6 tips to help baby sleep better and longer

Today we have a guest post from Emmerey Rose. 

Proper sleep is one of the most important things for baby’s development. At the same time, it is something that people don’t know enough about.

As you might have noticed, newborns tend to sleep a lot. On average, a newborn will sleep around 16 hours per day. Unfortunately, they only sleep for about 2 to 4 hours, after which they wake up and, usually, instantly start crying. This behavior worries new parents as some of them think that it’s unnatural. However, you shouldn’t worry – this is very normal for babies.

When it comes to newborns’ sleep cycles, they differ a lot from those of adults. This is connected with brain’s development. For most parents, this initial period of baby’s life is very tiring as they cannot get enough sleep themselves. When a baby reaches its 6th or 8th week of life, this will change so you just have to soldier through this initial period.

Here are some tips that will help you do it:

  1. Put your baby down frequently

As mentioned, newborn babies will sleep during most of the day. However, they are still able to stay awake for longer periods of time. It is your duty as a parent to put the baby down frequently. If a baby stays awake for more than 2 hours at a time, she will have trouble sleeping afterward. So, make sure to create a good routine.

  1. The baby has to learn the difference between day and night

Certain babies find it hard to sleep during the night, and this is not uncommon. You have to help your baby create natural habits. The best way to do this is by teaching the baby the difference between day and night. During the day, make sure your apartment or house gets enough light. Play with your baby if she starts falling asleep during feeding time. On the flipside, you have to minimize interaction during the night and make sure your newborn is not stimulated in any way.

  1. Make sure to avoid toys during the initial period

Toys above the crib can definitely help a baby fall to sleep. But make sure not to give her any stuffed toys or comforters until she’s at least 6 months old. Modern toys like reborn baby dolls shouldn’t be given before your child turns 2 years old.

  1. Learn to recognize situations when your baby is fatigued

As your baby cannot talk, it’s necessary to read her body language. When it comes to sleeping, this will be pretty easy. Your little one will start rubbing her eyes or become nervous when she’s sleepy. As soon as you notice one of these signs, make sure to put her in the crib. Reading these signs will become easier as you get more experienced as a parent.

  1. Create routine actions

Every baby needs to feel calm prior to sleeping. You can help out by signing a lullaby, rocking in a crib or gently stroking her forehead. Although these actions are calming by itself, your newborn will also get used to them and the more frequently you do them, the easier and quicker it will be for baby to fall asleep.

  1. Learn to dictate the rules

Waiting for your baby to feel sleepy is not good enough. You are the one who has to dictate the terms and make sure that your little one falls asleep at a particular time. So, whenever the time comes, make sure to pick up your baby and put her in the crib. This is much better than simply waiting for a baby to fall asleep and is especially important for babies who cannot develop a proper routine. As with everything else, the baby has to recognize that when she’s put to bed, she needs to sleep. Help her out the first few times by comforting your baby. As time goes by, sleep will become more habitual. Simply by putting her to bed, you will increase the odds that your child will fall asleep instantly.

There you go!

Just by following these 6 simple tips you will ensure that your baby has much better, more frequent sleep. Make sure that you’re the one dictating the terms and don’t allow yourself to be swayed by baby’s cuteness or by parental weaknesses.

How do LED lights impact our sleep

Today’s guest post comes from Arthur Smith. Arthur  is a solar energy and LED lighting enthusiast with years of experience working in these fields. For the last few years, he has been running www.ledwatcher.com, a blog about all things solar and LED lighting. You can contact him either on his website or on Twitter & Facebook @LEDwatcher.

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How does light affect your body?

First a bit of background though! Your body has it’s very own ‘biological clock’ called the Circadian Rhythm, which in other words means all the physical, mental and behavioral changes in our body are based upon a 24 hours cycle, that is influenced both by changes in your body and by external factors – the main one of which is, yes, light! Light acts as a stimulus that prompts your body clock to turn on and off particular genes which control things like your sleeping pattern, hormones, body temperature and various other functions. So light is indeed capable of influencing our sleep-waking cycle: by turning the external lights off or down before bed-time, this will influence your body to initiate the production of melatonin, a hormone makes us want to sleep; on the other hand, if you leave the lights turned on before going to sleep for the evening, melatonin production will be suppressed, leaving you feeling alert and awake.

Blue-toned LED lighting

So, yes, light does impact your sleep. But why the controversy over LED lighting, in particular blue toned LED lighting? It all comes back to the sleep cycle discussed above and how it is affected by external lighting conditions. Your body registers the amount of light in the outside environment through the eyes, and your eyes are especially sensitive to blue-toned light – so the greater the amount of blue toned light in the environment, the more your sleep-waking cycle will be effected. How do LED lights relate to this? LED Lamps emit more blue, cool-toned wavelengths of light than the older incandescent and even fluorescent lights, therefore they have greater potential to interfere with our sleep than any other light source out there. (By the same token though, greater exposure to blue-toned light from your computer or other light sources during the morning hours will help you become more alert and awake).

Do you need to turn off the LED lighting before going to sleep?

The current consensus appears to be that we should turn off our LED lights – including tablet and smartphone screens – at least one hour before going to sleep; this will help us get a better, more unbroken sleep overnight. But what do we do if our overhead and bedside lights are also equipped with LED bulbs? We don’t want to ditch them entirely – after all, the whole reason we switched over to LED bulbs is because of their greater efficiency and longevity compared to older, incandescent and fluorescent lights. We merely need to find a way to not get exposed to as much blue light from them.

Here are a few of the things you can do:

  • When buying LED bulbs, choose those that have a warmer color temperature – they produce far fewer blue wavelengths, and are therefore a lot easier on your eyes and sleeping habits
  • For your tablet and smartphone devices, try and get a blue light filtering application or program that will put over your screen a red-toned overlay which will make it emit fewer blue light wavelengths.
  • For those of you who like to watch television late into the evening hours, look at getting yourself some special TV glasses which have yellow tinted lenses, that again will filter the blue light and limit the amount of it received by your eyes.

Do you tend to suffer through restless nights full of broken sleep? You may have heard the claim that being exposed to too much LED lighting throughout the evening hours – whether it’s from your lamps, television, computer or smartphone screen – negatively impacts your sleep. But is it true? We’re here to separate fact from fiction, myth from reality, and examine what effect LED lights REALLY have on your sleep cycle. Read on to find out! And find more information here.

 

Bizarre sleeping habits of famous people

So it turns out that famous people sleep too! And guess what? Some of them are weird about sleep, just like some of us. Part of the price they pay for being rich and famous is that we hoi-polloi get to metaphorically peer into their window while they sleep and take note of their several sheep-counting devices. Such is fame. It turns out that celebjury has mastered the art of laying out all that is cool and weird about our idols. It’s a good site. Go check it out!

11 Fascinating Bedroom Designs that Will Help Your Kids to Sleep Better

Today we’re featuring a guest post from blogger Aby League. Aby League is a passionate writer and researcher. She owns About Possibilities blog and writes mostly about health, psychology and technology. Get in touch with her via @abyleague

According to the estimates of 40 accredited pediatric sleep centers in the US, about 20 to 30 percent of children older than six months suffer from sleeping problems such as insomnia. The lack of sleep or not getting enough of it can be detrimental to an adult’s health—so what more for children?

A quality, restful sleep is required to heal and repair the body, and encourage healthy growth in children. Without it, your child may show crankiness and other behavioral problems during the day. Studies have also shown that bad sleep is also linked to poor grades in subjects like math, writing, and reading. They may also show symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders.

Fortunately, there are ways to make your child sleep earlier and better such as telling stories and creating bedroom rituals. Furthermore, the bedroom plays a major role in the quality of sleep a child gets every night—from the color of the walls to the type of bed mattress. Everything inside the room must be designed to make it ideal for sleep.

However, every child is unique so coming up with the right design may be a bit harder than it would seem. At times, it can get a bit frustrating especially when you’re still trying to find out how to design your bedroom conducive to sleep. You may need to try different designs or mix and match them to find the perfect one for your child. Here are 11 fascinating bedroom designs to help your kids sleep better.

1. Starry, starry night

StarryStarry

Photo via Pinterest

You can play a bit with bedroom lighting depending on your child’s preference, but it is recommended to use dimmable lights. Although studies show that light, or the lack thereof, is a key factor in getting a good night’s sleep, many children actually find it a bit difficult to sleep in a completely dark room. A good way to find out how much light the child needs to sleep comfortably is to use a dimmable light.

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2. Fluffy clouds for a mattress

FluffyClouds

Photo via Pinterest

Your child’s  bed should be comfortable enough to keep them settled and well rested. In general, a kid’s mattress should be full-sized, with the bed a bit lower for younger children. Full-size mattresses allow the child to move freely and find the best sleeping position. The size should also allow for company when the child needs one. In terms of comfort, your child should be the decision maker, but firm mattresses would be best for younger children, especially infants.

3. Make it “cool”

makeitcool

Photo via Pinterest

Image is important to children. They find much more comfort in bedrooms that they consider “cool” rather than those that need to match the design of the home. The bedroom is their place of comfort so it will be best if they have a say on its design. However, you’ll still need to provide a bit of guidance to ensure that the room is free from clutter or things that could divert their attention from sleeping.

4. Electronics: Keep off

keepitoff

Photo via Pinterest

Electronic items, such as laptops, computers, and tablets, are best left outside the bedroom. These items stimulate a child’s interest instead of inducing sleep. Encourage the child to read a book inside the bedroom instead of browsing the Internet or chatting with their friends.

Another reason why electronics should be avoided is that children often forget to unplug devices, thus, creating a fire hazard. There are countless stories of exploding cellphone batteries or overheating devices causing fires, so ask your children to use these devices in the living room or study room where you can monitor them.

5. The rainbow connection

rainbowconnection

Photo via Pinterest

The traditional blue for boys and pink for girls may seem like the best colors for children, but it isn’t always the case. Keep in mind that children are unique and will sooner or later have preferred colors as they grow older.

6. Keep it open and fresh

openfresh

Photo via Pinterest

A child’s room should always smell clean and fresh, but without the aid of an air freshener. The room should be well ventilated and the best way to do this is to open a window or two for a few hours during the day. This may not be advisable if the home is in the city because of pollution, but there are other ways to ensure that the room is airy.

 7. Not too warm, not too cold

warmcold

Photo via Pinterest

Keep in mind that your ideal room temperature may not be the same for your child. If possible, let the child choose the temperature setting. However, if you or your child is unsure of the right settings, try to aim for anywhere between 16 and18 degrees Celsius and start from there. You might also want to consider installing a ceiling fan for evenings that are comfortable enough to turn off the AC.

8. Keep the outdoors out

outdoorsout

Photo via Pinterest

The environment outside the home can also affect a child’s sleeping patterns. Noise, light, and temperature are usually the culprits so try to reduce them as much as possible. If the home is located in a busy area, particularly during the night, then try to reduce noise by closing the windows and playing soft music inside the room. It will divert the child’s attention from exterior noise. However, it’s best to play tunes instead of music with lyrics to avoid additional distractions. Moreover, use curtains and drapes to reduce visual distractions at night.

9. Get rid of clutter

clutter

Photo via Pinterest

In a child’s room, storage can never be enough. Children and “stuff” are synonymous, so try to squeeze in extra storage spaces when you can. Doing so will reduce distracting clutter and even help the child learn about organization. If you have limited space, look for a bed design that can give you more storage space.

10. Decorate, decorate, decorate

decorate

Photo via Pinterest

Some of us were fortunate as kids to have decorated rooms, but others had the misfortune of being stuck in an adult room. All parents want their children to have a clean and tidy room, but this doesn’t mean that the room should be bare and unappealing for children. Kids will be kids. They’ll find ways to decorate their own rooms, which usually doesn’t turn out too good, so it’s best to teach children how to decorate their rooms properly.

 11. Creating a theme

theme

Photo via Pinterest

Themed rooms such as this personal teepee room are a good place to start, especially when the child is still young. These types of rooms encourage a child’s creativity and make the room entertaining  However, keep in mind that as the child grows older, the theme may become a bit out of date. It’s best to come up with a design that you can easily change as needed rather than themes that can be a bit costly to replace.

Additionally, avoid themes that turn the room into a play area. Don’t over-design your child’s room. Always remember that the bedroom needs to be ideal for sleeping. There are other areas in the home where a child can play and have fun, study or do other things. Over-decorating the room can actually divert the child’s attention and lead to poor sleeping habits that can affect the child’s health.

Indeed, imagining how your child’s bedroom would look like can be exciting and fun. However, always remember that comfort and how the bedroom will help induce sleep on your child are more important than aesthetics. Hopefully, these kids’ bedroom ideas for  better sleep can help you create the perfect room for your child

Bright Light Therapy for Insomnia

Bright light therapy for sleep problems?

It doesn’t sound logical: how can bright light help you sleep? Doesn’t light keep you awake?

Well yes, light does keep you awake. That is precisely why light is a useful tool to help correct certain sleep problems in which the sufferer’s night-day cycle is out of sync with the rest of the world. The most common sleep problem of this type is Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder.

What is Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder?

Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPD) is a problem with the body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm. This is the cycling of our sleep and metabolic functions that normally fluctuates in sync with night and day. For example, for most people, body temperature decreases at night and increases during the day. We tend to get sleepy around 10 p.m., and wake up around 6 a.m. (I said “tend to”!)

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But for some people, the day seems to run on a totally different clock. For people with DSPD, the day is shifted 3-6 hours later. They do not become sleepy until 1 a.m. and do not want to wake up until 10 a.m. It’s a problem if they need to wake up at 6 a.m. to go to school or to work. So they tend to feel tired and sluggish throughout the day. Then night comes but they can’t fall asleep! For all appearances, the person with DSPD is suffering from insomnia, or some other sleep problem.

DSPD generally starts in adolescence or young adulthood. According to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, DSPD occurs in 7-16 percent of young people. About 10 percent of my teen sleep coaching clients who complain of insomnia actually have DSPD. These teenagers often describe themselves as “night owls”.

Paying attention only to panel B of this figure, notice that the sleep time for a person with DSPD is four hours later than normal.

Bright light therapy works like this. For the patient with DSPD in this figure, they sit in front of a bright light box starting at around noon. They stay there for 1-2 hours. They repeat this pattern for 2 days. Then the hour that they sit in front of the box is advanced (moved earlier) by an hour for another two days.

Bright light therapy re-sets the internal body clock earlier and earlier until the patient is waking up at the “normal time”, say 6 a.m.

Bright Light Therapy TOO Bright?

These light boxes are very intense. Some people complain that the lights are too bright and they quit the therapy because the experience is too unpleasant.

It turns out that when bright light therapy is combined with other therapies such as cognitive behavior therapy, a less intense light box may be adequate to treat the problem.

The color of the light also turns out to be important. Light at the blue-green end of the spectrum is more effective at achieving the desired result. This type of light may not feel as harsh as intense white light.bright light therapy 3

Light during the day, dark at night

Light therapy alone will not treat DSPD. The patient may also need to break some bad habits. For example, electronic devices with screens need to be turned off in the evening, ideally two hours or more before bed. This change in behavior may be easier said than done for some young people. The problem is that exposure to the blue-spectrum light at night can undo the effects of the light training in the morning.

Cup of Joe? No.

People with DSPD also need to be careful about caffeine consumption. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages should be avoided during the four hours prior to bed time. Energy-dense foods, especially ones high in sugar, are stimulating and should be avoided in the evening. This may pose a problem for teenagers who are fond of dessert.

What about exercise?

It’s absolutely essential for health, but not in the evening! Especially with intense exercise, people find it much more difficult to “wind down” when they’ve exercised too close to bedtime. I recommend adjusting the schedule to get exercise done in the morning.bright light therapy 2

Treat other conditions

Many teenagers also suffer from anxiety and depression. The relationship between sleep problems and psychic distress are complex. It’s difficult to know sometimes which came first, the sleep problem or the distress. One thing is for certain: sleep problems make psychic distress worse and vice versa! I recommend getting help for anxiety and depression if possible. As I mentioned before, cognitive behavioral therapy combined with light therapy is effective. If the patient has the time and the motivation, talking therapy can help solve both sleep and mood problems.

Conclusions

  • Bright light therapy is an effective treatment for Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder
  • Avoid screen time at night!
  • Exercise regularly, but do it early in the day
  • Avoid caffeine and energy-dense foods at night
  • Pay attention to anxiety and mood problems

 

 

Is ADHD Actually a Sleep Problem?

Kids with ADHD sleep less well than other kids. Why is this?

Before we address this question, let’s back up and ask some preliminary questions:

A study published in the June issue of the Journal of Sleep Research presents some evidence that might help answer these questions.

These Danish investigators found that there is something funny about the way kids diagnosed with ADHD sleep. There are some notable and very important features of this study. The first has to do with the way researchers recruited families to participate.

The patients

Parents and pediatricians referred children to a clinic because of problems with attention. None of them had a diagnosis of ADHD. They filled out questionnaires and agreed to let their children have sleep studies. They did all of this before they had a diagnosis. In other words, the subjects were “blinded” to their placement in the study. This type of blinding helps remove any unconscious bias the parents may have had when answering the questions. By the end of the study, investigators had data from 76 children, average age nine. That’s not a huge study, but it is the largest study of ADHD sleep patterns to date.

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The study

ADHD sleep 2
ADHD sleep and the brain

Parents kept a 1-week sleep diary, logging hours of sleep and various other data points. Then investigators fitted children with take-home sleep study (polysomnography) machines. Though not the most comfortable devices, most children tolerate them well. The machines measure brain wave activity, breathing and oxygen levels, among other things. Finally, researchers invited the children to a sleep lab to perform a Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT). It’s a long name for a test that simply measures how long it takes you to fall asleep when you take naps during the day.

The results

The investigators also diagnostic tests for other disorders, such as autism, anxiety, and depression. They also performed intelligence tests and excluded children who scored an IQ less than 70. Investigators did not explain why they excluded mentally retarded children from the study. No part of the exams required any cognitive ability on the part of the child at all.

It turned out that 55 percent of the children with ADHD had some other diagnosis as well, called a “co-morbidity.” Before the study started, the investigators had guessed that children with multiple diagnoses would have more trouble sleeping.

This was not the case.ADHD sleep 3

To their surprise, investigators found that children with multiple diagnoses had the same sleeping patterns as children with only an ADHD diagnosis.

Shorter Sleep

Children with ADHD did not sleep as long as children in the control group. On average the 76 children with ADHD slept 501.9 minutes (about 8 hours and 20 minutes). Control children slept an average of 543.6 minutes (just over 9 hours).

Children in the ADHD had more sleep cycles (6.2) than the controls (4.4). In other words, the rise and fall of sleep, also called “sleep architecture” was significantly different.

It takes 10 minutes longer for children with ADHD to fall asleep at night, compared with control children.

By contrast, when taking the MSLT test, children with ADHD fell asleep faster, suggesting they are sleepier during the day despite being reported as more hyperactive and restless.

Taken together, these results suggest that the sleep of children with a diagnosis of ADHD may sleep differently than other children. What does this mean?

Is ADHD a problem with the part of the brain that controls attention and alertness? This has been the theory for decades. This theory is the basis of ADHD treatment with stimulants.

Sleep is more complex than this. Many parts of the brain are involved. Could it be that the symptoms of ADHD are caused by some other oddity in the way the brains of ADHD kids work?

ADHD Sleep TheoryADHD sleep 4

The results of this study are interesting, but raise more questions than they answer. At the end of the paper, investigators admitted that “it remains unclear whether sleep disturbances in ADHD are an aetiological (causal) factor, a co-morbid disorder or the result of an overlapping neurodevelopmental disorder of the brain.” In other words, the investigators cannot say whether kids with ADHD sleep poorly, or whether kids who sleep poorly have symptoms of ADHD.

What Imbalance?

This study provides another nail in the coffin of the “chemical imbalance theory“. This theory stated stated that ADHD was caused by too little stimulatory neurotransmitter in the brain.

Investigators also avoided making an obvious point: If symptoms of ADHD correlates with a sleep disorder, then giving amphetamine-based medications to children probably will not correct the underlying problem. The opposite is more likely. Indeed, insomnia is a well-known side effect of Ritalin and other ADHD drugs.

And lack of sleep never helped a distractible child.

What the Heck is Musical Head Banging?

I thought I knew what musical head banging was.  I was wrong.musical head banging 1

In 1995 I won a musical head banging contest at my niece’s bat mitzvah. As I recall the DJ played “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. I did what any student of 70’s hair band culture would have done. I planted my feet firmly in place, raised my right arm, saying “I Love You” in American Sign Language (cuz rock n’ roll is all about the love, dontcha know?) Then I proceeded to make like I was hammering finishing nails into a two-by-four. With my forehead. Brother Beavis will demonstrate.

I was so naive. That was NOT musical head banging.

Apparently, musical head banging has something to do with your baby’s sleep. It is claimed by some “experts” that if you play music to your baby as she falls asleep in the crib, she may develop musical head banging. And this is bad.

I learned this from illinoishomepage.net in an article entitled “Sleep Problems”

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill.

You might think letting your baby fall asleep to music is a good thing, but old habits sleep hard. It could actually negative affect their sleep.

It sounds harmless, but letting baby drift off listening to music might have a few consequences. Studies show constantly relying on certain sounds to go to sleep can create a need to listen to music.

So, if they’re away from home and don’t have access to that music, baby might not be able to sleep without listening to it first.

This could lead to musical head-banging. Music could make your child more likely to bang their head against solid objects.

If you think music isn’t the right choice for your child, experts suggest a white noise machine. It will drown out household sounds and provide a quiet environment for them to sleep in.

You can even find some apps for them on your smartphone.

A graphic in the accompanying video suggests that livestrong.com is the source of this information. I followed the lead and found this article from s2015. It states, in part,

[H]eadbanging (sic) is the habit some children have of banging their heads against solid objects. If you have a child who bangs his head, you may notice it’s more prevalent when falling asleep or when listening to music, notes the University of Michigan Health System. That means headbanging could be exacerbated when your little one listens to music to fall asleep.

I was floored. I’ve been a sleep consultant for a long time and I’ve never heard of this phenomenon before. According to her bio, the author of the piece, whom I will not name, “specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.” I wonder if she’s ever had a baby?

Not finished with my search, I checked the references at the bottom of the article. There was one piece that did indeed come from the University of Michigan Health System web site. The subject of the article was “Bad Habits/Annoying Behavior“. Here is what this piece had to say about head banging:

Body rocking is when (sic) a child rhythmically rocks while either sitting or resting on their knees or elbows. This behavior usually starts around age six months and disappears by age two. Most children rock for 15 minutes or less. Like head banging, it occurs while listening to music or falling asleep.

That’s it. How did we get from here to “Music could make your child more likely to bang their head against solid objects”?

I’m afraid what happened here is the internet version of a game of telephone. The message got so garbled by the last call that this television station in Illinois ended up giving some pretty dumb advice to parents.

What is Musical Head Banging, Really?

It’s one of two things. Babies rock and bang their heads sometimes when they are tired. It is a sort of self-soothing technique. It usually lasts no more than 15 minutes. Other babies bang their heads as a kind of what I call “Stupid Baby Trick”. Bonking her head makes the baby hear this hollow ‘thud’ sound that she didn’t expect. Any unexpected sensation is interesting to a baby. She’ll keep doing it because, well, it’s interesting. The same thing happens when she pulls her own hair (it HURTS!) or gags herself with her own fist.musical head banging 2

Eventually the child gets bored and the behavior stops. But sometimes the baby keeps the behavior going if it gets a big reaction from a caregiver. It is as if the baby says to herself “I’m getting bored with this head banging thing, but look what a reaction I get from mom! I’m gonna keep this going!”

Can music become a negative sleep association?

Something else the Illinois article said caught my attention. It was the suggestion that that music at bedtime might interfere with sleep: “Studies show constantly relying on certain sounds to go to sleep can create a need to listen to music (emphasis added).” What were these studies?

I went to the online National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health, affectionately known as “PubMed“. I performed every search I could think of combining “music” and “sleep disturbance” or “sleep associations”. I could find none. There are no such studies. Playing music in the nursery does not interfere with the process of a baby falling asleep or staying asleep. In fact, one of the sources cited at the livestrong article actively recommended music to help a baby fall asleep.

Unless of course you decide to blast “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in the nursery.

Are South Koreans Happy? Well, Do They Sleep?

Is there any relationship between sleep and happiness?

It is known that depressed people often sleep too much. Other depressed people have a hard time sleeping. We also know that, on the whole, happy sleep better. Or maybe it is that people who sleep better are happier. We’ll return to this question later. For now, we report the results of a study out of South Korea that asked over 72,000 teenagers about their lives. The survey asked the teens about their lifestyles, especially diet, exercise, and sleep.

Happiness in Korean Teens

The Korea Youth Risk Behavior Web-based Survey (KYRBWS) has been administered to middle- and high-school students every year beginning in 2005. The results of the happiness study were based on the 9th study, administered in June-July 2013.

Students were asked at random to participate in the study. They were given the option to decline, including at the beginning of the survey.

A single question was asked about the teen’s happiness: ‘In general, how would you describe your happiness?’ Predefined responses were ‘very happy’, ‘a little happy’, ‘neutral’, ‘a little unhappy’, and ‘very unhappy’.

The investigators note that this single question is good enough to assess the truth of the teen’s overall happiness. Nevertheless, one can ask whether the question could be interpreted as “are you happy today?” as opposed to “are you in general a happy person or not?” It’s a little like asking someone what the whether is like where they live. If it happens to be a beautiful day, I suspect the subject’s feelings about the weather would be more positive than if there were a thunderstorm that day.

Nevertheless, the investigators went ahead, and asked a number of demographic and lifestyle questions.

Lifestyle

sleep and happiness 2
Inseparable, like sleep and hapiness

The survey then asked a number of questions about diet, exercise and health habits. For example, the teens were asked whether they had consumed alcohol or smoked a cigarette in the previous 30 days. If they answered yes, they were classified as a current drinker or smoker. Specific questions were asked about physical activity and fruit consumption.

The students were also asked about screen time, including television watching and video game playing.

Sleep and Happiness

Students were asked about their sleep on both weekdays and weekends. The investigators divided the answers into two groups: students who slept fewer than 8 hours per night, and those that slept more than 8 hours.

The data were analyzed by a statistical device called “adjusted odds ratio”. This is simply the association between an exposure and an outcome. The investigators compared “exposures” such as hours of sleep, to the outcome “happiness”. They took the group of teens who described themselves as “very unhappy” and assigned them the value of 1. If more sleep meant the teen rated herself as happier, the odds ratio would be greater than one. If the correlation ran in the other direction, the odds ratio might be less than one.

Korean Teens are not very happy

sleep and happiness 3
Sleep and Happiness, together again

There were a couple of interesting observations coming out of this study. The proportion of teens in the study who reported that they were very happy or a little happy with their lives was only 58.2%. In comparison, 94.8% of American adults say they are very or a little happy. That’s a fairly stunning difference. The investigators believe the happiness gap can be explained by the cultural difference between “collectivist” societies like Korea’s, and an “individualistic” society such as in the US. The truth is probably more complex than this.

Korean Teens don’t sleep a lot

The survey revealed that Korean teens spend a lot less time asleep than do American Teens. Overall, 21.8% report getting more than 8 hours of sleep on weekdays, and 66.3% sleep more than 8 hours on weekends. By contrast about half of American teens get 8 hours or more of sleep on weekdays, with substantially larger percentages on weekends.  Again, the reasons for the disparity are probably complex.

More sleep, more happiness

sleep and happiness 4
The picture of sleep and happiness

The investigators found that the more Korean teens slept, the more likely they were to rate themselves as happy. If a girl reported more than 8 hours of sleep on weeknights, the odds ratio was 3.00 that she’d rate herself “very happy”. In other words, she was statistically three-times more likely to call herself “very happy” as opposed to “very unhappy”. For a boy, the odds ratio was 2.32. It’s worth mentioning here that odds ratios of more than 2.00 are thought of as meaningful. Even though lower odds ratios may be real and statistically significant, anything the difference might not be “clinically significant”. In other words, lower odds ratios make you say “so what? In real life you can’t really see much difference!”

On weekends, the odds ratios were smaller. Girls who slept more than 8 hours had an odds ratio of 1.63 for self-rating “very happy”. For boys the odds ratio was 1.72. This result suggests that more “unhappy” Korean teens were sleeping >8 hours on weekends, possibly in an attempt to make up their sleep debt.

Sleep and Happiness; Chicken and Egg

A big weakness of this study is that it shows only associations. It cannot show causes. So at the end of the day we cannot really know why Korean teens who sleep more rate themselves happier. Are they happier because they sleep more? Or do they sleep more because they are happier?

Looking at the study as a whole, however, we can begin to unravel the “which came first?” problem. It turns out that other positive health habits correlate with happiness as well, such as healthy eating and exercise. And negative health habits such as smoking and drinking tend to correlate with unhappiness.  Again, we can’t really be sure which came first, but the results as a whole are compelling.

Conclusions

  • Sleep and Happiness in Korean teens are associated with one another.
  • Less sleep is associated with smoking, drinking and less happiness.
  • More sleep may help teens feel better about themselves.