In September 2011, Richard A. Ferber, MD, will retire from his position as director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children's Hospital Boston, a position he has held since founding the center 33 years ago. The center was the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
Pediatric Views asked Dr. Ferber a few questions about how our understanding of childhood sleep has changed.
The amount learned over the past 33 years is truly outstanding. Two areas of enormous importance are those of habits and schedules. Some (easily unlearned) habits common during the transition to sleep (e.g. rocking) may be problematic and require the disruption of the sleep of others (for middle-of-the-night repetition). And the timing of the body's rhythms interacts with the ability to sleep, so improper schedules may cause marked problems of their own or interfere with resolution of problems caused by other factors.
Even if you stay awake all day long, you do not get progressively sleepy. There is a true second wind that occurs near the end of the day during which time falling asleep is almost impossible, as parents may discover if they put their children to bed too early.
There is no reason to believe that the frequency of problems has changed, but some of their causes may have (e.g. due to bedroom computers and cell phones). Also, we have spread the word that most childhood sleep problems can be solved, so parents, instead of just living with them, now call for help.
More information: childrenshospital.org/sleep
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