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Can't sleep? There's nothing worse -- except maybe being up all night because your baby won't settle down. That's why we asked sleep specialist Janet Kennedy, Ph.D. to explain what causes insomnia and other sleep problems and how to overcome them. The road to a good night's sleep for you and your family starts here.
Hi, I'm Janet Kennedy. I'm a licensed clinical psychologist and sleep specialist in New York City. You can find out more about me and my work on my website, nycsleepdoctor.com. The key to getting your baby to sleep longer is to put him or her to bed before he's over-tired. You're looking for drowsy signs as a signal that your baby's ready to sleep. Drowsy signs are a change in activity level or attention that signal that your baby is just starting to get tired. Look for a long, slow-motion blink, or a droopy face, droopy eyes, a single yawn, or just a change in their alertness. So your baby might just become quiet, and that's your signal. Over-tired signs mean that your baby has sort of passed the point of being drowsy and is now into a period where the body has released adrenaline. Adrenaline causes the baby to fight sleep, and to wake up more frequently, so avoiding that state is going to get you longer and better sleep. Over-tired signs include fussiness, crying, eye-rubbing, pulling the ears, any kind of flailing, or just discomfort that seems to be related to fatigue. Older children tend to run around and get a lot of energy when they're over-tired as well, so you might think that they're not tired at all. If you're having trouble finding your child's drowsy signs, watch the clock and notice when they're becoming over-tired. Dial it back about fifteen minutes before on the next try, and you'll probably get the timing just right. It's also important, when you're trying to get your baby to sleep longer, to put your baby to bed early for nighttime. A typical bedtime for babies is somewhere between 6:30 and 7:30. 8:00 is usually too late, and it's important to get the baby to bed when the body really wants to sleep. That's gonna be early in the evening, and that'll help your baby to sleep later in the morning.