Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition by Richard FerberSolve Your Child's Sleep Problems: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition by Richard Ferber

Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition

byRichard Ferber

Paperback | May 23, 2006

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The completely revised and updated edition of the all-time bestselling book on children’s sleep problems, with important new insights and solutions from Dr. Richard Ferber, the nation’s leading authority on children’s sleep problems.

Does your child have difficulty falling asleep? Wake in the middle of the night? Suffer sleep terrors, sleepwalking, or nighttime fears? Have difficulty waking for school or staying awake in class? Snore, wet the bed, or head bang?

In the first major revision of his bestselling, groundbreaking classic since it was published, Dr. Richard Ferber, the nation’s foremost authority on children’s sleep problems, delivers safe, sound ideas for helping your child fall and stay asleep at night and perform well during the day.

Incorporating new research, Dr. Ferber provides important basic information that all parents should know regarding the nature of sleep and the development of normal sleep and body rhythms throughout childhood. He discusses the causes of most sleep problems from birth to adolescence and recommends an array of proven solutions for each so that parents can choose the strategy that works best for them. Topics covered in detail include: Bedtime difficulties and nighttime wakings, effective strategies for naps, sleep schedule abnormalities, a balanced look at co-sleeping, new insights into the nature of sleep terrors and sleepwalking, problems in setting limits, and sleep apnea, narcolepsy, bed-wetting, and head banging.

Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems offers priceless advice and concrete help for a whole new generation of anxious, frustrated, and overtired parents.
Title:Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems: New, Revised, and Expanded EditionFormat:PaperbackDimensions:464 pages, 8.44 × 5.5 × 1.1 inPublished:May 23, 2006Publisher:TouchstoneLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0743201639

ISBN - 13:9780743201636

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Useful and very detailed This book offers a lot of help, expectedly disagrees with other books on the topic. It is very kind to both kids and parents and will make a good read for those with toddlers or older children in the house.
Date published: 2013-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The ONLY BOOK that helped my daughter! I had tried for 5 months to solve my cat-napping baby problem. My daughter was 7 months and still taking 4 short naps that left her tired, fussy and cranky. Although she is a good night sleeper, her days were putting added stress on my husband and I. I read 3 books trying to resolve the issue to no avail. These books actually made things worse by encouraging the cat-napping or offering techniques that did not work for my baby. I honestly don't know why some people think of Ferber as some kind of tyrant. I did not endure any crying with my daughter, just used his "common sense" tactics that actually worked. He not only explains the science behind sleep but also explains infant and child sleep behaviors in an interesting and helpful way. By getting to the root of the cat-napping issue, I was able to drastically reduce the overall times she took short naps. The result? A happier, well rested baby and mommy. I might agree that for some people, letting your baby cry might be hard and painful so this method is not for everyone. Honestly, my daughter only fussed a bit. THAT'S IT. If your having sleep issues, do yourself a favor and give this book a try. There may be other methods instead of "crying-it-out" that you can implement. Isn't good sleep worth it?
Date published: 2009-10-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Finally a good night's sleep! If you have the stomach for it, this book really works. We had tried the no-cry methond for 6 weeks and weren't getting anywhere. I was very reluctant to try this method as our 8 month old is a very happy contented baby overall and I was worried that he wouldn't be as happy after a few nights of crying. Well he is still the happy contented baby he was before but now sleeps 9 hours before waking up and is able to put himslef back to sleep for at least another hour or two. It only took 4 days.
Date published: 2009-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just what we needed! It works!!! We tried many other 'sleep theories' and still not getting any sleep, after two nights of following the Ferber method we are sleeping like a dream! My daughter was waking every 1.5 hours for 6 months and now is sleeping 9 hours in a row, up for a bottle and back to bed for another 3 hours! Should have used this book a few months ago.
Date published: 2008-11-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Works, but not for the faint of heart After months of bedtime battles, my daughter is now sleeping the night in her own bed. It only took three nights of the Ferber Method to accomplish this. I first tried Elizabeth Pantley's, "No Cry Sleep Solution" and found it not to be helpful. My daughter would not be put down asleep or awake without screaming. Usually after the 7th or 8th time trying to settle her in her crib, we gave up and brought her into bed with us. While I didn't mind cozying up with my daughter for a daytime nap (I love that kind of closeness) having her in bed with us was causing no end of troubles. I slept in the same position all night, which caused me to have back aches constantly, and she wanted to nurse all night long. Advocates of cosleeping would say we should just be there for our child whenever they want us, but I ask you - have you ever had a night where it seemed like you were awake every hour on the hour? How did you feel the next day? My daughter was waking up regularly while in bed with us to root around and try to nurse. How much rest was she really getting? I know how much rest my husband and I were getting and it certainly wasn't enough. The first few days of using Ferber's method were torture. It would almost have been easier to just listen to our daughter cry on the monitor, but as Ferber doesn't recommend this, we went in dutifully at increasing intervals. We found our daughter screaming, with tearstained cheeks. We hugged her, stroked her hair, whispered gently to her and then left. Leaving is terribly difficult with your child reaching out to you, but we continued and after the third night she was only crying for 15 minutes, and then sleeping the whole night with only about one episode of whimpering in the early morning hours. Tonight, day 7, I rocked her until she was almost asleep. She whimpered slightly as I put her in her crib, but then she just looked up at me, rolled over and went to sleep. PEACE AT LAST!
Date published: 2008-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The only book worth reading on children's sleep Of all the authors on babies' sleep, Ferber by far has the most impressive credentials. In fact, he is the only one who even attempts to give parents a thorough understanding of how children's sleep works. Even if you don't use the methods referred to in his book, you will walk away knowing just about everything you need to know about children's sleep to approach whatever problem you are having. You will also have a much better appreciation for the importance of sleep for your children's health and growth. I applied Ferber's methods on weaning, night-time sleep, naps, and schedule problems with 2 children and can say that he was bang-on in all respects. They both turned into terrific sleepers in a matter of days. Also, I'm not a shrink and don't have a crystall ball, but all indications are that these methods have not done anything to "scar" my children. To the contrary, their good sleep habits have made them happier and healthier. It's one of those situations where, unfortunately, you don't know if it's the right thing or the wrong thing until you've tried it. Most critics of Ferber have not.
Date published: 2008-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a must read for parents Finally, some reassurance for frazzled parents. This book offers practical solutions and sensible explanations for your child's sleeping patterns and problems. I personally was relieved to read that what our family was going through was not only considered normal, but that we could make some posative changes. I would highly recommend this book to any parent.
Date published: 2006-06-09

Read from the Book

Chapter 1At the End of Your RopeThe most frequent calls I receive at the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children's Hospital in Boston are from a parent or parents whose children are sleeping poorly. When the parent on the phone begins by telling me "I am at the end of my rope" or "We are at our wits' end," I can almost predict what will be said next.Typically, the couple or single parent has a young child (often their first), who is between five months and four years of age. Their child does not fall asleep readily at night and/or wakes repeatedly during the night. The parents are tired, frustrated, and often angry. Their own relationship has become tense and they are wondering whether there is something inherently wrong with their child, or if they are unfit patents.In most cases the parents have had lots of advice on how to handle the situation from friends, relatives, even the pediatrician. "Let him cry; you're just spoiling him," they are told, or "That's just a phase; wait until she outgrows it." They don't want to wait but begin to wonder if they will have to, since despite all their efforts and strategies the sleep problem persists. Often the more the parents do to try and solve the problem, the worse it gets. Sooner or later they ask themselves, "How long do I let my child cry -- all night?" And if he or she gets up four, five, and six times at night, "Will this phase pass before we collapse from our own loss of sleep?"Everything seems pretty hopeless at first. If your child isn't sleeping well or has other problems -- such as sleep terrors, bedwetting, nightmares, or loud snoring -- which are sources of worry and frustration, it won't take long for you to feel as if you're at the end of your rope too.Let me assure you there is hope. With almost all of these children we are able to at least reduce the disturbance significantly, and often we can actually eliminate the sleep disorder entirely. The information in this book will help you to identify your child's particular disorder and will give you practical ways of solving the problem.At the Sleep Center I meet with the family -- parents and child together -- and learn all I can about the child's problem. How frequent and long-lasting has it been? What are the episodes like? How do the parents handle the child at bedtime and during the nighttime wakings? Is there a family history of sleep problems, and are there social factors that might be contributing to the problem? With this detailed history, a physical examination, and, in certain cases, after laboratory study, I can usually identify the disorder and its causes. At that point I can begin to work with the family to help them solve their child's sleep problem.Our methods of treatment for the "sleepless child" rarely include the use of medication. Instead, I work with the family to set up new schedules, routines, and ways of handling their child. Sometimes the child's biological rhythms may need normalizing or he may have to learn new conditions to associate with falling asleep. The family may have to learn how to set appropriate limits on the child's behavior, and the child may need an incentive to cooperate. I always negotiate the specifics of the plan with the family. It is important that they agree with the approach and feel confident that they will be able to follow through consistently. If the child is old enough, we include him in the negotiating. Thus we use a consistent, firm, but fair technique, tailored to the child, the family, and the particular sleep disorder. This works, time after time.Usually the sleep problem has nothing to do with poor parenting. Nor are the episodes (with a few exceptions) part of a "normal phase" that must be waited (and waited and waited) out. And finally there is usually nothing physically or mentally wrong with the child himself. Most parents are immensely reassured to know that sleep disorders are common in all types of families and social environments, and that most children with such disorders respond well to treatment.In certain cases, such as in sleep apnea, or less often in bedwetting, medical factors may be involved and our intervention may include medication or surgery. In other instances, such as the sleepiness of depression, recurrent nightmares, adolescent sleep terrors, and extreme nighttime fears, emotional factors may play a role. Here the source of these feelings must be identified and satisfactorily dealt with before the sleep problems will resolve. Sometimes professional counseling may be recommended.The case studies in this book are based on my experience at the Sleep Center. The discussions of these cases, along with descriptions of the underlying sleep disorders and explanations of the methods of solving them, will help you to identify, understand, and deal with your own child's sleep problem.Can a Child Just Be a "Poor Sleeper"?If your child is a restless sleeper or can't seem to settle down at night, you should be very cautious about assuming that he is just a poor sleeper or doesn't need as much sleep as other children of the same age. Your own expectations can have a very strong influence on how your child's sleep pattern develops from the day you bring him home from the hospital. I have seen many families who were told by the nurse in the maternity ward, "Your baby hardly sleeps at all. You're in for trouble!" Because these parents were led to believe their child was just a poor sleeper and there wasn't anything they could do about it, they allowed their baby to develop poor sleep habits; they did not believe there was anything they could do to help him develop good ones. As a result the whole family suffered terribly. Yet I have found that almost all of these children are potentially fine sleepers and with just a little intervention can learn to sleep well.It is true that children differ in their ability to sleep. Some children are excellent sleepers from birth. In the early weeks they may have to be waked for feedings. As they grow older, not only do they continue to sleep well, but it is difficult to wake them even when you want to. They sleep soundly at night in a variety of situations -- bright or dark, quiet or noisy, calm or chaotic -- they tolerate occasional disruption of their sleep schedules, and even sleep well during periods of emotional stress.Other children seem inherently more susceptible to having their sleep patterns disrupted. Any change in bedtime routines, an illness, hospitalization, or guests in the house, may cause their sleep patterns to worsen. Even though these children may have always been considered "non-sleepers," we usually find that they too can sleep quite satisfactorily once we make appropriate changes in their routines, schedules, surroundings, or interactions with the family. Such children may still have occasional nights of poor sleep, hut if the new routines continue to be followed consistently, the more normal patterns will return quickly.There are, of course, children who sleep very poorly for reasons we have, as yet, been unable to identify. For these few, our treatment may help very little, or not at all. If your child is up a great deal in the night it may be tempting to assume that he is one of these poor sleepers. But this almost certainly is not the case. Such instances of truly poor sleep ability are quite rare among young children, and in all probability your child's sleep problem can be solved.Virtually all children without major medical or neurological disorders have the ability to sleep well. They can go to bed at an appropriate time, fall asleep within minutes, and stay asleep until a reasonable hour in the morning. And while it is normal for each child (and adult) to have brief wakings during the night, these arousals should last only a few seconds or minutes and the child should go back to sleep easily on his own.It is very probable that your child, regardless of his present patterns, is just such a child, with a normal inherent ability to fall asleep and remain asleep. This is true even if he has a sleep disturbance such as sleepwalking or bedwetting. These events occur during sleep or partial waking, and children with these symptoms still have a basically normal ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Sleepwalking and bedwetting are actually a bit more difficult to treat than sleeplessness, but nevertheless they too usually improve, and are often resolved, with the appropriate intervention.How to Tell Whether Your Child Has a Sleep ProblemWhen your child's sleep patterns cause a definite problem for you or for him, then he has a sleep problem. This is true, for example, if he complains of inability to fall asleep, or if you find you must be up with him repeatedly during the night. Sleep problems such as sleep terrors, sleepwalking, or bedwetting are also readily apparent and quite easy to identify as sleep disorders. But others may be less obvious. You may not recognize that your child even has a problem, or you may not realize that the problem he does have should be considered a disorder that can and should be treated. You may not be aware that loud snoring every night, besides keeping you awake, may be a warning that your child is not breathing satisfactorily while asleep. Other symptoms of possible sleep abnormalities which should be identified and treated are: frequent difficulty falling asleep at bedtime, waking during the night with inability to go right back to sleep alone, waking too early or too late in the morning, falling asleep too early or too late in the evening, or being irritable or sleepy during the day.One of the least obvious of sleep problems is that of insufficient sleep. There is no absolute way of measuring whether the amount of sleep your child gets per day is appropriate. Figure 1 on page 19 shows the average amount of sleep children get at various ages during the night and at naptime. But each child is different. We can watch each child's behavior during the day closely to see if he seems excessively sleepy or cranky. But the symptoms of insufficient sleep in a young child can be very subtle. If your two-year-old sleeps only eight hours at night but seems to be happy and functioning well during the day, it is tempting to assume he doesn't need more sleep. But eight hours is rarely enough sleep for a two-year-old, and with the proper intervention he can learn to increase his amount of sleep time considerably. You may begin to notice an improvement in his general behavior and only then will you be aware of the more subtle symptoms of inadequate sleep that actually were evident before you adjusted his sleep schedule. Now your child will probably be happier in the daytime, a bit less irritable, more able to concentrate at play, and less inclined to have tantrums, accidents, and arguments.Adolescents often do not get enough sleep. Teenagers are not likely to wake spontaneously on school days and tend to sleep at least one hour longer on weekends. When adolescents have the opportunity to sleep as much as they like, they will average about nine hours per night, and this is probably closer to the optimal level for their age.It is also difficult to decide when nighttime wakings are "abnormal." A young child from six months to three years may be getting adequate amounts of sleep at night, even though he wakes several times during the night and has to be helped back to sleep. Parents will say to me, "Tell me if this is normal. If it is, I will continue getting up; but if it is not, then we would like to do something about it!" I assure them that most healthy full-term infants are sleeping through the night by three or four months of age. Certainly by six months all healthy babies can do so.If your baby does not start sleeping through the night on his own by six months at the latest, or if he begins waking again after weeks or months of sleeping well, then something is interfering with the continuity of his sleep. He should be able to sleep better, and in all likelihood his sleep disruption can be corrected. Chapters 5 through 9 will help you to identify his problem and show what you can do to remedy it.How well your child sleeps from the early months affects not only his behavior during the day but also your feelings about him. I have often heard a parent say, "He is such a good baby. I even have to wake him for feedings." Although the parent is saying the baby is a good sleeper, the words imply that the baby is "good" in the moral sense. It is easy to see that this distinction will influence how you relate to your child.If your child does not sleep well, he may well be making your life miserable. It isn't hard to think of such a bad sleeper as a "bad" baby. You will probably feel enormously frustrated, helpless, worried, and angry if you have to listen to crying every night, get up repeatedly, and lose a great deal of your own much-needed sleep. If your child's sleep disturbance is severe enough, your frustration and fatigue will carry over into your daytime activities and you are bound to feel increasingly tense with your child, your spouse, family, and friends. If this is the case in your home, you will be pleased to learn that your child is almost certainly capable of sleeping much better than he is now, and you should be able to get a good night's sleep yourself. To do this, you will need to learn how to identify exactly what your child's problem is, and then you can begin to solve it.First, I want to explain briefly what we know about sleep itself. Although it is not necessary for you to be conversant with all the scientific research on sleep, it will be helpful for you to have some understanding of what sleep really is, how normal sleep patterns develop during childhood, and what can go wrong. Then you will be better able to recognize abnormal patterns as they begin to develop, to correct problems that have become established, and to prevent others from occurring.Although the information on sleep in Chapter 2 is not overly technical, you may be eager to read the chapters that follow it to learn about the actual sleep disorders and their treatments. If that is the case, I suggest you scan the material on sleep in the next chapter and then come back to read it more closely when you have identified your own child's sleep problem. The information is very interesting to almost everyone, and especially important to parents who want to help a child sleep better at night.Copyright © 1985 by Richard Ferber, M.D.

Table of Contents



List of Figures

Preface to the Second Edition


CHAPTER 1: At the End of Your Rope

Can a Child Just Be a "Poor Sleeper"?

How to Tell Whether Your Child Has a Sleep Problem

Starting with a Basic Understanding of Sleep

CHAPTER 2: What We Know About Sleep

Non-REM Sleep

REM Sleep

How Sleep Stages Develop in Children

Children's Sleep Cycles

Sleep and Waking Patterns

The Importance of Biological Rhythms

CHAPTER 3: Helping Your Child Develop Good Sleep Practices

The Importance of Your Child's Bedtime Routines

"Back to Sleep": Reducing the Risk of SIDS

Should Your Child Sleep in Your Bed?

Specific Issues Related to Co-sleeping

The Sleep Challenges of Multiples: Twins and Triplets

The Special Toy or Favorite Blanket

Developing Good Schedules


CHAPTER 4: Sleep Associations: A Key Problem

A Typical Sleep Association Problem

Why Sleep Associations Matter

Wrong Sleep Associations

How to Solve the Problem: The Progressive-Waiting Approach

Making the Changes in One Step or Several

Associations to the Breast, Bottle, or Pacifier

Co-sleeping and Related Considerations

If Things Are Not Getting Better

General Observations

CHAPTER 5: The Problem of Limit Setting

Who's in Charge?

Difficulty Setting Limits

Limits, Associations, Feedings, Schedules, and Fears

Setting Limits at Night

Limit Setting Problems: Some Examples

CHAPTER 6: Feedings During the Night: Another Major Cause of Trouble

Is Your Child's Sleep Problem Caused by Nighttime Feedings?

How to Solve the Problem

Other Points to Keep in Mind

Medical Considerations

CHAPTER 7: Nighttime Fears

The Anxious Child

Bedtime Fears

Evaluating Your Child's Fears

How to Cope with Nighttime Fears

Techniques to Help a Child Feel Less Frightened and Fall Asleep Quickly

Final Considerations

CHAPTER 8: Colic and Other Medical Causes of Poor Sleep


Chronic Illness

Nocturnal Pain


Abnormal Brain Function and a True Inability to Sleep Well


CHAPTER 9: Schedules and Rhythms

Sleep Phases

The Circadian System and the Forbidden Zone for Sleep: Why You Can Stay Awake Until Bedtime -- and Sleep Until Morning

Setting the Biological Clock: How Do You Know What Time Zone You Are In?

Individual Differences: Are You a Lark or an Owl?

Society, Sleep Deprivation, and the Adolescent

Specific Sleep Problems Affecting Different Parts of the Sleep Cycle: A Summary

CHAPTER 10: Schedule Disorders I: Sleep Phase Problems

Sleep Phases

Sleep Phase Shifts

Sleep Phase Shifts in the Adolescent

CHAPTER 11: Schedule Disorders II: Other Common Schedule Problems

Problems in Regular Schedules

Irregular and Inconsistent Sleep-Wake Schedules


CHAPTER 12: Naps

Problems with the Length and Timing of Naps

Trouble Giving Up a Nap: Transition Problems

Nap Time Sleep Association Problems

Napping (or Not) at Home and at Day Care

You May Have to Accept What Works


CHAPTER 13: Partial Wakings: Sleep Talking, Sleepwalking, Confusional Arousals, and Sleep Terrors

I. What They Are and Why They Happen

The Normal Transition from Deep (Stage IV) Sleep Toward Waking

More Intense Transitions: A Spectrum of Confusional Events

What a Confusional Event Feels Like

Why Confusional Events Happen: The Balance Between Sleep and Waking

The Variability of Arousals over Time

Evaluating Confusional Events: When to Take Action

II. Treatment

What You Should Do and What Else to Consider

How We Helped the Children Described Earlier

CHAPTER 14: Nightmares

What Nightmares Are and Why They Occur

How to Help Your Child If He Is Having Nightmares

Nightmares and Confusional Events

Nightmares or " 'No'-mares"?: "I had a bad dream"

CHAPTER 15: Bedwetting

The Impact of Enuresis

What Causes Enuresis?

Approaches to Treating Enuresis

Final Words

CHAPTER 16: Head Banging, Body Rocking, and Head Rolling

When Do These Behaviors Occur?

What Do These Behaviors Look Like?

Is Head Banging Dangerous?

When Should You Be Concerned?

What Causes Rhythmic Behaviors?

Treating the Problem



CHAPTER 17: Noisy Breathing, Snoring, and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

What Happens in Sleep Apnea

What Causes the Obstruction

Treating Sleep Apnea

Some Words of Caution

Getting Your Child the Help She Needs

CHAPTER 18: Narcolepsy and Other Causes of Sleepiness

Is Your Child Abnormally Sleepy?

Causes of Sleepiness Other Than Narcolepsy

Treating Simpler Causes of Sleepiness

Evaluation at a Sleep Disorders Center


The Cause of Narcolepsy

The Treatment of Narcolepsy

Future Treatments


Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews Those wrestling with a persistent or more serious problem will find this a real boon.