Garrison Lab

Resources for Families

Books About Sleep

child asleep in bed

We can recommend several books about sleep and how to improve it. Click the links below to learn more on

Our all-around favorite book for parents about sleep is Take Charge of Your Child’s Sleep, by Owens and Mindell. It not only explains some of the science behind sleep and child sleep problems from toddlerhood through adolescence, but also does a great job of balancing the scientific evidence base around child sleep with the reality that not every child and family is typical.

Here are some of the other books we often recommend:

Books for parents about child sleep

  • Sleeping Through the Night. This is for parents of infants and toddlers trying to build good sleep habits early on.
  • A Clinical Guide to Pediatric Sleep. This is a more clinical and technical version of the book above. It’s aimed at clinicians, but parents who want all the scientific details and rationale may also be interested.

Books for children about sleep

  • What to Do When You Dread Your Bed. This is aimed at 6-12 year-olds who are having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Sleep is For Everyone. This book discusses the science of sleep for 4-8 year-olds, complete with a page about what happens if scientists stay up all night to study sleep deprivation.

Gadgets and Tools

There are many gadgets and apps out there to help you track sleep and there are other items out there that promise to help your child sleep better.

Consumer Sleep and Physical Activity Trackers

For tracking sleep, we have thus far tried the Basis Band, Fitbit Force, Fitbit Flex, Garmin Vivofit and Nike Fuelband. Of these, the Fitbit Force has been recalled, the Basis Band is too bulky to use on a child and the Nike Fuelband doesn’t capture sleep well. The Fitbit Flex captures sleep data relatively well and presents it in a very useful format, and fits well on a child or adult. Unfortunately, recharging the Fitbit Flex requires removing a very small piece from the band and then later putting it back in. Even with adults this piece can be vulnerable to loss, but with children it was a deal breaker for our team. For now, we are using the Garmin Vivofit.

That said, there are accuracy issues with all of these consumer models – compared to our more sensitive research actigraph devices, these consumer models all tended to overestimate sleep somewhat while underestimating arousals and wakings. Luckily, however, these consumer models are consistent in their biases, which means they are still sensitive to change. In other words, if you (or your child) improve things and start sleeping longer, that difference will show up in your numbers. Your total minutes of sleep time reported may not be as accurate as we’d want for research, but you can still tell which direction you’re moving, which can be incredibly valuable if you’re trying to work on making things better.

We are always looking for new models to test, with hope of finding one that has a consumer-friendly price point, has a form factor and interface that will work for a child, and collects and reports sleep data in a useful way – so if you know of a new one, let us know so we can take a look!

Email Michelle Garrison, PhD  


Healthy sleep information for children and teens

Sleep science and research

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