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.

When Will My Preemie Sleep Through the Night?

Many parents want to know when, at long last, will their preemie sleep through the night?

It’s a good question.

First Things First

Perspective is an easy thing to lose. So is patience, especially when you are massively sleep-deprived and stressed out. I know. I’ve been there.

My second child was born at 35 weeks. He spent the first 13 days of his life in the NICU. We were lucky. Every day I walked past the ventilators and isolettes of babies who would be living in the NICU for weeks, possibly months. I couldn’t imagine what kind of stress these parents were feeling.

And yet, life was stressful. We already had an energetic pre-schooler at home. Now we were caring for a tiny little guy who ate well, but he was so… small!

I saw a picture of myself taken when the baby was 4 months old. I gasped out loud. I had lost a ton of weight without realizing it. I’m quite sure I did not lift a finger of exercise. And the majority of my diet probably consisted of eating stuff that my 2 1/2 year old dropped on the floor.

I don’t remember a whole lot from that first year, but I do remember asking when will our preemie sleep through the night.

And I remember stopping myself. “What am I saying?”

preemie sleep through the night 2
Would that it were so simple!

We were lucky we had a healthy, growing boy. We had avoided a much worse fate. Was I asking too much by wondering when would our preemie sleep through the night?

With the passage of time and the acquisition of some perspective, I can answer ‘yes’, I was asking too much. He’s in high school now. The time went by so quickly. In the big picture, the sleep-deprived part of my life was very short!

When WILL My Preemie Sleep Through the Night?

There’s an answer to this question. But when parents ask me, I always begin by telling them my story. I want to help them gain some perspective on their situation. Most of them had endured extreme stress, as I had. I want them to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I want them to know that with the passage of time, they too will see that the sleep-deprived part of their lives was relatively short.

The due date is a big event. I counsel parents to celebrate this day. Take stock of what they’ve gone through, and pretend to start the clock again.

Full term babies start to sleep through the night between 4-6 months of age. By “through the night” I mean 5-6 hours. I give a range of 4-6 months because girls tend to reach the milestone closer to 4 months, boys closer to 6 months.

preemie sleep through the night 3
Night-night!

For babies born early, you can predict when they will sleep through the night using “corrected gestational age“. When they reach 4-6 months, corrected, you can expect that they should be ready to stretch those hours of blissful sleep together.

Now, I’m hesitant to dangle promises. I hate to write checks that your preemie cannot cash. But I should say that often a preemie will sleep through the night prior 4-6 months corrected. This is because of a phenomenon I call “catch up development”. What I mean is that by being here on earth, a baby learns some things that she might not otherwise know if she were “inside”. Sometimes the experience of being here helps accelerate certain developmental milestones. Sleep is one.

For example, there is the the development of circadian rhythm, the daily cycle of her body’s systems. It goes without saying that there is no day and night inside the uterus! Once she is out here in the world, the relative brightness of day and the relative darkness of night helps train her brain to adopt a day-night sleep cycle. Sometimes, despite premature birth, a baby can be “nudged” into sleep habits that are more mature than her corrected gestational age.

Summary:

  • Feed the baby! If your pediatrician suggests that the baby needs to eat every 3-4 hours, you may need to wake her up, even if she’s sleeping! If she’s gaining good weight (an ounce per day), waking her may not be necessary.
  • Back to sleep saves lives! She should always sleep on her back, on a firm surface.
  • SHHHHH! Premies can be more sensitive to sensations than full-term babies. Try to keep her environment as calm and quiet as possible. This will help her sleep better.
  • Consistency, consistency, consistency.  Try to keep the baby’s day as regular and as predictable as possible. Falling into a routine will help her eat and sleep!

If you need any help getting your preemie to sleep, I can help!

Best Twin Sleep Gear for 2016

Parents of twins know that they don’t do twice the work of normal parents, they do four times the work!  They also know that buying two of everything, even buying in bulk, doesn’t begin to solve all their logistical problems. Anything that cuts down on time and toil is a Godsend to the parents of multiples. Here is a sample of what I consider to be the best twin sleep gear available. These make great baby shower presents too (hint, hint)

Best Twin Sleep Gear

As soon as they come home, the twins will need somewhere to sleep. As they get older, they’ll need a safe place to play. This first product combines the two.

Graco Pack ‘n Play Playard with Twins Bassinet

 

Graco makes great stuff. I’ve always loved their strollers. Now they come out with a terrific combination twin bassinet and play yard that has the same sturdy design as their line of strollers. Early models of the Graco play yards were nearly impossible to  set up. It was like playing Twister in a sleep-deprived state. But they’ve solved these design flaws. The result is a beautiful and functional design. It’s also easy to clean – a major bonus!

Arm’s Reach Ideal Arc Original Co-Sleeper Bedside Bassinet.


The Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper Bassinet began with a mother and father’s need for a safe sleeping environment for their baby. They, like many parents, had rediscovered the benefits of co-sleeping with their infants—increased bonding, ease of feeding and a greater sense of closeness. But they were concerned modern beds weren’t appropriate for a baby’s space. They solved this problem by placing the child at the side of the bed, within arm’s reach. Their result is a wonderful series of bassinets that provide best twin sleep, close to their parents during the important early months of development. Whether you choose to breast feed or bottle feed, the Co-Sleeper Bassinet promotes bonding and enables parents better sleep and provides the best twin sleep possible.

Premium 3 in 1 Travel Bassinet – Diaper Bag & Portable Changing station, Easily Convertible


Have you ever had the experience of seeing a product so cool, so innovative, so overall fantastic that you say “Gee, I wish I had thought of that!!!” This 3-in-1 had that effect on me. Easily convertible from bag into travel bassinet for babies and into a portable changing station. You will love using it on a family beach trip, going to the park, visiting Grandma’s and anywhere.

Need a SLEEP COACH?

Here’s what one happy customer had to say:

This is a really cool product. Some of these baby things seem too good to be true but this one really is what it promises. We have a 2 month old baby and my hands are constantly full with her and all of her stuff. It’s great to have a clean safe place to lay her down anywhere I go and I don’t need any extra hands to carry it. It’s even easier to fold into a diaper bag than I could have imagined; It literally folds in a seconds. And it’s so easy to clean. This would be great for traveling, especially camping. I wish I had this when my older child was a baby as we had to haul a giant pack and play around with us when we could have just brought this smart nursery bag!
It’s perfect for when visiting friends and family members who don’t have baby gear. My little one can and will take a nap anywhere at any time and this best twin sleep napper gives her a secure place to do it.

Baby Jogger City Select with 2nd Seat

If ever there were a “niche” product idea, this was it: a twin jogging stroller. Whether you’re looking for a travel system, a pram, a double stroller, a triple, or just a single, the City Select could be the only stroller you’ll ever need. The most versatile stroller on the market today, the City Select was designed to keep your family rolling as it grows from one child to two. I suspect that you may not be able to achieve actual jogging speed with this thing, but you will certainly get a workout. The wheels are best for paved terrain, and I would be careful going up and down kerbs. The remainder of the design, however, is sturdy and light enough for an average mortal to handle!

Stuff 4 Multiples Twin Carrier, Twingaroo


We’ve saved the best for last. I love all of Stuff 4 Multiples gear, but this is their signature product and they are justifiably proud of it. Its unique design distributes the weight of your babies and diaper bag contents evenly. It’s the only twin carrier on the market that offers you a complete hands-free experience.

I’m not alone in my praise of the Twingaroo. Here’s what another happy customer said:

I absolutely LOVE my Twingaroo ! The weight distribution is AMAZING and you actually feel nothing, even when carrying both babies ! I like that the front panel can be flipped into the belt pocket, so that when you only carry one child, you don’t have to deal with extra fabric coming out of nowhere ! And the backpack is SO big and useful ! I really loved that, unlike other carrier of the same type (that I tried before getting my Twingaroo), it adjust perfectly to everybody ! My men, my grandma, my aunt and me (we all are from very different body type) have all been able to adjust it perfectly!

 

Podcast: Welcome to Sleep, Baby!

First ever episode of the Sleep, Baby! podcast. Scroll to the bottom to play or download the podcast.  Enjoy!

Sleep, Baby!

Now that you’re home from the hospital and you’re getting ready to adjust to your radically changed life, you may begin to ask yourselves some questions: Just who is this little person in my house? What is my baby going to be like? Can she see and hear? What else can she do? What should or shouldn’t I be doing with her? Explaining newborns sounds mysterious.  Not really. Let’s get to know her.

Explaining Newborns Is Like Explaining a Pinball Machine

Babies arrive fully loaded. They are born with all the capabilities of a human being. They only need a dozen years of love, care, and feeding to develop into complete people. But not every system works the way an adult’s does, or even the way an older infant’s does. Take the sensory organs, for example. All five of a baby’s senses work: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. The problem with newborns is that all five senses are working all the time, and the baby cannot filter out any of the sensory data.

To explain further: The reason you are able to read this is that you are able to filter out most of the sensory inputs that are coming your way. You don’t pay attention to the lights in the room or to extraneous sounds coming from outside. You probably are also filtering out the scents around you and the taste in your mouth. Now imagine that you are forced to pay attention to all these sensations equally. If you were, you’d be incapacitated. You’d be forced to stop everything and go lie in bed. This is what the world is like for a newborn. Fortunately, newborns are lying down already. This is why most babies prefer low-sensory environments. They do well in places where there isn’t too much light, noise, and temperature fluctuation. They tend to prefer dim lighting, near silence, and contact with warm human bodies. We can tell that babies prefer these conditions and do well in them because they eat and sleep better than in noisy, light, cold, and hot environments.

 

sleep, baby!

Because babies are unable to filter out sensory stimulation, they’ve developed a way to protect themselves from overstimulation. I call it the “tilt” function. In the era of desktop-based and hand-held gaming, fewer and fewer people remember old-school arcade pinball machines, complete with silver-ball plunger, electronic bumpers, and flashing lights. Classic pinball machines all came equipped with a “tilt” feature, which prevented you from cheating by jiggling the machine to make the ball go where you wanted. If you jiggled the machine, a “tilt” light came on, the machine went to sleep, and you lost the ball.

A baby’s “tilt” function is not so dramatic. In fact, most parents never see it in action. They only find out about it after the fact. For example, if parents take their newborn to a Labor Day picnic with lots of people and loud music and smells from the barbecue, afterward they might turn to each other and say, “Wow, our baby was so GOOD! She slept through the entire picnic.”

Well, of course the baby slept through the entire picnic: She was overstimulated! She responded to all this stimulation by going “tilt” and shutting down. In this way she protected herself from becoming overwhelmed with all the sensory inputs coming her way. Parents often find out just how overstimulated their baby is when she becomes incredibly fussy later— after the sensory overload— when she has difficulty going to sleep or even feeding. For this reason, I recommend that parents of newborns avoid overstimulating environments, such as holiday celebrations.