Complementary techniques to support mothers during sleep training

This study aimed to examine whether 3 novel techniques can increase parental cry tolerance. 

Hannah Whittall, Natalie Barnett, Assaf Glazer, Michael Gradisar

Presented at the 1st WINK Sleep Conference: The NEXT GENERATION 2021



Parental cry tolerance is believed to play a role in the development of infant sleep problems and may also act as a barrier for parents implementing behavioural sleep interventions. This study aimed to examine whether 3 novel techniques can increase cry tolerance. 


Participants were 71 women (mean age =32.4y+4.7) from 3 groups: mothers of poor sleeping infants (n=27), mothers of good sleeping infants (n=21), and women without children (n=23). Cry tolerance was assessed using audio segments of crying infants, which participants were asked to pause when they felt they would intervene. Cry tolerance was measured during music distraction, game distraction, or emotion regulation and compared to control. 


A main effect was found, with all three techniques yielding significantly longer intervention delays compared to control (p<.001). Mothers of good sleeping infants did not significantly benefit from any adjunct technique (all p>.05). However, women without children benefited from music (p=.004) and reappraisal (p<.001), and mothers of poor sleeping infants benefited from all three techniques (all p<.02). Implications: Music distraction, game distraction and emotion regulation have the potential to increase cry tolerance in mothers of poor sleeping infants.

About the researchers

The authors include Hannah Whittall, Natalie Barnett, Assaf Glazer, and Michael Gradisar

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  • Dr. Natalie Barnett serves as VP of Clinical Research at Nanit. Natalie initiated sleep research collaborations at Nanit and in her current role, Natalie oversees collaborations with researchers at hospitals and universities around the world who use the Nanit camera to better understand pediatric sleep and leads the internal sleep and development research programs at Nanit. Natalie holds a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of New England in Australia and a Postgraduate Certificate in Pediatric Sleep Science from the University of Western Australia. Natalie was an Assistant Professor in the Neurogenetics Unit at NYU School of Medicine prior to joining Nanit. Natalie is also the voice of Nanit's science-backed, personalized sleep tips delivered to users throughout their baby's first few years.

  • Dr. Michael Gradisar is a Professor and Director and Clinical Psychologist at the Child & Adolescent Sleep Clinic at WINK Sleep in Australia, and the Head of Sleep Science at Sleep Cycle in Sweden. Dr. Gradisar has specialized in the treatment of pediatric sleep problems since 2006. He has provided training to over 420 psychologists throughout Australia on the treatment of pediatric sleep disorders, and published several research studies evaluating the treatment of insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders in children, adolescents and adults. In all, Dr. Gradisar has over 100 publications in peer-reviewed journals, has authored several book chapters, and has presented on sleep-related research and intervention internationally.

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