The science of sleep: 10 ways to build a better bedtime

There is nothing like a messed up sleep schedule to negate all the rest and restoration we may have brought back from a vacation or holiday travel. Whether it's a missed nap, a delayed bedtime, travel-induced jet-lag or some other sleep issue, lack of quality sleep can amount to an over-abundance of cranky.

To help ease the stress of fatigue and frustration, it may help to know that there is a lot of biology behind successful sleep.

Knowing a little about sleep may help us be more objective about what is going on in the moment, and a little easier on ourselves and our kids because of it. By understanding what happens during quality, healthy sleep, we can strengthen our resolve to put systems and routines in place that prioritize sleep and respect it for the critical role it plays in our own lives and our children's growth and development.

So, when are we supposed to sleep?

Circadian rhythms

The body's natural circadian (daily) rhythms are regulated by the brain's “executive network," and certain brain chemicals that produce the states of sleeping and waking.

Early in a newborn's life, this internal clock begins to establish and control the daily rhythm of biological systems, including body temperature, blood pressure, and the release of hormones.

This is why is takes awhile for new babies to settle on any predictable eat-sleep-wake cycle. During the first few months of life though, the irregularity of these rhythms gives way to more stability as the brain continues to develop and mature.

Melatonin, the "feel sleepy" hormone, is produced naturally by the body in the evenings, helping us wind down and prepare for sleep. Melatonin levels in the body are almost non-existent during the day and to begin climb after dark and ebb after dawn. Additionally, the activity of our brain's posterior hypothalamus diminishes naturally during sleep when it releases less histamine, a molecule that it uses as a neurotransmitter, helping us stay asleep. (Antihistamines taken for allergy symptoms cause sleepiness in the same way.)

Nothing throws off a sleep cycle like jet-lag

Our circadian system is normally synchronized with the solar day, ensuring that alertness and performance peak during daytime hours and consolidated sleep occurs during the night. Jet-lag can be explained by exposure to light at the wrong time that results in a shift of sleep and wakefulness to undesired times.

Just like for us, being out of sync with circadian rhythms can make it more difficult for kids to fall asleep or stay asleep, resulting in an overtired and stressed kiddo. Ultimately, adjusting the schedule to be in sync with their's can lessen the disruption.

Experts recommend building in at least one "recovery day" when going on or returning from a vacation.

Whether it is one state over or across many time zones—we should stay awake as long as possible. So when it's nighttime in our new time zone, we need to keep the lights low inside, and when it's daytime in our new locale, we need to be exposed to bright light—ideally, natural outdoor light.

When it comes to retraining our children's internal clock, exposure to light at the appropriate time helps keep the circadian clock on the correct time schedule. Appropriately-timed exposure to bright light—Bright Light Therapy—can reset the timing of sleep and wake to the desired times, and improve sleep quality and daytime alertness.

However, recovery from a trip through many times zones is quite different than the three hours difference between San Francisco and New Jersey. “Apparently the brain may confuse dawn with dusk," says Naturopath Hillary Roland.

To counteract that effect, Roland says the current expert suggestion is to "actually stay indoors after long eastward flights for a few hours after dawn, and for a few hours before dusk after a long westward flight." This advice is supported by studies on jet-lag that have determined that the efficacy of bright light therapy is dependent on the time-of-day of the circadian cycle that the light is administered.

So, what's going on when we sleep?

Types and stages of sleep

We progress through a series of distinct physiological stages during sleep that serve an important purpose in keeping our brain and body healthy. During the night, Quiet/Non-REM (NREM) sleep alternates with periods of Dreaming/REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in which our most vivid dreams occur.

We cycle through five separate stages of sleep every 90-110 minutes, experiencing between three and five dream periods each night.

Quiet/Non-REM sleep

When we are sleeping, about 75-80% of the time is spent in the inactive Quiet/Non-REM (NREM) stages that provide the body's much-needed relaxation and rejuvenation and are also vital to proper development.

Stage 1: Drowsiness (1-7 minutes)

With heavy eyelids, we begin to drift off. Our body temperature begins to drop, muscles relax, and eyes often move slowly from side to side. We lose awareness of our surroundings but can wake easily since our brain is still quite active.

Stage 2: Light sleep (10-25 minutes)

Our brain activity slows further as we descend into a light sleep. Our eyes stop moving, and our heart rate and breathing are slower than when awake. Our brain disconnects from outside sensory input and begins the process of memory consolidation and organizing for long-term storage.

Stage 3: Moderate sleep (20-40 minutes)

Our breathing becomes more regular, blood pressure falls, and pulse slows to about 20-30% below our waking rate. Blood flow is directed less toward our brain, which cools measurably. We become less responsive to external stimuli and much more difficult to wake up.

Stage 4: Deep sleep (20-40 minutes)

Our brain quiets further as we transition into deep sleep. Our muscles relax and our breathing becomes slow and rhythmic. We become extremely hard to wake and may snore.

The time of peak growth hormone release in the body, during this deepest stage of sleep the pituitary gland releases a pulse of growth hormone that stimulates tissue growth and muscle repair. "Growth hormone is primarily secreted during deep sleep," says Judith Owens, M.D., director of sleep medicine at Children's National Medical Center, in Washington, D.C. Babies spend about 50% of their time in this deep sleep, considered to be essential for adequate growth.

In addition to being critical for cell reproduction and rejuvenation, deep sleep helps the body defends itself against infection. During deep sleep, researchers have detected increased blood levels of proteins known as cytokines. As part of the immune response, cytokines exert their influence over various white blood cells which the body relies on to fight infection, illness, and stress.

Cytokines also make us sleepy, forcing us to rest, which further aids the body's ability to heal and explains why having the flu or a cold feels so exhausting. Too little sleep appears to impact the number of cytokines on hand, illustrating why it is easier to catch and more difficult to fight viruses with too little sleep.

Dreaming/REM sleep

Just as deep sleep restores our body, scientists believe that active Dreaming/REM sleep restores our mind by transferring short-term memories into long-term storage and helps clear out irrelevant information and facilitates learning and memory.

Stage 5: Active sleep (10-60 minutes)

After deep sleep, our brain activity increases again. About 3-5 times a night, or about every 90 minutes, we enter active, or REM sleep. The first such episode usually lasts for only a few minutes, but REM time increases progressively over the course of the night. The final period of REM sleep may last a half-hour.

This is the period of the night when most dreams happen. Our muscles are temporarily paralyzed, and our eyes dart back and forth, giving this stage its name. Our body temperature rises, blood pressure increases, and our heart rate and breathing speed up to daytime levels. The sympathetic nervous system, which creates the fight-or-flight response, is twice as active as when we are awake.

Research indicates that decluttering—sorting, storing, and filing away information, memories, and experiences—may be one of the central functions our brain performs during REM sleep. This is also when we repackage neurotransmitters, the chemicals that enable our brain cells to communicate. Additionally, experts have demonstrated that REM sleep allows brain cells to flushing out disease-causing toxins.

When we sleep after a period of sleep deprivation, we pass quickly through the lighter sleep stages into the deeper stages and spend a greater proportion of sleep time there. This suggests that deep sleep plays a large part in restoring alertness and fills an essential role in a our optimal functioning.

So, how can we prioritize to optimize?

For the most part, we can indeed control how much sleep we get—if we want to. It all starts with creating the time necessary for sleep and an environment conducive to sleep. Making sleep a priority means that our families have the opportunity to sleep as much as they need to in a safe, quiet, comfortable environment.

By reducing pressures on our limited time we can prioritize and optimize our family's sleep. Even if we realize that our child could use more sleep, "…it can be very difficult to recognize all the ways that after-school and evening activities sabotage bedtime, and the damaging effects of allowing electronics into your kid's bedroom," says Parents advisor Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., associate director of the Sleep Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

“The bedroom should be a haven for rest and recovery, not a place to be distracted," echoes Wendy Troxel, a behavioral scientist at RAND, a think tank that helps improve public policy through research.

10 ways to build a better bedtime

1. For babies, encourage self-soothing

Try not to let babies fall asleep while eating, and put them to bed when they are still awake.

2. For kids, create a solid routine

Children should have an age-appropriate, clear and consistent bedtime ritual, with the same bedtime and wake up schedule all week long —no sleeping in.

3. Add another bedtime story

Listening to storybooks is a great way to ease kids towards sleep. "Of all activities, reading printed books appears to be most relaxing," says Michael Gradisar, a clinical psychologist at Flinders University, in Adelaide, Australia.

4. Keep electronics out of the bedroom

Avoid having a television, computer, tablet or cell phone in the bedroom in the hour before bed as electronics can stimulate young brains. Blue light from devices such as iPads also suppresses melatonin release.

5. Make sure the bedroom is cool and quiet

6. Keep the bed for sleeping only

Not confusing the bed with playtime teaches children to respects it as the place for rest, establishing a habit that can provide life lon benefits.

7. Keep allergens out of the bedroom

Keeping the bedrooms clean can go a long way to ensuring an allergen-free bedroom.

8. Encourage a nighttime snack before brushing teeth

A snack that's high in protein and low in sugar, like a glass of milk, can promote better sleep. However, eating sweets near bedtime causes a spike in blood sugar followed later by a drop, leading to a feeling of hunger that may wake kids in the middle of the night.

9. Establish talk time

Including 10 or 15 minutes of undivided attention when we are available to listen to our child talk about whatever they want can provide an opportunity for our kids to unload anything that might be preventing them from sleeping.

10. Teach kids to practice a form of mindfulness or prayer before bed

Meditation and prayer can quiet the mind, reduce stress and improve sleep.

Of course, every child varies in the amount of sleep they need. Some kids have high sleep needs and others don't. As parents, we are the best judge of whether or not our kids are getting enough sleep.

It's important to remember that our kids are human, too. And just like our behavior can disintegrate when we are overtired, so can theirs. We can't expect our kids to function when they are sleep deprived when don't expect the same from ourselves.

And just as it is our responsibility to feed, love and keep our kids safe, it is also our responsibility to recognize how important sleep is for all of us and ensure that all the elements are in place to enable everyone to enjoy the amazing benefits of sleep. Otherwise, we'll all be just. so. tired.

In This Article


    When you ask any two mamas to share their experience with breastfeeding, you are bound to get very unique answers. That's because while the act of breastfeeding is both wonderful and natural, it also comes with a learning curve for both mothers and babies.

    In some cases, breastfeeding won't be the right path for everyone. But with the right tools, resources and social support systems, we can make progress toward the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation to continue breastfeeding through the first year of a child's life. After all, breastfeeding helps nourish infants, protects them against illnesses, develops their immune systems and more. Not to mention that mothers who breastfeed experience reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

    With National Breastfeeding Awareness Month this month, it's a great time for mamas (and expectant mamas!) to gather the supplies that will support their feeding journey—whether it looks like exclusively breastfeeding, pumping or combo-feeding.

    Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

    Designed for regular use, this double electric breast pump allows mamas to customize the cycle and vacuum settings that work for them. The 100% SoftShape™ silicone shields on this pump form-fit to a wide range of breast shapes and sizes—which means more comfortable, more efficient pumping. And every pump comes with two complete Dr. Brown's Options+ bottles, giving you everything you need to go from pumping to feeding.


    Dr. Brown’s™ Breast Milk Collection Bottles

    There's no need to cry over spilled milk—because it won't happen with these storage bottles! Make the pump-to-feeding transition simpler with Dr. Brown's Milk Collection Bottles. The bottles adapt to Dr. Brown's electric pumps to easily fill, seal and transport, and they work with Dr. Brown's bottle and nipple parts when your baby's ready to eat. (Meaning no risky pouring from one bottle to another. 🙌)


    Breast Milk Storage Bags

    With an extra-durable design and double zip seal, your breast milk will stay fresh and safe in the fridge or freezer until it's needed. Plus, the bags are easy to freeze flat and then store for up to six months, so your baby can continue drinking breast milk long after you are done nursing.


    Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump with Options+™ Bottle & Bag

    Here's something they don't tell you about breastfeeding ahead of time: While feeding your baby on one side, the other breast may "let down" milk, too. With this one-piece Silicone Breast Pump, you don't have to let those precious drops go to waste. The flexible design makes pouring the milk into a bottle stress-free.


    Dr. Brown’s® Manual Breast Pump

    No outlet in sight? No worries! With this powerful-yet-gentle Manual Breast Pump, you can get relief from engorgement, sneak in some quick midnight pumping or perform a full pumping session without any electricity needed. With Dr. Brown's 100% silicone SoftShape™ Shield, the hand-operated pump is as comfortable as it is easy to use. Complete with Dr. Brown's® Options+™ Anti-Colic Wide-Neck Bottle, a storage travel cap and cleaning brush, consider this the breastfeeding essential for any mama who has places to go.


    Options+™ Anti-Colic Baby Bottle

    With the soft silicone nipple and natural flow design of these bottles, your baby can easily switch between breast and bottle. Clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to the vent, your baby can enjoy a happy tummy after feeding sessions—without as much spit-up, burping or gas! By mimicking the flow and feel of the breast, these bottles help support your breastfeeding experience.


    This post is sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    7 hacks for simplifying after-school snacks

    Prepping delicious and nutritious foods shouldn't take all day.

    When you're in the middle of the school year and managing a family, each minute of time becomes very precious. Sometimes that means healthy food choices in the household can take a backseat. But don't stress it, mama. Prepping delicious and nutritious choices for the kids to munch on doesn't need to take all day.

    Remember to keep it fun, simple and interactive! Here are tips for simplifying after-school snacks once and for all:

    1. Prep snacks on Sunday

    This simple trick can make the rest of the week a breeze. Tupperware is your friend here, you can even write different days of the week on each container to give the kids a little surprise every day. I really like storage with compartments for snack prep. Personally, I slice apples, carrots or cucumbers to pair with almond butter and hummus—all great to grab and go for when you're out all day and need some fresh variety.

    2. When in doubt, go for fruit

    Fruit is always a quick and easy option. I suggest blueberries, clementine oranges, apples, frozen grapes or even unsweetened apple sauce and dried fruit, like mixed fruit. It's fun to put together a fruit salad, too. Simply cut up all the fruit options and let the kids decide how they'd like to compile. Prepped fruit is also great to have on hand for smoothies, especially when it's been sitting in the fridge for a few days—throw it in the blender with some nut milk and voila.

    3. Pair snacks with a dip

    Hummus is a great dip to keep on hand with lots of versatility or you can grab a yogurt-based dip. Easy and healthy dippers include pre-sliced veggies, baby carrots and multigrain tortilla chips. Plain hummus is a great way to introduce seasonings and spices too—shake a little turmeric, add fresh basil and you'd be surprised what your kids will take to.

    4. Have high-protein options readily available

    Snacks with high protein, like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs and jerky will fuel kids for hours. One of my favorites is a turkey stick, which is a fun addition to the hummus platter. Just slice into bite-sized pieces. I love cottage cheese because it can go savory or sweet, use as a dip with your prepped veggies, or drizzle pure maple syrup and sprinkle with berries.

    5. Always keep the pantry stocked

    Monthly deliveries keeps the pantry updated without a trip to grocery store. Many kids are big fans of popcorn, granola and pretzels. We like to DIY our own snack packs with a little popcorn, pretzels, nuts and whatever else is in the pantry so there's always something different!

    6. Make cracker tartines

    I love the idea of replicating popular restaurant dishes for kids. Here are some of my favorite snack-sized tartines using any crisp bread, or favorite flat cracker of your choice as the base. There are no rules and kids love adding toppings and finding new combinations they love.

    • Avocado crackers: Use a cracker and then layer with thinly sliced avocado, a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese topped with roasted pepitas or sunflower seeds.
    • Tacos: The base for this is a black bean spread—just drain a can of black beans, rinse and place into a wide bowl. With a fork or potato masher, lightly smush the beans until chunky. Spread onto your cracker and top with tomato, cheddar cheese and black olives. Try out a dollop of super mild salsa or some lime zest to introduce some new flavor profiles.
    • A play on PB&J: Smear peanut butter, almond or a favorite sun butter on the cracker. I like to get a mix it up a bit and put fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries and tiny diced apples) and a little bit of dried fruit sprinkled on top.

    7. Pre-make smoothie pops

    The easy part about meal prep is the prep itself, but knowing exactly how much to make ahead is tricky. Freeze a smoothie in popsicle molds to have a healthy treat ready-to-go snack. They're super simple to make: Add any fruit (I like apples, berries, pineapples and mangoes) and veggies (carrots, steamed beet and wilted kale) to a blender with your favorite nut milk until you have consistency just a bit thinner than a smoothie. Pour into your trusty reusable popsicle molds and then into the freezer to make an ice pop so good they could eat them for breakfast.

    Family Foodies

    15 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Stomp Racers

    As longtime fans of Stomp Rockets, we're pretty excited about their latest launch–Stomp Racers. Honestly, the thrill of sending things flying through the air never gets old. Parents and kids alike can spend hours launching these kid-powered cars which take off via a stompable pad and hose.


    Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

    Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

    Tiny thrill-seekers will love this kid-powered coaster which will send them (safely) sailing across the backyard or play space. The durable set comes with a high back coaster car and 10.75 feet of track, providing endless opportunities for developing gross motor skills, balance and learning to take turns. The track is made up of three separate pieces which are easy to assemble and take apart for storage (but we don't think it will be put away too often!)


    Secret Agent play set


    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Stepping Stones


    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.


    Sand play set

    B. toys Wagon & Beach Playset - Wavy-Wagon Red

    For the littlest ones, it's easy to keep it simple. Take their sand box toys and use them in the bath! This 12-piece set includes a variety of scoops, molds and sifters that can all be stored in sweet little wagon.


    Sensory play set


    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Foam pogo stick


    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.




    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.


    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.


    Pull-along ducks


    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Rocking chair seesaw


    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    Even 5 hours of screen time per day is OK for school-aged kids, says new study

    Researchers found screen time contributes to stronger peer relationships and had no effect on depression and anxiety. So maybe it isn't as bad as we thought?

    MoMo Productions/Getty Images

    If you've internalized some parental guilt about your own child's screen time usage, you're not alone. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to significant amounts of screen time in children leads to an increased risk of depression and behavioral issues, poor sleep and obesity, among other outcomes. Knowing all this can mean you're swallowing a big gulp of guilt every time you unlock the iPad or turn on the TV for your kiddo.

    But is screen time really that bad? New research says maybe not. A study published in September 2021 of 12,000 9- and 10-year-olds found that even when school-aged kids spend up to 5 hours per day on screens (watching TV, texting or playing video games), it doesn't appear to be that harmful to their mental health.

    Researchers found no association between screen usage and depression or anxiety in children at this age.

    In fact, kids who had more access to screen time tended to have more friends and stronger peer relationships, most likely thanks to the social nature of video gaming, social media and texting.

    The correlations between screen time and children's health

    But those big social benefits come with a caveat. The researchers also noted that kids who used screens more frequently were in fact more likely to have attention problems, impacted sleep, poorer academic performance and were more likely to show aggressive behavior.

    Without a randomized controlled trial, it's hard to nail down these effects as being caused directly by screens. The study's authors analyzed data from a nationwide study known as the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD Study), the largest long-term study of brain development and children's health in the country. They relied on self-reported levels of screen time from both children and adults (it's funny to note that those reported numbers differed slightly depending on who was asked… ).

    It's important to remember that these outcomes are just correlations—not causations. "We can't say screen time causes the symptoms; instead, maybe more aggressive children are given screen devices as an attempt to distract them and calm their behavior," says Katie Paulich, lead author of the study and a PhD student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Also worth noting is that a child's socioeconomic status has a 2.5-times-bigger impact on behavior than screens.

    Weighing the benefits with the risks will be up to you as the parent, who knows your child best. And because we live in a digital world, screens are here to stay, meaning parents often have little choice in the matter. It's impossible to say whether recreational screen time is fully "good" or "bad" for kids. It's maybe both.

    "When looking at the strength of the correlations, we see only very modest associations," says Paulich. "That is, any association between screen time and the various outcomes, whether good or bad, is so small it's unlikely to be important at a clinical level." It's all just part of the overall picture.

    A novel look at screen time in adolescents

    The researchers cite a lack of studies examining the relationship between screen time and health outcomes in this specific early-adolescence age group, which is one of the reasons why this study is so groundbreaking. The findings don't apply to younger children—or older adolescents, who may be starting to go through puberty.

    Screen time guidelines do exist for toddlers up to older kids, but up to 1.5 hours per day seems unattainable for many young adolescents, who often have their own smartphones and laptops, or at least regular access to one.

    Of course, more research is needed, but that's where this study can be helpful. The ABCD study will follow the 12,000 participants for another 10 years, following up with annual check-ins. It'll be interesting to see how the findings change over time: Will depression and anxiety as a result of screen time be more prevalent as kids age? We'll have to wait and see.

    The bottom line? Parents should still be the gatekeepers of their child's screen time in terms of access and age-appropriateness, but, "our early research suggests lengthy time on screen is not likely to yield dire consequences," says Paulich.

    Children's health
    Kristen Bell

    A couple of months ago Kristen Bell practically broke the internet when she publicly shared that her 5-year-old daughter was still wearing diapers at night. As Motherly reported at the time, every kid is different and every potty training experience is different, but the internet did what it does and a controversy was born.

    People chimed in with all sorts of parenting and potty training tips for Bell, but in a recent interview with Today's Parent, the celebrity mama and her husband, Dax Shepard, explained that their youngest is now done with diapers at night—so now the tables have turned and they've got a parenting hack to share back to the internet.

    "You know what we have to do? We wake her up at about 11 p.m. when she's like a zombie and put her on the toilet," Bell told Today's Parent.

    Shepard added: "Yeah, we put a wet spaghetti noodle on the toilet once a night."

    According to the couple, their youngest was out of diapers a couple of weeks after the whole internet controversy, but not because of so much unsolicited advice. It was simply because she was ready.

    "The Twitterverse was kind of mom-shaming me, which I'm not interested in," said Bell. "So I kept responding with the same thing: 'Every child is different,' which they are. And yes, I have a five-and-a-half-year-old who still sometimes wets the bed and that's OK! But she's getting there."

    She continued: "I think it's really normal and no one should feel ashamed if their kid has an irregular pattern for potty training. And if you want to try this 11 o'clock make-them-pee trick, great, there's no shame in any of it. Sometimes it takes kids until they're even older than five! But I've never met a high-schooler who pees their pants all day. It's going to stop at some point."

    Experts agree. "In preschool, about 20% of children have daytime incontinence. But, only 5% of teenagers have these symptoms," says pediatric nephrologist Dr. Charles Kwon of the Cleveland Clinic.

    But before you decide if Bell's trick will work for you it is worth seeking the advice of a medical professional, because according to Kwon and pediatric urologist Dr. Audrey Rhee, waking up children to urinate at night is not recommended.

    These Cleveland Clinic specialists say, "Randomly waking up a child at night and asking them to urinate on demand isn't the answer...It will only lead to more sleeplessness and frustration."

    So what is the answer? Here are the potty-training tips Kwon and Rhee recommend:

    • Try an earlier bedtime... your child may be such a deep sleeper because they are not getting enough sleep.
    • Schedule a bathroom break right before they go to bed.
    • Figure out if your child is constipated. According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 33% of kids who wet the bed are actually constipated (the rectum is right behind the bladder so constipation can seem as a bladder problem) but they are unable to identify that as the source of their issue.

    Whatever you do, remember that Kristen Bell is right about all kids being different. Your doctor can make recommendations to help, but there is no set schedule for ending bed-wetting or getting out of diapers. It could happen today, or (like in Bell's case) two weeks from now. But have hope, mama. They will get this.

    Child Milestones