April 4, 2011

Resting Easy: Internet Programs Help Both Moms and Babies Sleep Better

( Ivanhoe Newswire) -- We all know the internet is a powerful resource"”from WebMD to Wikipedia, the internet provides a wealth of information. But did you know it can also help mothers and their babies sleep better?

According to the authors of a new study, sleep problems occur in 20 to 30 percent of young children. The study shows that an internet based intervention program effectively reduced sleep disturbances in young children, as well as improving mothers' sleep, mood and confidence.

The study took place over three weeks and involved 264 mothers and their children, ages 6 to 36 months. Families were randomly assigned to a control group or one of two internet groups, but all participants completed online versions of the Brief Infant sleep Questionnaire, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, and the Profile of Mood States for each of the three weeks. Mothers assigned to the internet groups also accessed the Customized Sleep Profile, a free resource offered by Johnson & Johnson. The program collects caregivers' responses and uses algorithms to compare the child's sleep to other children of the same age, rate whether the child is a "disrupted, good, or excellent sleeper," and provide custom advice and recommendations to parents.

After a one-week baseline period, where all mothers followed their normal bedtime practices, the internet intervention groups started implementing the recommendations from the Customized Sleep Profile for weeks two and three. In addition, mothers in one of the internet groups were told to begin a nightly bedtime routine: a bath, followed by a massage, followed by a calm, quiet activity such as singing lullabies or cuddling. Both internet groups found the Customized Sleep Profile recommendations useful: 90 percent of mothers in the internet intervention groups said they found the personalized recommendations "helpful," and 93 percent said they were "likely" to keep using the recommendations after the study.

Both internet groups also reported significant improvements in the sleep of infants and toddlers: the number of night wakings decreased by 50 percent or more, and the longest period of uninterrupted sleep increased by more than two hours. The children also fell asleep faster and had a longer total sleep time at night. The benefits of using the internet program weren't limited to just children"”mothers also felt an improvement in the quality of their sleep, and they reported feeling less tension, depression, fatigue, and confusion. In comparison, in the control group there were only minimal improvements in sleep measures and maternal mood.

Lead author of the study, Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, professor of psychology at Saint Joseph's University and associate director of the Sleep Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Pa, was quoted as saying, "Until now, there was no place online that parents could go to get customized recommendations that would help their young child sleep better. This tool provides parents everywhere easily accessible help."

SOURCE: SLEEP, April 1, 2011