#222 | Overcoming & Understanding Sleep Deprivation with Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg

July 19, 2023

Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg, PsyD, is a sleep psychologist, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine, and Director of the Behavioral Sleep Program at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. She’s also a Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. She works with adults who have insomnia and has a particular passion for helping parents whose children have sleep difficulties. She is the author of "Become Your Child’s Sleep Coach: The Bedtime Doctor’s 5-Step Guide, Ages 3-10. "

Today, Lynelle give us her expert advice and education on and around sleep difficulties experienced by new parents and parents of young children. Recognizing that sleep deprivation is a bona fide torture tactic, our discussion delves into the negative effects of interrupted sleep for new parents, which can affect them for months and even years. 

Lynelle clarifies the four stages of sleep, and how much of each stage we tend to require. She also explains how the body prioritizes deep sleep and can brilliantly adjust sleep cycles to compensate for those late-bedtime streaks or the evenings we're awake with insomnia or broken sleep. Lynelle debunks sleep myths (such as, "Can we only obtain deep sleep between the hours of 10pm and 2am?") and helps us to understand: healthy sleep architecture; the various kinds of insomnia; and, the benefits of micro-naps. She provides strategies for getting children to go to bed more easily, and tells us what to do - and what not to do - when it comes to getting good sleep back into your life.
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View Episode Transcript

There's an entrained rhythm that we all have; we're either larks or owls usually, and our body has a clock, it's it's got a fancy name, it's called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, and it's right behind your eyes. So your body pays a lot of attention to when light hits your eyes, and then it counts off, and it makes you sleepy, around 16 hours later, kids will do things I call anchoring behaviors to keep you nearby, they might twirl your hair, hold your hand, but if your child needs you to be right there, when they fall asleep, when they wake up, they need that same little association to go back to sleep.

You know, the interesting thing I imagined about your work is it's one of the fields of work where you don't get a call from people until they're in a crisis.

You're so right. And their marriages are sometimes in trouble because of it. Because dad is sleeping in the race car bed, and mom's in her master with all the kids on top of her. Right. And they're just they're just in a terrible mess, often by the time I see them.

I'm Cynthia Overgard, owner of HypnoBirthing of Connecticut, childbirth advocate and postpartum support specialist. And I'm Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and international board certified lactation consultant. And this is the Down To Birth Podcast. Childbirth is something we're made to do. But how do we have our safest and most satisfying experience in today's medical culture? Let's dispel the myths and get down to birth.

Hi, I'm Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg. I'm so happy to be here today. I always tell people that I wear two hats. So half of the week I work with adults who can't sleep well who have insomnia. And the other half of my week, I work with parents whose kids don't sleep well. So I do sleep all the time. That's my love and my passion. And I love helping adults and and kids learn to be great sleepers.

What are your credentials? You're a doctor. So tell us a little bit about that.

Yes, so I have my doctorate in clinical psychology. And I'm also board certified in Sleep Medicine, which is a little bit unusual. There's about 200 Psychologists who are board certified in sleep medicine in the country. I work at Yale as an assistant professor, where I train young psychologists who are learning to do all sorts of behavioral medicine. That's the field that we call, you know, that overlap between medicine and psychology. And then I also work at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, where I'm the director of their pediatric behavioral sleep program.

My hope this is a growing field because I mean, sleep is like one of the, if not the most important thing we can do for our health. And so many people have sleep challenges. Very few people sleep really, very well the way they should. And certainly, new moms are faced with a lot of difficulty with sleeping. So or even pregnant moms.

Yeah, perhaps the worst sleep of all, you know, with a little baby in the house. And then maybe you have toddlers on top of that, or school aged kids on top of that. So it's really tricky for sleep.

Well, we are really happy that you're doing this work, and very much looking forward to hearing what you can teach us about where sleep problems begin and how we can work to remedy them.

Sure. Do you want me to just start out with perhaps a postpartum mom? Would that be a good place to start? What she's struggling with?

Yeah, in particular, let's focus on postpartum moms. So they have their babies, and then they are going to face probably months if not, if not a year, or two or more of Yes, interrupted sleep. And part of the I mean, I don't know, I'm just saying this from having experienced it. Part of the stress of being on so little sleep, you know, you end up functioning on just cortisol, I suppose. But part of the problem I'm sure is that I remember missing the feeling of waking up naturally waking up gently and remembering the last dream I had, and just feeling that you know that that sleep cycle just ended that feeling of like rest in between sleep cycles, or, or, you know, when we have a really good night's sleep. I know that we just barely wake up after each dream and maybe rollover and drift off into the next cycle. And it's such a lovely feeling to to experience that. When you have a baby. It's just constantly interrupted. Can you talk about what's going on? And then you know what is happening in that process? Am I onto something there? You're totally on to something there. So we all wake up two to six times a night. That's normal. But great sleepers don't notice right? Because you said it yourself. You just turn over you might fix the coverage. You kind of listen to make sure everybody's okay, and you drift right back off. But when you're a new mom, those first four months of sleep or an infant, their sleep is not organized at all. Right? It's not falling into those really common patterns that we all know of dream sleep and deep sleep and light sleep. So those first four months, it's really, really tough on on mom's on all parents, of course. But by the four month mark, an infant sleep begins to organize in such a way that they can sleep in much longer chunks, so to speak. And that's four to six, right in that four to six month mark, and then a mom, or any parent could hope to begin getting better sleep at that point. So we're always looking to build that pattern of a better longer chunk of sleep.

But just before we go on to the next point, but what exactly is happening when that sleep cycle is jilted and interrupted? What What are we missing out on? Yeah, it like, for example, if a woman gets three hours of nice consolidated sleep, it's very different from three hours of uninterrupted sleep. So can you first acknowledge or explain why the interrupted sleep is so much more harmful and disturbing to us?

Sure, absolutely. So we are looking to do this sort of a stair step thing right where you're awake, and then you're stair stepping down through stage one sleep, very light sleep, you almost can hear things during stage one sleep, and then you're down into stage two sleep. And you're getting that's just sort of like your regular everyday sleep, the basic sleep, and then you're hoping to get down to the deep sleep, which is called delta sleep, or slow wave sleep. And that's the sleep that really restores us. And then, of course, the fourth type of sleep is REM sleep or dream sleep. And we go through those four cycles about every 90 minutes, if we're sleeping normally, right. So we'll get many, you know, maybe four to six cycles of dream sleep over the whole night. But when you wake up from a deeper stage to a lighter sleep, that's called an arousal if you wake all the way up, that's called an awakening, and those fragmentations happening at night, make your sleep feel not very restorative.

They don't just make your sleep feel not very restorative, they really are not restorative for the body, correct. Like your body really isn't having the chance to do the work that sleep is meant to do to help us cleanse and detoxify and recover. So insane.

Prevent insanity. Yeah, the real truth is that you can be awakened out of a deep stage of sleep, check out whatever woke you. And you can fall right back down into a deep stage. If you look at sleep studies, you'll see that people can wake all the way up, you know, really, really come to the surface of the pond, so to speak, and go right back down into deep sleep, my husband can do that I can't compete with that gift.

You right. So you're talking about insomnia, and it's called Sleep maintenance, insomnia, right. So there's three kinds of Insomnia, Sleep onset, insomnia, trouble falling, which you can have if you're stressed or worried or troubleshooting or problem solving, when you get into bed, and sleep maintenance insomnia, where you wake up at night, and it's really hard to shut your mind back off. And then the third kind is called early morning waking, we've all had all three of those kinds of sleep. And you're so right, that one, once you wake up, some people cannot just turn right back over and go back to sleep. And then they lose a big chunk of sleep from maybe the not very many hours, they have set aside, available anyway. So there's a concept we call core sleep that a lot of people find helpful to talk about. That means the first five and a half or six hours of sleep, even if broken. So in other words, if you got three hours, and then you got three more hours, even if you lost an hour in the middle, you still would have accrued six hours, if you will. And that first six hours, here's really great news, it has all of the deep sleep you ever would have achieved. And two or three cycles of REM, than the sleep that you would get in the next hour, say or two if you're an eight hour sleep, or if you're lucky enough to be an eight hour sleeper that would have one more cycle of dreams probably and some more of the lighter sleep. So the first six hours you accrue are the most important, if you will.

But it's my understanding that you don't really get the benefit of the deep sleep. Because we're diurnal, and we're on circadian rhythms. I have heard that if we go to bed at let's say 2am and sleep till 10. It's not as good for you as far as deep sleep as if we go to bed at 10am and wake up at eight.

Is that true? It's actually not true. I haven't heard. Yeah, it's wonderful news because there's what's called a chrono type, which means you just said diurnal right circadian rhythm. Some people are larks early birds, some people are owls, they stay up late. And if you look at their sleep studies, you know we put everybody in the lab right and we have this really gold standard kind I have data for them. And there are people who sleep from 2am to 10am. And their sleep is just as solid, just as much deep sleep just as much REM sleep as the person who slept from 10 to six, if they are night owls, but if so I think I'm starting to make sense of this. So if there's someone who always goes to bed at midnight, they're basically going to do just fine. They've kind of readjusted that, that that rhythm. But if let's say I'm a morning person, which I am, and I, let's say I normally go to bed at 10. And if I have a night where I go to bed at one, mine will be more disruptive than that person who always goes to bed at midnight, or one Is that true, because my body's used to these certain hours.

It's not it's there's still more good news, I have more good news for you. Your body will is a really smart piece of machinery, and it will get the deep sleep first. Always, if you deprive someone of sleep, and then put them in the lab, they'll get lots and lots of deep sleep before they'll ever go into dream sleep. If your body so smart, your body's even smarter than that you're ready for even better news. Let's say you have a nightmare. It's quite disrupted, and you only got three hours of sleep on Monday night, let's say Okay, on Tuesday night, your body will steal from the lighter sleep you would have gotten and put it into your deep sleep bucket. I call it in your dream sleep bucket until you're caught up as many nights as that takes. Isn't that amazing?

It's amazing. It's fantastic.

That sort of I mean, I would say that sort of makes sense. Like if you have a really bad night's sleep, typically the next sleep the next night. You're like, Man, I slept great, right? Like, you feel like you've slept so hard and so deep, because somebody's making up for the night before. But so, okay, well, can I say one more fast thing. The one thing Cynthia said though, that I wanted to swing back to is Cynthia would though wake up naturally at her normal time, right five or 6am. So her night would probably be truncated. So that is so you're so right. That is true. A New Year's we have a tradition with our friends for years we hang out together not drinking like not not not I'm not talking like much drinking or anything like that. But even the years we like sang karaoke till 130 in the morning and went to bed. I'm still waking up really early.

It's so frustrating. Exactly. So that's the downside of your later bedtime. Truly the 1am You're still going to wake up, you're still going to wake up? Yeah, I'll sleep right through it. I guess, one way or the other.

I wake up with the caps on if I can. Yeah. Um, is it true that the deep sleep is where we physically heal, and the REM sleep is where we emotionally and psychologically heal our emotions. And that's what dreams are all about. For the most part, right? We have our more emotional dreams in the REM sleep.

I'll tell you that. You know, I work at Yale with some of the just most wonderful sleep researchers. And we still don't really really know what processes happen in sleep. But the research shows that probably what happens in sheet sleep is emotional reregulation, as you were alluding to, and what's called pruning, which means all the things that come into our brain during the day that we're learning, we don't really need to hold on to all of them. So our brain prunes that away, and it also organizes and categorizes and stores it in little file folders. And we're also doing the physical repair. So you go to the gym, and you you know, you have some muscle fiber breakdown your body repairs that at night, human growth hormones released at night for, you know, teenagers and so on. So, so many things are happening at night, we know what some of them are, but it's still a big mystery of, you know, all the things that happened during sleep.

One of the things about human growth hormone that I had heard, maybe it's true, maybe it's not, is that if if your body is typically releasing that hormone at a certain time, say 11pm Because you go to bed at 10pm If you stay awake till midnight, or 1am You miss that window of opportunity for your body to you know, to produce the same amount of growth hormone, and it doesn't make up for that. It's just like a missed opportunity. Is that correct?

I am that's not my field and I am not sure if that's true. Okay. Yeah, body's already smart, though. So yeah, probably gives you some it gives you double the day, but I am not sure.

Okay, interesting. So let's talk about let's talk about postpartum sleep, and postpartum rage in particular, because a lot of women experienced this postpartum rage and much of it can be attributed to lack of sleep. Well, I think maybe - It's how we torture people think about it write it torture, it can make you go insane, right? Yeah, if you don't sleep you -

- it's a horrible, horrible thing. Yeah, like a Geneva Convention recognized means of torture.

100% and, and let them sleep and then wake them up, let them sleep wake them up, right? That's just horrible. Yeah, and this is what's happening to new moms. And while it's normal in the first three or four months, many babies will have regressions later on, many never get into a healthy sleep pattern. And some moms, including myself, have experienced this sleep deprivation for, you know, 12 plus months, and really felt like I was getting to a point of insanity. And I still feel like now every time I, you know, want to take an extra long sleep, I'm like, I'm still making up for the years of lost sleep feels like that with the children. And so it feels important to do it. But can you talk about why that is how that happens? And any suggestions to help?

Yeah, I, that's such a great topic. And it's so common, and it's a terrible issue. What I usually talk to moms about is in the, again, the first four to six months, the sleep cycles are quite disorganized for babies. And that's why they wake all the time, and they have to feed all the time. And so one thing that a lot of people are recommending, is having, you know, if your partner, right, and you have a supportive partner to do six hour shifts, for example, where maybe mom's on from moms sleeping rather, from, let's say, 9pm to 3am, solid, nobody comes and finds mom, right? And then 3am to 9am, that might be mom shift, and Dad sleeping. Now, we all know how hard that can be with work schedules and everything. But if you can figure out some longer period where mom is not, I'm just going to default to mom, right? Because we're talking about moms. If mom can have uninterrupted sleep for x number of hours, that's really important way to help her feel more rested, for example. So some, again, eight 8pm To 2am 2am to 8am, you see where I'm going with that there's a chunk of time where nobody's going to come looking for mom, that's one way to go after it.

Quick question on that. I am also a lactation consultant. And so for moms who are exclusively breastfeeding, sometimes six hour window, could you mind a little bit long for their breasts, or sometimes it can impede their milk production. So I always suggest five, I feel like most people get away with five, and still feel okay. And their breasts can usually handle that is that sufficient?

I love that. I love that. Because, you know, there's remember we talked about the core sleep concept, we'll swing back to that for a second and the first five to six hours, you're getting all of the deep sleep you're going to ever get, and a few cycles of REM. So if you can protect the five hours, beautiful, that'd be fantastic. The second thing I was going to say is by about the four to six month mark, a baby doesn't have a physiological need to eat at night, not necessarily for breastfed babies, right, there's some time between six month mark and the year mark where they don't have that physiological need to eat, they can make it through the night. But many of them have what's called a learned need to eat. I know you've all are very aware of this. And so if feeding is the last thing in this cycle, then that's called a feeding to sleep Association. And that can mean that nursing or bottle feeding is the last thing that happens in whatever way you fall asleep, you sometimes need to get back to sleep that way. So sometimes what we'll do is we'll move feeding a little bit earlier, and then do one or two more things and help them learn to self settle a little bit more.

So would that be done during just the nighttime sessions? Or would you encourage a mom in that case to try to put seperation between feeding and sleep during the day?

I would love to see her put it during the day because I'm a behaviorist. And so of course, I'm always thinking of Pavlov right. And so if you do A, B, C, D, sometimes you can really reliably que drowsiness and sleep. So you might do feeding, burping, changing, singing a little song, putting them in the crib to learn how to self soothe a bit. And if you did that for naps, and at bedtime, you might have a child who more easily drifts into sleep. And of course, whatever way you fall asleep is the way you want to get back to sleep. So if you've settled yourself a little bit more as a baby, you might be able to get yourself back to sleep during one of those wakings that are so natural two to six times a night, as we talked about.

You mentioned that the first few hours of sleep in the night their body, your body makes sure that you get the deep sleep and then after that, it's not that it's bone asleep. It's another necessary sleep. REM sleep. So can you talk about how much of that we need is it like the more the better is what is I remember when we had our second my husband was working from home at that point. And both of my children they were born four years apart but both of them were like 5am Wake rockers, and I was exhausted with My first morning, my husband had to leave for New York City around that hour. So I was by myself and I would be up for the day at 5:15 in the morning. But when he was home four years later, and my daughter got up early, and I did that last breastfeeding of the morning, he always and I always did the middle of the night stuff, but he would get up at 5:15 and take her. And I would get that one, usually minimum one deep REM sleep, and it was life changing for me that the one extra REM sleep. Why is that? Like, how much of that do we need? And why was that one sleep cycle, but I was able to get that second time around. So life changing for me.

Fantastic question. And isn't it the most delicious sleep ever that last morning sleep especially early in the morning? What is it? Why is that? Blissful? Amazing. And it's always the best dreams?

I know, I just saw a tweet this morning on Twitter because I follow a lot of sleep stuff on Twitter. And the person said, why can I lay in bed at night. And then in the morning, I could sleep just like an angel. Right? It's amazing. So we talked about buckets a minute ago, I'm going to tell you the bucket so there's light sleep, medium sleep, deep sleep and dream sleep. And the the proportions go like this by percent light 50% Medium sleep where you're a little sleep 20 ish percent deep and 20 ish percent REM. But that deep. So that's a normal distribution. It's called sleep architecture. So if you got a really great night, and we put you in the lab, and we averaged out your sleep, he'd get about 50% of the lighter stuff. And then a quarter of the night, deep sleep a quarter of the night dream sleep. But when it falls is also well researched as well, that deep sleep comes first. And then the second half of the night is where you're getting all that delicious dream sleep. And your dreams get longer and longer and longer as you get towards your wake time. So your last stream is your longest stream. Okay, so for you to get that last dream means you probably got your longest stream and your I what I call it your most delicious dream, the one where you're really down deep in the dream doing all the good work of dreaming the most restorative probably emotionally as well. Yes.

What is your recommendation for the number of hours of sleep everyone should have every night?

Yeah, this is tricky. But my own rule of thumb is you should wake spontaneously. Cynthia talked about that. Really early on in this podcast, right? You said that feeling of waking up naturally.

I know it feels really good. That's the sign you're saying it feels good, because it's actually good for us. But what if you are an early morning person, I sometimes wonder. I'm happy to hear this. But I've sometimes felt like, well, what if I make the mistake of staying up late going to bed at say 11 or midnight for several nights and I'm still like, dammit, there I go again, waking up with the sunlight every morning. You're saying that's still that's not like a shame that I'm a morning person because it would have been better if I had slept in you're saying even if I wake up naturally, that's still the best thing for me. Even if I went to bed too late,

it still would have been better to get your hours in, of course, yes. But if your body wakes you at that time every morning, just remember that a you have a really well in trained sleep system. You know, your body knows when you want to go to bed. And when you want to get up, that's a good sign. I work with a lot of people whose sleep schedules are all over the place really chaotic, especially teenagers, for example, right? So the fact that you wake up really reliably marks you as a good sleeper. But of course, if you could have gone to bed at your typical time, it would have been much better.

So back to Trisha his question, the best marker of good sleep is waking up.

Spontaneous waking.

Okay, what's not a certain set number of hours? Is there a set of hours that you recommend?

Yeah, if I did a bell curve, I'm going to do a drum mental bell curve, okay. Some people need five hours, very few. The next sort of point up the bell curve would be six, the highest point of the bell curve would be seven. Most people need around seven, then eight would be the other side of the bell curve heading back down and some people need nine. So if you imagine 56789, very few need five, very few need nine. Most people need six, seven or eight.

Is there any information about the type of people type of sleepers who need nine versus five?

You just would feel you wouldn't feel good unless you got your nine for example. And then I bet you know a tiny number of people who say I only sleep five hours and I feel great. Rare though.

Cindy Robbins likes to boast that he has his system down to four hours a night and I'm just always thinking that is not healthy man. You can't hack biology. You know, just mess with it. Um, how productive do you have to be like, just? Yeah, but how come? Let's say so let's just make this specific. Again, let's just say theoretically, if I'm a person who needs seven, if I were to go to bed at 9pm, yeah, I'm not going to wake up at 4am. Or I'm still going to wake up at 630 or seven. How come? That is what is pulling me toward that same wake up time whether I go to bed too late, or whether I get into bed early? Yeah, it's not really like the body wakes us up after the number of hours we need. It's like there's still some other force happening there. Can you talk about that a bit?

Yeah, there's an entrained rhythm that we all have. We're either larks or owls usually, right. And our body has a clock, it's it's got a fancy name. It's called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, and it's right behind your eyes. So your body pays a lot of attention to when light hits your eyes, full spectrum light, and then it counts off. If you're a eight hour person, it counts off 16 hours and it makes you sleepy around 16 hours later. It one night, you went to bed at nine, just because you're tired, which is fine. We all do that maybe we're getting sick, maybe we're fighting something off. But I bet you if if you're a good sleeper, and I bet you are, you get sleepy around the same time each night and you wake up around the same time in the morning, that's the sign of a really good sleeper.

So it's not that you're required number of hours, is what's going to wake you up, you're still going to wake up around the time your body's rhythm dictates you have a clock and it's running is it really better if you're tired to just hold out till your bedtime, it's a little better to hold out for your bedtime. But if you're overly sleeping one night, we've all done it right. We've all gone to bed early or try you know, we knew we had to get up really early and we catch a plane and we get in bed early. And we're lucky enough to fall asleep. That's great. As we get a little bit older, certain decades, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, we actually end up needing less sleep than we used to. And people who are in their 60s 70s and 80s, they often start to do what's called advancing their circadian rhythm, they go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. So I treat a lot of adults in their 80s, who they're waking up at 4am. And they hate it, you know, but they don't need eight hours anymore. And sometimes they're still going to bed at their old bedtime. And then they wake up six hours, six and a half hours later. And they're kind of annoyed to be awake at that time in the morning. So I did hear that recently that when we get up in the morning. And if we allow the sunlight to hit our retinas, our body will I think we get like a rush of cortisol. And then like around 16 hours later we start secreting melatonin and it allows us to feel sleepy or later. So it's better to get sunlight in the morning when we wake up rather than say, to hang out in a dark room and open up the laptop and start doing work.

Which is 100% Right. So when you're when light hits your retina, that really the very back of your eye, most people recommend going outdoors for two minutes. Two minutes, literally. You can do longer than that, right? But the minimum RDA let's call it would be gonna just grab your cup of tea or your coffee and walk out on your deck and look around. Listen to the verse for two minutes. That's a beautiful dose, and your body does more than even turn on cortisol. It turns off adenosine and melatonin production. And then it does the math for when you are meant to get your melatonin later.

Does that work through like glass like through if you're driving in the morning and you don't wear your sunglasses? Is that helpful?

It is helpful. The most helpful of all is full spectrum. The sky. That's the best. But yes, it works through glass. It's better if you were to literally stand on your deck or balcony.

We're all in Connecticut. And we know what winters can be like here. Sometimes it's overcast for many weeks of the winter. So how does that work? Do we need more? We need to get outside more and stay out longer or is it still working? Is it still working its magic through the overcast winter skies.

And nice any sky will work. But a lot of people you're right in the winter, they have to already be in a building before the sun's even up, right depends on your job. And so those folks often use a light box which I'm sure both of you have heard of. And they'll set up a light box even on their desk or their breakfast table.  And you're looking for a pretty big screen like a big monitor that you know I see them on Amazon of course and some of these little tiny things that are size of a makeup mirror. That's not what we're talking about talking about a big nice monitor size light box that you're in front of for about half an hour.

So in the northeast, if we don't use that and we it's just us we don't have jobs that have us in an office at 4am is going outside for two minutes, still sufficient?

Yeah, I'd probably do a little longer, though, as you point out because of the cloud cover the darker mornings and that sort of thing.

Can you talk to us about some things, if you are struggling with sleep, whether you're a new mom or not a mom, or wherever you are in life, we know that there are definitely things that we can do to help us sleep better. And there are things that we can do that hinder our sleep. So what are some big no no's? If you're having trouble sleeping? What are some of the things you absolutely should not do? That may be impeding your ability to start sleeping better?

Yeah, I'd love to talk about that. And there's sort of two sides of the same coin. If you think about it, things not to do and things to do. So things not to do would be to have a really variable sleep schedule, which again, as a mom can be very hard to do. But as much as you can work it out with your partner having the same bedtime and the same rise time is fantastic. Your body absolutely loves a consistent sleep schedule, especially in terms of the rise time, for many of the reasons that we've been talking about, right. That's the way we say that the rise time drives the bus, the rise time is what your body uses to figure out your bedtime. Number one, super consistent bedtimes and restaurants are fantastic. Number one. Number two, everybody's talking about blue light all the time now. So you are trying to avoid a lot of screen time exposure as you're heading into bed. What I recommend is blue light blockers on after dinner, and then shifting maybe half an hour before bed away from screens and towards even an e reader. Right on the night setting doesn't have that blue light. So I use a candle every night to fall asleep. I put it on the night setting, right black background white letters, and I use it to fall asleep. So that's important. Staying away from anything, you know, alerting or stimulating right before bed. So last year, last few emails, that wouldn't be the thing I'd want you to do. I wouldn't want you watching the news. The news is terrible. Lunch. No, take a news fast, right? I live in news fast. Exactly. You can get your news in the morning and about half an hour. If something you really need to know you're going to hear it eventually, you're going to hear about it. Right? So just really having a lovely routine. We talked about that, too. I'm a big believer in conditioned responses, right, and Pavlov and behaviorism. And you're looking for a few things that you do every night. And then your body learns. This is what she does when she wants to go to sleep. Right. And it's a relaxing routine that begins to reliably cue drowsiness for you.

What are some of those nice suggestions you can tell us about? The clients have done?

Yeah, absolutely. So a lot of them. But what they do is they sort of get the house settled, whichever what whatever way that means, right? The kitchen is in pretty good shape the lunches are made whatever that is, you've done a little bit of a mental download of what has to happen tomorrow, lay things out made your to do list. And then you really sort of, I call it closing the downstairs, right? You're finished with everything downstairs, and then you're heading up, maybe you're doing a really nice, you know, people love to do nice space care, maybe you're taking a shower, or you're putting on really soft, comfortable clothing, climbing into bed with your book, or some puzzles or a magazine or whatever you enjoy. And then reading until you're drowsy.

Not reading on your phone. Unless it's unless like you said, you're you have night mode, I suppose

night mode, I do love it if your phone turns into a book right into a Kindle, or you have an actual Kindle because the our phones, let alone our kids who can't, I can hardly stay away from them. They have notifications, right. And we all have this urge to like, get rid of all the little banners and turn, you know get rid of everything that we've been notified about. And so I really do like it if you shift to using an e reader. I think that's a really nice way to shift into bedtime. Or a book of course a regular But have you noticed in your studies that since the advent of cell phones and cell phones sleeping next to people in bed that sleep problems have gotten a lot worse, they are worse right? Because your phone will literally notify you in the middle of the night of something right at anyone leave their phone on near them while they sleep if they don't have to. If there isn't a loved one they're worried about I don't understand. I don't either, but it kept it all night long. I just can't understand the temptation.

Many people turn to their phone when they wake up in the middle of the night is their tool for trying to go back to sleep. But it seems like it's probably exactly the opposite.

But at a minimum, I'm just surprised even if they're going to do that which we know is is very harmful. Why wouldn't they at least have it in airplane mode? Why would they be willing to subject themselves to interruptions? You're giving me the okay sign and I'm giving you the I agree with you sign. I totally agree with you. Those phones should be in the mode of not interrupting you. Right the Do Not Disturb mode. Yeah, but you can use it As Trisha said, To Read Write, my phone has Kindle on it, but the rest of the phone is in Do Not Disturb mode. And I prefer a real Kindle actually, because, again, it doesn't have all the associations it doesn't have my email on there doesn't have news, you know, notifications, nothing. A Kindle is just such a nice down downshifting kind of thing.

So good sleep starts in the morning. Yeah, we get up and we we get some sunlight, even if it's just for two minutes. Yeah. And then getting discipline around the bedtime is definitely where the work is the time of bed the ritual before bed. Is there anything to know about midday? Is there anything to say about naps or any other do's or don'ts? Yeah, you're asking the best questions, putting your nap between noon and four is the best time. And here's why our melatonin is released in a pattern that kind of looks like a whale. So there's a big release of melatonin between, you know, six 8pm At night, and it's finishing up, it's released by midnight or so between midnight and six. It's turning off between 6am and noon, it's kind of flat. And then between 12 and four, there's a little mini bump of melatonin as if our bodies expect a nap. And in many cultures, there is a nap as we all know, right? siesta. And so if you're going to take a nap and you take it between 12 and four for a half an hour to an hour or less, you're not going to confuse your body about whether or not bedtimes coming, right. And you still should be able to fall asleep beautifully at bedtime, even with a nap. The Forbidden zones for naps are late morning when you've sort of just gotten up. And after dinner. That's a hard if you take a nap. You'll notice if you take a nap after dinner, you might really push your bedtime.

And a longer nap over an hour is also potentially going to interfere with the ability to fall asleep that night.

Yes, your body gets confused. What was that? Was that part of my night? You know, and then you'll get what's called sleep inertia. You ever feel really groggy? After a nap? That's too long. That's got a name and it's called sleep inertia.

I once heard that 27 minutes is the optimal time to take a nap

like humans are ridiculous. Okay, no, turn everything into a science.

Well, it's because the military studied it because they were trying to enhance the performance of you know, they these these people go on short amounts of sleep and they were trying to find the exact amount of time to maximize the most efficient recovery and not oversleep. And they determined it was 27 minutes. And I did this for a while because I in the summer we have a built in nap. Every clock we have a rest period. And it's amazing. And it's it's fabulous. And I wish I could keep it going on my life. But it only works in the summer because it's part of a specific schedule.

It's fabulous. But I do the 27 nap. And I never groggy when I wake up. I feel I feel so rested, and never groggy. But if I go longer, longer, I start to feel groggy, right, but the

27 minutes to a perfectionist like me, which is you know, it's a very difficult way to be. And I think a lot of people identify with perfectionism. You know, it's, it's can only stress you out, because you're like, Well, what's 27 minutes from the moment I eventually chose? You know how I set the timer for 27 minutes. And if I don't like if I fall asleep very quickly, then it works. If I don't, it's a shorter nap. And if you're awake five minutes later, you have to start freaking out that you're not going to get your 27 What do you think about lanell? Is that true?

I think that setting an alarm for the 27 to 30 minute mark is averaging like 30 to give you a few minutes to lead in.

I love it. I think basically setting an alarm. So you know, when you lay down, something's gonna rouse me at about the 30 minute mark, I think that's absolutely fine. A lot of people find if they fall asleep at all, they feel refreshed. And there's a funny story about Thomas Edison. I do not know whether it's true that he would lean his head back and put a spoon on his nose to balance and then when he chipped his head forward and the spoon fell off. That was the end of his nap.

You know what that's actually I have had some of those naps where I have fallen asleep for less than five minutes. And it's amazing how restorative they are. I agree. Why refreshing.

It's called a micro sleep. And something happened. It's happened to your kids in a bad way. Right? Remember driving them home from somewhere and it's nap time and you're in you're wiggling their foot you're reaching behind a stoplight? Yes, yes. You're trying to keep them awake till you get them home because if they get the micro sleep, they're like, Oh, I'm so refreshed. Why it's it's a weird little reset of the brain. It's a weird little reset somehow if it falls asleep at all. Sometimes it thinks it's had a nap but Is it restorative?

It can be our bet you've all had, I think is I don't understand why it is. But I do agree that that can be. But back to Trisha is 27 minute thing that I was making fun of? Isn't it? Even if you take him out? Isn't it still better to wake up with that wonderful sleep cycle? Like I've taken naps during the day. And when you have a dream during the day, it is just the most blissful, wonderful. Oh, it just feels so good to like finish a dream and wake up is, is it better to set a timer to make sure you don't map too long? Or to try to go for that full sleep cycle?

That's a great question. So here's what I think if you have some reliable data, that you can fall asleep, finish the dream and wake up pretty reliably without a timer. Yay. For that, I would do that. But if you're someone who's got a little bit sleep deprived mom and you're afraid you're going to sleep through, then there's a little bit of ease in knowing there's going to be a time or to catch you. So you don't miss pickup for heaven's sakes, right. So I think there's a little happy medium there for most people. Yeah.

You know, the interesting thing I imagined about your work is it's one of the fields of work where you don't get a call from people until they're in a crisis. You're so right. And if only they had sought good sleep hygiene before they got to this crisis with their baby with their child toddler in their own lives before they had a baby. It could have prevented all of this, we see the same thing in fields of marriage counseling. Yes, it's like they think it's their last stop before divorce. So true. And the therapists are like, oh, gosh, like you guys could have come so much earlier. And it's not even the now you're in crisis mode. And everyone do like you might see, you might see your clients crying from frustration and arguing, do you see that?

They are miserable. And their marriages are sometimes in trouble because of it. Because dad is sleeping in the race car bed, and mom's in her master with all the kids on top of her. Right? And they're just they're just in a terrible mess, often by the time I see them. Yeah, you're so right.

So now, we all know that new moms don't get on sleep. We talked about that. We all know that babies don't sleep great. And that's normal and expected. And we openly talk about it and complain about it. But what happens when the sleep issues are persistent, like what happens when we're now talking about young children not sleeping, or teenagers not sleeping? Nobody seems to really talk about that. And I imagine that that is also can be very problematic for moms.

It can be absolutely. And so what I find in my own work, and I work with a lot of parents whose kids don't sleep is that there's a lot of resources for moms, parents of kids who are babies and toddlers. But once that child comes out of a crib and goes into a big kid bed, that's actually when a lot of the sleep problems occur. And we all know this as parents why they can walk and they can talk so they can leave their bed very easily and come find you right and tell you they're having issues. And so a few years ago, I realized that a lot of the books out there are for babies and toddlers, these sleep coaching, gentle sleep coaching books, so I wrote one for parents of three to 10 year olds, because I actually think those kids are harder to sleep coach because they can walk and talk. And if I can just say a couple of quick things that I usually offer. The two things that happen the most that end up causing children to be not great sleepers, or when a parent sticks around to help them fall asleep a little too much. So maybe they lie with them or rub their back. Kids will do things I call anchoring behaviors to keep you nearby. They might twirl your hair, hold your hand, and every parent knows knows the joys of snuggling. But if your child needs you to be right there, you know your four year old when they fall asleep, you're gonna see your four year old in the middle of the night, because the way they fell asleep was holding your hand when they wake up they need that same little association to go back to sleep. So what I work with when I work with parents, I have them teach their children some ways to self soothe, they use a trick called a bedtime basket. So they'll have a little basket or a toy or a stuffed animal if they're a little older a book or a picture book. And they're settling themselves if you will at the end of a really cozy, comforting bedtime routine. And then the parent can kind of work themselves out in steps out of the room and steps. And then the other big tip I give is a lot of kids love to call you back for one more thing when the routine supposed to be over. Could you check under the bed I forgot to hug dad I forgot to say goodnight to the dog. So I use a little trick called bedtime tickets. And so you would give your child two tickets at the end of that cozy routine. And when they wanted something it would cost if you will a ticket. So would you check under my bed sure that cost a ticket. You take the ticket and give a check could have another hook? Absolutely. You take the ticket Give them another hug. And then they're sort of out of tickets, if you see what I mean. And it helps kids to learn how much more they get of your attention and helps you to learn, you know, maybe I don't have to answer 17 requests. And I think those things are so helpful. If your child can be a wonderful independent sleeper, right, then the whole family benefits, right, you get to go to sleep and sleep deeply, because they're maybe not going to come find you. And the whole family just functions so beautifully. If everybody's a good sleeper in your home, right, because of course, we can't control when they're going to come in and disrupt us in that sleep cycle. If it's not the right time. That's right, throw off our night. And it also can't be great for the young child to be waking multiple times throughout the night when they are growing and developing and sleep is so important for their development that they sleep well.

Absolutely. And a parent can be a fantastic sleep coach themselves, they don't really need to necessarily hire sleep coach, there's a way to learn to be a really great sleep coach.

I know my neighbor Emily hire you do actually work on a private consulting basis.

I do. And so the parents just come on the Zoom call if the child is older, the child can absolutely join you know, I work with parents of 10 year olds, right. So really smart kids, right and they'll come on the call too but usually I work with parents a little bit younger and so the parents will come on the call will talk about the issues and then make a plan for them using the five steps in my book, preparing the room setting up a good routine teaching them to self comfort as we work the parent out managing all the extra requests and figuring out what to do in the middle of the night when they wake up. We'll just make a plan. So moms if I were going to leave you with one thought it would be that you're absolutely going to be able to get great sleep again. whatever stage you're in right now will pass and good sleep will return always value your sleep it's really a pillar of good health.

Thank you for joining us at the Down To Birth Show. You can reach us @downtobirthshow on Instagram or email us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com. All of Cynthia’s classes and Trisha’s breastfeeding services are offered live online, serving women and couples everywhere. Please remember this information is made available to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is in no way a substitute for medical advice. For our full disclaimer visit downtobirthshow.com/disclaimer. Thanks for tuning in, and as always, hear everyone and listen to yourself.

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About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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