From the annual Pediatric Update at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.
Sometimes the best advice that medical experts can share comes from their own experiences. I picked up one of those tidbits at the 2008 Pediatric Update at Stanford University.
Dr. Rafael Pelayo is director of the pediatric sleep service at Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. After his first child was born and turned out to be an excellent sleeper, Dr. Pelayo gleefully broke every rule in the books on sleep hygiene, and still his daughter slept soundly. That’s not too surprising, given that 75% of infants and children sleep well and that books for parents give conflicting advice regarding sleep. (Keep in mind that publishers look for something new to print, not what’s already been said, so the deck is stacked toward confusing parents.)
Dr. Pelayo’s second child, though, was part of that other 25% and a holy terror at bedtime. Couldn’t stay asleep. One night Dr. Pelayo gave up and put on some Bob Dylan music so he could at least enjoy himself while holding his crying son. Almost instantly, his son calmed down, and soon was asleep. Dr. Pelayo envisioned a groundbreaking study ahead on the unexpectedly soporific qualities of Dylan’s nasally voice, but then realized that the music had calmed him down, and he’d started to sway to the music, and the baby calmed down with him.
If the parents are tense or angry, kids will pick up on that, and make it harder to sleep. A lot of the advice that Dr. Pelayo offered to help sleep-deprived parents rests on simple concepts like that, but backed by data on the best behavioral interventions for childhood insomnia, as in a review by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine in the journal Sleep.
He was full of fun factoids too. From age 3 on, humans are hard-wired to wake up slightly every 90 minutes, because a sleeping animal is vulnerable to attack by predators. Babies wake up every 60 minutes. Premies? Every 40 minutes. “Slept like a baby?” I’ll never use that phrase the same way again. Frequent wakings, incontinence…
That same protective mechanism is seen in animals in ways that fit their biological niche. Can you guess how dolphins sleep? They average 8 hours of sleep each day, but only one half-brain at a time.