Sleep Sense – Interview with Dana Obleman

Last week, we introduced you to Dana Obleman and the Sleep Sense program. I still haven’t met a parent who hasn’t, at some time, had questions or concerns about their children’s sleep habits. Like I said last week, my kids are between 6 and 15 and I still have questions!

This week, we had the chance to chat with Dana as she addressed a few of the questions that our readers had submitted. But first, a little background on Dana:

About Dana Obleman

Dana Obleman has been working with children and parents since her student days at King’s University, where she completed a B.A. in Psychology (1998), where she concentrated her research on the areas of infant development and family dynamics.

In addition to her degree in Psychology, Dana also holds a degree in Elementary Education from King’s University (1999), and is a professional member of the National Sleep Foundation.

She launched her successful private practice in 2003, and since then has helped thousands of parents solve their children’s sleep problems with the Sleep Sense Program.

Dana’s approach focuses on helping parents identify their children’s “sleep signals” and establishing routines and schedules based on those signals.

Our readers’ questions for Dana:


How to encourage longer periods of sleep

Question: I’ve got an almost 2 year old that can’t seem to get into deep sleep. How can I help him sleep for longer periods of time?

Dana: If a child falls asleep with a ” prop”, then it becomes difficult for the natural consolidation of night time sleep to evolve. What tends to happen is that the child comes to the surface of sleep, realizes the “prop” is no longer there and wakes himself up fully looking for it. Some common examples of sleep props are nursing or bottle feeding to sleep, a pacifier, being rocked, or bounced to sleep.


Frequent night-waking

Question: Tell me how to get my 3 year old to sleep through the night!! He wakes at least once a night and never sleeps more than 9 hrs.

Dana: Well, again the first place to look is bedtime. Do you have a clear and consistent bedtime routine? What happens when it’s lights out? Are you with him while he falls asleep, or is he doing it independently?

It’s also important to know what he is looking for when he wakes in the night? If he is dependent on a sleep prop, then that is most likely the reason for the wake up and he will sleep much better and more soundly when he has developed some internalized sleep skills all of his own.


When will my newborn sleep through the nights?

Question: When can I expect for my newborn to be able to sleep through the night?

Dana: That is not an easy questions to answer. It really depends on the baby’s weight and health. If all is going well, many babies start to sleep through the night by the 3rd or 4th month. You should double check with your doctor if you have any concerns.


Day-time habits that encourage good sleep

Question: Are there any day-time habits that will help my kids sleep better at night?

Dana: Keeping kids active during the day will definitely help them sleep better at night. Fresh air and daytime light play a crucial role in our natural body clock, so make sure you encourage your children to get outside and play.

If your child is still young enough to need daytime naps, then make sure you create a clear daytime nap schedule. The better she sleeps during the day, the better she will sleep at night!


How to get a 4 year old to sleep through the night

Question: How can I get my 4 year old to sleep through the night? I feel like I have seriously tried everything. She has two special “stuffies”, we’ve tried a hundred different night-lights because she claims to be scared of the dark, we’ve tried warm milk before bed, and “white noise”… Nothing is working. She only sleeps well if she’s sleeping in my bed or with me or her dad.

We did sleep with her when she was a baby, but I can tell she really isn’t sleeping well (has dark circles under her eyes) – I can get up to put her back in bed up to 4 or 5 times in a night… When we got home from visiting her cousin in California she slept in her own bed all night every night for two weeks and then all of a sudden it stopped (but nothing changed…). I’m not sure why or how she wakes up so much but she does… My 1.5 year old sleeps better than she does.

Dana: When a child is not sleeping through the night, the first place I look at is the bedtime routine. If you are laying down with your child when she falls asleep at bedtime, then it is no surprise that she would wake in the night and expect the same thing.

If you are not laying with her at bedtime, then my suggestion would be to have a talk with her about the importance of sleeping all night for everyone in the family. You will need to make it clear that coming to your bed is no longer an option and that she needs to sleep in her own bed all night from now on, then return her to her bed each and every time.

Make a reward chart and explain to her that if she sleeps until 7, she can have a _________? Make sure the reward is something you are willing to give her the moment she gets up.


Second baby on the way

Question: I’m about to have my second child. Do you have any tips for having my 3 year old and newborn sleep in the same room?

Dana: My advice would be to keep the newborn in separate room for the first 10 to 12 weeks as you will be getting up for feedings and this may disrupt your toddler’s night time sleep. Once the baby is sleeping longer stretches then it’s fine to move them together.

Just make sure you lay out some clear and consistent rules for bedtime and night time behavior so your 3 year old does not think this is now his ticket to push boundaries.


Bonus for 5 Minutes for Mom readers!

Dana Obleman has offered all 5 Minutes for Mom readers a free sleep assessment for their children. All you have to do is go to You can also get one-on-one help from baby sleep consultants. If you have sleep issues, Sleep Sense can help!


Written by 5 Minutes for Mom managing editor, Lolli. You can find me blogging at Better in Bulk and tweeting at @1momof5.

This post is part of a paid campaign with the Sleep Sense Program. All thoughts are my own and the answers to the questions above are directly from Dana Obleman.

Sleeping baby photo by Lolli.


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