Are good sleepers born or made?
Are some babies just born "good sleepers" while others are not?
The answer is no according to Dr. Darius Loghmanee, a pediatric sleep medicine physician at Advocate Children's Hospital.
"In our society, we have very strange attitudes about sleep," Loghmanee said. "We tend to look at it as a separate part of our lives which either magically happens or doesn't. That is just not the case."
Sleeping well is a learned behavior and it's something you continue to learn throughout your life cycle, according to Loghmanee.
"Sleep is not something a parent can control in their baby," Loghmanee said. "Only an anesthesiologist can put someone to sleep. It is no different than teaching your child the skills needed to do math. You must teach healthy sleeping habits."
Loghmanee offers parents and caregivers the following tips to help your child become a so-called "good sleeper."
1. Create a relaxed, happy and comfortable sleep environment. Consider lighting and soothing sensory input, such as mobiles, a sound machine or scents, such as lavender. You want your infant to associate these things with relaxation in their sleep environment. They will also have something consistent to focus on when placed in the crib. (Be careful not to overstimulate them, as well.)
2. Create a bedtime routine. Enjoy a short sequence of events that will help your baby wind down and relax; reading books, singing lullabies or rubbing their back. Learn what activities help your child wind down and incorporate them into the routine.
3. Don't feel you have to stay until your baby falls asleep. Give them progressively longer periods of time alone in their sleep environment, each time returning and praising them for resting and relaxing in their sleep environment. This will help them know that they are safe there and improve their ability to fall asleep on their own.
4. Keep the infant's environment consistent throughout the night. Moving the baby during the sleep cycle removes the cues that helped them fall asleep and increases the likelihood that they will awaken during the night.
5. Know that learning healthy sleep habits is a process. Parents should know that promoting sleep is not a "once and done" proposition. Your child will continue to develop their capacity to sleep over time.
6. Talk with your pediatrician if your baby will not sleep under any circumstances or if he or she snores more than three nights a week. In both of those cases, parents should consult with their child's primary caregiver.
"Knowing all that we do about the importance of sleep in a person's overall well-being and performance, these lessons learned early could make a big difference in your child's life," Loghmanee said.
• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Advocate Children's Hospital. For more information, visit www.advocatechildrenshospital.com.