobias also showed up more often in sleepwalkers.

The researchers also found that sleepwalking may be a family affair. About one-third of the study's participants reported having a family member who was also a sleepwalker.

Medications were linked to sleepwalking, particularly over-the-counter sleeping aids and hypnotics, although the data linking sleepwalking to such hypnotic drugs as Ambien was not as strong as some reports have suggested. Researchers also noticed a link between sleepwalking and selective serotonin uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which are antidepressants.

Ohayon said it's not that these factors cause someone to begin sleepwalking. Instead, they may trigger the disorder in people who are predisposed by genetics, physical or psychiatric conditions.

Experts say the numbers in the study are likely an underestimate of sleepwalking, especially since researchers did not observe people during sleep, relying only on a person's memory of a sleepwalking episode.

video platform video management video solutions video player

Can't see this video?

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Many Adults Still Sleep with a Teddy Bear

Creatas/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Many adults slept with a teddy bear when they were younger, and a new survey reveals some apparently haven’t given up the habit.  A survey of 6,000 Brits by the Travelodge hotel chain finds 35 percent of adults admitting they sleep with a teddy bear.  The respondents say the bear helps reduce stress at the end of the day and make it easier to sleep.

Travelodge commissioned the survey after staffers made efforts to reunite more than 75,000 forgotten teddy bears left behind at its hotels, and discovered many belonged to adults.

Additional survey findings:

  • 25 percent of male respondents take a teddy bear with them when they go away on business trips. Many say the bear reminds them of home, and snuggling with it at night helps them sleep.
  • 26 percent of male respondents said it was quite acceptable to have a bear regardless of your age.
  • 51 percent of British adults said they still have a teddy bear from their childhood.
  • The average teddy bear in Britain is 27 years old.
  • Ten percent of single men surveyed admitted they hide their teddy bear when a woman stays over.
  • 14 percent of married men say they hide their teddy bear when family and friends come to visit.
  • 15 percent of men and 10 percent of women treat their teddy bear as their best friend and share intimate secrets with it.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Scientists ID ‘Morning Person’ Gene

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(MUNICH) -- History is full of names of famous figures who accomplished historical feats on reportedly few hours of sleep. Now, new research suggests they may have had a certain genetic advantage.

Scientists at Germany’s Ludwig Maximalians University of Munich have found that one gene, called ABCC9, influences sleep duration and could explain why certain people seem able to operate on limited amounts of shut-eye. The researchers studied responses to a sleep survey from more than 4,000 Europeans in seven different countries and also scanned their genomes. They found that people who had two copies of a particular variant of the ABCC9 gene generally reported sleeping for shorter periods than those who had two copies of a different version of the gene.

The ABCC9 gene has been previously linked to heart disease and diabetes. These latest findings on the genetic factor’s role in sleep duration add to a growing body of evidence suggesting a connection between sleep and cardiovascular health. A 2008 study found a connection between lack of sleep and a dangerous build-up of calcium in the arteries. Sleep apnea, a sleep disorder marked by abnormal pauses in breathing, has also been associated with high blood pressure and heart attacks.

“Apparently, the relationships of sleep duration with other conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, can be in part explained by an underlying common molecular mechanism,” study author Karla Allebrandt told the U.K.’s Daily Mail.

The scientists also found that the ABCC9 gene controls sleep duration in fruit flies, providing a clue to the gene’s evolutionary age, Allebrandt said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Kids Won't Sleep in Their Beds?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Parents' joy in their children can sometimes turn to frustration when those children refuse to sleep in their own beds, and instead choose to catch winks with Mom and Dad. There's even a name for the behavior: experts call it co-sleeping.

Some parents are too embarrassed to admit their children sleep in their beds with them. While some find nothing wrong with it, the practice has its critics. They say bed sharing can have a negative impact on a child's growth.

"There really are skills that a child needs to be able to learn from sleeping on their own, to self-sooth, to calm themselves, to clear their head," John Carosso, a child psychologist, told ABC News.

Tips to End Co-Sleeping

  • Have a goldfish or small pet in the room to keep children company.
  • Have a "mommy" or "daddy" teddy bear to snuggle with.
  • Spend time with children before bed. This is a good time to read to them. You can even have a "sleep party" with mom and dad in the child's bed before they go to sleep.
  • At the start, use special gifts from the "sleep fairy," like the tooth fairy. If they sleep in their own bed, they get a little morning present.

More Tips From Around the Web

  • Be tough. According to, after the decision is made, parents need to quit co-sleeping cold turkey. Take midnight visitors back to bed, even if they fight the journey. If there's crying, tough it out.
  • When it comes to nightmares, treat their irrational fears like tangible ones, says parenting expert Elizabeth Pantley. "After all, most kids believe that the tooth fairy and Big Bird are real, too," Pantley says on her Web site,
  • says it's OK to address the child's fears. If they're afraid of the dark, maybe use a nightlight. Monsters under the bed? Give it a check the first few times. "A spray-bottle filled with extra-strength monster-deterrent (a.k.a. water) can also provide late-night comfort," the website says.
  • says parents shouldn't forget to praise their children's success when they do sleep alone.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Can Too Little Sleep Leave You Laughing?

Erik Snyder/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- It's easy to spot someone who has missed an entire night of sleep. Grumpy. Irritable. Focusing on the negative. Now scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Harvard Medical School suggest adding a new word to that list -- euphoric.

Researchers have found evidence that the human brain, deprived of sleep, swings both ways, focusing on positive, as well as negative, experiences. And, they add, that's not necessarily a good thing.

According to their study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, sleep deprivation sensitizes the networks in the brain that have long been associated with rewards. And that, they suggest, could contribute to rash decisions and risky behavior.

"Our previous research showed that when you are sleep deprived your brain is excessively reactive to negative or unpleasant emotional experiences," psychologist Matthew Walker of UC Berkeley said. "But what we didn't know at the end of that study is what happens on the other side of the coin. What happens when you are sleep deprived and you see rewarding stimuli or experiences?”

Some who suffer from severe depression appear to get better if they are deprived of sleep, but the benefit is often short lived. Walker wondered if healthy adults would also look on the bright side of life if they missed an entire night of sleep. He noted that people who have partied or worked through the night are sometimes giddy and prone to giggling. Is it real, or are they just punch drunk?

To find out, he and his colleagues recruited 27 adults, age 18-30, and divided them into two groups. Some of the participants lived a normal couple of days, separated by a full night of sleep. The rest were confined to the sleep lab at Berkeley, where they ate a normal diet, but were kept awake for an entire night. They got no caffeine, no alcohol and not even a brief nap.

The experimenters monitored the participants throughout the period, ensuring that none of them fell asleep even for a few minutes. During the experiment each of the participants, both the sleepers and the none sleepers, were shown a series of 100 images and instructed to push a button indicating if each image was neutral or pleasant. And they did this while inside a brain scanner.The images were roughly half and half, with around 50 percent positive and the rest neutral. And that's exactly what the sleepers found. But the non-sleepers found far more of the images pleasurable than the sleepers, suggesting they wanted to look for positive experiences. And the brain scans revealed something that the experimenters found very interesting. Participants who had missed a night of sleep were dramatically affected by the images.

"The regions of the brain showed extensive reactivity to the emotionally positive pictures, and it was appearing in the classical reward centers of the brain largely regulated by the chemical dopamine, which is obviously associated with pleasure," Walker said. "It's as though the sleep-deprived brain swings equally in both emotional directions, the negative, and now the positive."

There was significantly less response in the brains of the sleepers.

"When functioning correctly, the brain finds the sweet spot on the mood spectrum," Walker said. "But the sleep-deprived brain will swing to both extremes, neither of which is optimal for making wise decisions."

Too little of it can make us cranky, difficult, and, it now seems, giddy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sleep Secrets: How to Get a Good Night's Rest

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Is there anything worse than tossing and turning when you really need some sleep?

Ten percent of Americans have chronic sleep problems, and up to 35 percent have occasional difficulty with sleep, according to the University of Pennsylvania Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program.

But there are some simple things you can do to make it easier to settle down for the night. The new issue of Prevention magazine has some sleep solutions, and the magazine's editor-in-chief, Diane Salvatore, visited ABC News’ Good Morning America to talk about them.

Keep to a Set Schedule: The trick is to go to bed every night at the same time and get up at the same time -- even on the weekends, Salvatore said. That sets your biological sleep clock.

Maintain Sleep Diary: Do this to find out why you're not getting the right sleep, Salvatore said. Write down when you go to sleep and wake up, and also what you did in the hours before you went to sleep. Ask yourself: what you were watching on TV? Were you having an argument? Were you on e-mail? Analyze your diary for two weeks to see if there's a pattern.

Avoid Bedtime Exercise: Exercise before bed is not good because it makes your body warm, which is not conducive to sleep.

Avoid Alcohol: A stiff drink will knock you out, but it will keep you waking up all through the night because your body's attempts to metabolize the alcohol will play havoc with your body temperature, hormones and REM sleep. Instead, drink milk before bed. It's metabolizes into melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.

Chamomile and Other Relaxing Teas: Chamomile is a healing herb that activates the back of your brain and tells the body to go to sleep. Other relaxing drinks contain melatonin, and some have tryptophan – the amino acid that's found in turkey.

White Noise: White noise helps block small distractions and makes it easier for you to sleep.

Block Light: The darker your room can be, the sounder you will sleep.

If you are doing all of these things and you can't sleep, or if you're getting seven to eight hours of sleep but you're still waking up exhausted, you could have a problem such as sleep apnea, Salvatore said. That will need a professional diagnosis and possibly medication or behavioral therapy, she added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio