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"Sleep training" effective against bedtime struggles

by Medindia Content Team on October 12, 2006 at 11:34 AM
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A recent study reveals that different types of "sleep training" can cure children's sleep problems. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine conducted a review of 52 previous studies and found that several behavioral tactics can make kids to go to sleep and remain asleep, effortlessly.

Some of these approaches are training kids to "self-soothe" themselves back to sleep if they get up at night and creating quiet bedtime practices. According to the findings, of the studies reviewed by the panel, published in the journal Sleep, remarkable improvement in bedtime behavior was observed in over 80% of the kids undergoing sleep training.

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"We know that sleep training works," said the study's lead author, Dr. Jodi A. Mindell of St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. "And parents should know there are plenty of resources out there to help them, " she said.

"With young children, "bedtime refusal" is often the issue; they may cry, cling to their parents or "stall" by repeatedly asking for food, a drink or a story. With babies, it's frequent nighttime wakings that last past the first few months of life," Mindell said.
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"But the exact definition of a "problem" behavior is personal. Parents have to decide if their children's bedtime habits are affecting daytime behavior -- making them irritable or inattentive, for instance -- or affecting the rest of the family, " she said "Then they can find a form of sleep training that suits them, " she added.

A method called "extinction" was found to be most effective in the review conducted by Mindell and her colleagues. In the most severe form of extinction, parents put their kids to bed at a specific time every night and pay no attention to their crying and tantrums till a specific time next morning.

Dr. Richard Ferber made a modification of this method called "controlled crying" technique very famous. In this method, parents gradually let their child's crying go on for increasingly longer stretches before checking in on them. Even when they do, they make sure not to make any changes... no lights, no playing.

"But an important finding from the review is that preventive measures -- educating new parents on how to instill good bedtime -- are highly effective, " Mindell said. "You really can prevent these problems from happening."

She suggested, "Expectant parents should ask their doctor about ways to form healthy sleep habits early on. There are also many books and other resources on the subject. " "A key first step is that parents let go of the idea that they are "selfish" for wanting bedtime to go smoothly; their children may benefit even more than they do from a good night's sleep, " Mindell said

Source: Medindia
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