Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
The Weissbluth Method: Q and A (2 of 2)
December 27, 2021

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A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial. I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length. This is a reference book. Read only the topic of interest to you.

Blog 59The Weissbluth Method: Q and A (2 of 2)

The Weissbluth Method: Q and A


Q: What is your top tip to help get the baby to sleep?

A: The single most important word is timing. You are using your child’s natural sleep rhythm as an aid to help her sleep well. You watch for drowsy signs and when they appear, you begin your soothing to sleep efforts and bedtime routines. Good timing prevents a second wind. What happens when you skip a nap or the interval between naps is too long or the bedtime is too late?

When you are short on sleep, your body reacts in a predictable way. You get keyed up because your body produces stimulating chemicals such as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline to fight the fatigue. This results in a burst of energy commonly known as a second wind. When you catch your second wind, you are in a state of higher neurological arousal. You might feel more wired, turned on, or full of nervous energy. The higher state of neurological arousal makes it more difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep or both. Understanding how sleep deprivation causes a second wind that makes it more difficult to easily fall asleep and stay asleep also leads to a deeper appreciation of the opposite situation: being well-rested allows your child to more easily fall asleep and stay asleep.

It’s a virtuous circle: sleep begets sleep. It’s also a vicious circle: sleeplessness begets sleeplessness.

Q: At what age should you start the Weissbluth Method?

A: It is never too early to start to help your child sleep better. Start with your newborn, or as early as possible to help your child sleep well because:

  1. Keeping the intervals of wakefulness between naps brief and protecting early bedtimes avoids the overtired state which makes it easier for your child to fall asleep and stay asleep. Your soothing efforts and bedtime routines help your baby transition from wakefulness to sleep. As time passes, because your child is well-rested, your child is more able to learn self-soothing and develop healthy sleep habits. Learning good habits early is easier than breaking bad habits later. The benefits of healthy sleep accrue and sleep problems are prevented.
  2. Healthy sleep may enhance neurodevelopment of the brain just as healthy foods build strong bones. Brain development is extremely rapid during infancy and the first few years of life. Starting early with healthy sleep optimizes healthy brain development and may prevent adverse outcomes.

It is never too late to start to help your child sleep better because:

  1. Brain development continues during the first two decades.
  2. A small number of extra minutes of sleep, even only 10-20 minutes, over time, make a big difference. Perhaps, just move the bedtime a little earlier.

Q: How does daytime sleep differ from night sleep?

A: Naps are not little bits of night sleep randomly intruding upon children’s waking hours. Naps have their own rhythms and specific purposes.

Why Naps are Beneficial:

  1. Naps reduce stress: During a nap, levels of cortisol dramatically decrease.
  2. Naps enhance emotional- and self-regulation: After a nap, children show more joy and pride; less worry/anxiety.
  3. Naps modulate temperament: Napping is associated with more positive mood, more adaptability, and longer persistence.
  4. Naps consolidate memories: Naps following learning enhance the memory of what was learned.
  5. Naps enhance executive function: Naps improve attention in the presence of conflicting information.
  6. Naps contain REM sleep and REM sleep helps direct the course of brain maturation.
  7. Naps and night sleep interact with each other: When children nap well, they remain at a lower level of neurological activation that produces a virtuous circle of healthy sleep during the day and healthy sleep during the night. When children do not nap well, they are at a higher level of neurological arousal resulting in bedtime resistance, night wakings, and short night sleep durations. Subsequently, waking up short of sleep, naps become more problematic: a vicious circle.

Q: Does the Weissbluth Method work for all age groups?

A: Yes.

For children of every age, the brain naturally alternates between wake and sleep outputs. This is an automatic process over which we have no control. If you try to fight this circadian rhythm, you will lose because the ancient and powerful force behind this biological process is the rotation of the earth on its axis creating day and night. As the earth rotates, dawn and dusk separate day and night. Dawn and dusk are twilight, or in-between states. Not fully day and not fully night.

The brain automatically shifts into the drowsy state which is also an in-between state: not fully awake and not fully asleep. As your baby starts to become drowsy, begin to soothe your child to sleep. Healthy sleep occurs when the sleep period is in synchrony with the occurrence of the brain’s output for sleep both during the day and night. When you put your well-rested child to sleep at the beginning of the drowsy period, because the baby’s brain is naturally drifting into a sleep state:

  • It is easier for your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • No crying occurs before your child falls asleep.

Although some adults have an eveningness preference (owls) while others have a morningness preference (larks), research in children shows that between birth and 8 years of age, evening types (owls) occurs in less than 2 percent of children at every age.  In separate research, using objective measures of sleep and salivary melatonin, at 30-36 months of age, the number of definite evening types was zero. So, the vast majority of babies and young children are larks (become drowsy early in the evening and wake up early in the morning) and thus benefit from early bedtimes.

My name is Marc Weissbluth and I’ve been a pediatrician since 1973. This baby sleep blog will help you create a healthy sleep schedule for your child. My baby sleep advice and sleep training will teach you how to get a baby to sleep through the night. To stay updated with my latest baby and child sleep blog posts, be sure to subscribe today.

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