Ask Dr. Marla: How can I help my baby sleep more soundly?

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Our 18-month-old daughter is a terribly light sleeper. Even my touching the doorknob of her room can wake her. She seems to sleep better with a noise machine, but we are afraid she will become dependent on it. Should we continue with it? Only use it when really necessary? What can you suggest to help her sleep through noise?


A recent study in the journal Sleep showed that a diligent nighttime routine can help your child sleep better. More than 400 children, including more than 200 infants between one month and 18 months, were studied. Detailed records of the sleep patterns were kept.

Half of the mothers were asked to follow a three-step sleep routine for two weeks.
Step 1: Give the child a bath.
Step 2: Massage infants or apply lotion to toddlers.
Step 3: Involve the child in quiet activities (such as cuddling or singing a lullaby). 
The lights were to be turned out within 30 minutes of the bath ending. This routine of establishing an approach to sleep resulted in children falling asleep faster, and experiencing fewer and shorter night wakings. 
In the toddler group there was less of a likelihood that they would call out or get out of the crib or bed. According to the study, the length of a continuous sleep increased from 6.9 hours to 8.5 hours and for toddlers it went from 8 to 8.9 hours. 
As far as the use of a noise machine, it is fine to continue with its use. There is little risk of dependence. If problems persist, do see your doctor and discuss the possibility of referral to a sleep specialist. For more information, visit

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