Baby Sleep Problems

Parents often have questions about baby sleep habits. Sometimes it's hard to know what is actually normal and what isn't. Here are some answers to common sleep questions to help put your worries to bed.

Is it normal if I see my baby twitching when he sleeps?
Infants and young babies often twitch, jerk, snuffle, suck, and sometimes even smile while they sleep. It is perfectly normal sleep behavior and usually occurs while your baby is in the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep.

As your child gets older, twitching and flailing limbs may be the result of night terrors, which are not the same as nightmares. Night terrors occur during the deepest part of non-REM sleep and can make it difficult to wake and/or comfort your child. Though it can be rather disconcerting for parents to witness, night terrors are not necessarily harmful to your child. Unless your child appears to be a danger to herself, it is best to avoid interfering and just let the night terror pass.

For the first few months, my baby slept in the same bed as me. Now that I want her to sleep separately, I can't. She just refuses to sleep in a crib. Help!
Getting a baby to sleep in a crib after she has taken up residency in the family bed can be difficult. But it's not impossible. Depending on just how long your daughter has been sleeping with you, making the transition can take anywhere from a few days to a few months. If your baby is also going through a separation anxiety phase, getting kicked out of your bed isn't going to go over very well.

The best way to make the transition from family bed to crib or toddler bed is gradually. Help your child get use to the new sleeping arrangement by having her sleep in the crib for her naps and work your way up from there. It may help if you camp out on her floor (at least until she falls asleep) the first few full nights she spends in the new bed. Once she is settled in, avoid inviting her back into your bed too often. Otherwise, you may just never get your bed to yourself again!

I've heard that letting a baby cry to sleep helps them sleep through the night. It breaks my heart to do it, though. Should I let my baby cry to sleep?
Whatever method a parent uses to help get their baby sleeping through the night, it should be one that they are comfortable with. The method of letting a child cry himself to sleep is one that was established by Dr. Richard Ferber (hence the common moniker "Ferberizing") and is not recommended for children under the age of six months.

Parents who "Ferberize" gradually ease their child into sleeping through the night by letting the child cry for longer periods of time before checking on her. The theory behind it reasons that your child will eventually learn to comfort herself when she goes to bed since crying for you will not result in your instant appearance. While some parents swear by "Ferberizing," others prefer to find different methods to help their child sleep.

To help yourself decide just what sleep method is best for you and your baby, consider your baby's temperament as well as your parenting style. Everyone is individual and there is no right or wrong method to getting a baby to sleep through the night. Despite the disagreement among many experts as to just how to train a child to sleep, one thing they all agree on is that consistency is the key to successfully getting a child to sleep through the night.

I know that it's best for a baby to sleep on their back, but my son always rolls over. How can I get my son to sleep on his back?
When your baby won't sleep on back, it can be worrisome. Fear over Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has caused many parents to suffer sleepless nights. If your baby won't sleep on his back, then try laying him on his side. To help keep him in the position, try extending his lower arm (the one that is touching the mattress) straight out. This will help stabilize him and possibly prevent him from rolling onto his stomach. Also, side sleeping can make it easier for your son to curl up into the fetal position, which can be extremely comforting to your baby.

My baby snores a lot in his sleep. I've heard about something called Baby Sleep Apnea. Is this causing him to snore?
Snoring during sleep is perfectly normal and common in all people, young and old. Children who have a cold or are suffering from allergies are much more likely to snore because their sinuses are blocked. Sleep apnea is different from common snoring and can be quite serious.

Children (and adults) who suffer from sleep apnea stop breathing momentarily while they are sleeping. In children, the incidences of sleep apnea tend to peak between three and six years. This is because the glands that cause the problems are at their largest when compared to a child's airways during this age. Although no one is sure why, African-American children are three and a half times more likely to suffer from sleep apnea than other children.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is caused by enlarged glands (the adenoids and tonsils) that repeatedly block air from getting into the lungs. While enlarged adenoids and tonsils are the most common culprits, sleep apnea can also be caused by allergies, frequently getting sick, a cleft palate, and being overweight.

The most obvious signs that your child has sleep apnea are snoring and having troubles breathing while she is sleeping. Other indications of sleep apnea include breathing through the mouth most of the time, coughing or choking at night, being a restless sleeper, and sweating excessively while sleeping. Because of the momentary breathing pauses, many children wake up frequently during the night. If your child is suffering from sleepless nights and has at least one of the above symptoms, there's a good chance that he may have sleep apnea.

If you suspect your child has sleep apnea, make an appointment with her pediatrician. If the doctor feels the issue warrants further investigation, you will be referred to a sleep specialist for observation and then to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Usually removing the adenoids or the tonsils is enough to take care of the problem. However, if the sleep apnea is the result of allergies or excess weight, you will probably be advised to deal with those issues first.