Monsters, Robbers and Nightmares, Oh My! Simple Steps to Improve Your Child’s Sleep

Coutney Weiner, Ph. DPresenter: Courtney Weiner, Ph.D.
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Dr. Weiner discussed good bedtime routines and hygiene as a way to help with sleep issues in children.  She spoke of common problems in sleep and how to better your child’s issues.  Dr. Weiner also let us know when professional intervention may be needed to alleviate sleep anxieties.


  1. NJCTS says:

    What advice do you give teens getting ready to go away to college sleeping with a roommate, new routine, etc.?

    • Dr.Weiner says:

      This can be a very challenging time with many stressors and changes in routine! The best thing you can do is problem-solve ahead of time. Many new college students stay up later than usual (after all, there is a lot of fun to be had!) and have difficulty getting up for early classes. Make sure that they have a good alarm clock and start practicing waking up on their own a few months before college begins. I would also recommend problem-solving around potential issues, such as a noisy roommate or an uncomfortable bed. Try out different solutions, such as a white noise machine or ear plugs. You can also shop together for a comforter, pillows, and soft sheets that will make their college bed feel as comfortable and cozy as their bed at home. Lastly, you should review the sleep hygiene guidelines that you learned about in the webinar together. No matter how much schoolwork they have, it’s time to decompress and engage in a relaxing activity the hour before bed. If they have tried all of these solutions and still have difficulty with their sleep schedule, they should access the student health center for further help. Good luck!

  2. NJCTS says:

    You mentioned that teenagers are chronically sleep deprived and there’s no way to adjust the school’s schedule. So what can we do to help?”

    • Dr.Weiner says:

      There is no simple solution unfortunately. However, I one of the best things you can do is work with the teen to create more structure around bedtime. I would also implement some house rules about when computers, phones, and TVs are turned off (maybe even for all household members if you’re willing!) Lastly, I’d allow there to be some natural consequences. If every morning is a battle to get out of bed, let them take over the responsibility of waking themselves up and getting to school in time. After a few tardy slips, they may think about changing their routine. Lastly, remember what I said about circadian rhythms? They are mostly internal, but they also adapt to the environment. If you follow sleep hygiene guidelines diligently and help them create better sleep habits, their biological clocks will adjust.

  3. NJCTS says:

    It would be almost impossible for my kids to use no screens an hour before bed. They’re often doing homework or texting with friends. Is it really that harmful?”

    • Dr.Weiner says:

      I get this question a lot! It is one of those issues that seems to come up again and again with no perfect solution. However, research has shown that the back-lights of tablets, computers, and cell phones seem to inhibit melatonin production even more than other types of lighting. No screens the hour before bed is ideal, but even dimming them is beneficial. There are also some new products that can minimize the effects of screens. Specifically, they offer filters that you can put onto the computer display to adapt to the time of day, warming the tone at night and making it appear brighter during the day.

  4. NJCTS says:

    “I don’t like the idea of giving my child a reward for going to bed on time. Isn’t that something they should just be expected to do?”

    • Dr.Weiner says:

      When I hear this concern from parents, I often ask them, “Would you go to work without getting a salary?” Even if we like our jobs and are expected to work, having an incentive is very powerful. I am not suggesting that you give out rewards for all behaviors, only the ones that seem challenging and require the child’s effort. Also, they should be phased out once the task becomes easy and moved to a different target behavior. But if you truly don’t feel comfortable with monetary or tangible rewards, you can still offer praise and other non-monetary reinforcers, such as a family game night or letting them choose dessert.