Over the next six weeks I am so excited to be able to introduce some fab parenting experts answering some of your most commonly asked questions from posts, comments and messages.
As far as parenting goes, sleep (and lack of it) is one of our biggest parenting concerns, so it seemed only right that was the subject for the first Ask the Expert blog. Jenna Wilson of Little Dreams Consulting, with the answers to the questions you posted…
The importance of sleep and the current struggle
Sleep is vitally important for children, and adults; for health development and general well-being.
We have had more enquiries than usual recently, partly because parenting has become more intense but also because we there are lots of little ones who used to sleep well but are now struggling with sleep.
We have also both found this with our own children; that they have struggled a little to adjust to their ‘new normal’. They were also a bit worried about what they had heard at school, so we have been very careful to keep anything about the current situation away from them. We do not discuss Coronavirus, or any concerns about it, nor do we have on the television or radio news on when they are around because it’s not something we want them to have to worry about – added to everything else.
If your child has been sleeping well, until the past few weeks, it may be that they are struggling to adjust a little to the current situation.
Ensuring they have plenty of time during the day to talk to you about any concerns and also ensuring that they have a good bedtime routine, which could include mindfulness or relaxation techniques, will also really help. The Relaxkids website has some great resources for children to use and using something like my happy self journal for older children can also work well.
How to encourage your little one to stay asleep during the night
We have had lots of questions about little ones who are falling asleep easily on an evening but then waking during the night.
What we have found is that the children who are ‘falling asleep easily’ at night-time are often not falling asleep independently and are reliant upon something or someone.
When we think of ‘sleep props’ we often think of bottles, breastfeeding, motion or dummies. For toddlers and older children, although they may still be reliant upon these things, more often than not, they are also reliant upon a parent or sibling.
Often parents will need to sit with their little one at night, lay on the floor, hold their hand, pat their bottom, allow them to play with mummies hair etc before they can fall asleep. What happens is, when their little one comes to the edge of their sleep cycles, things aren’t the same as they were when they fell asleep and so they cannot drift back off to sleep again.
As a parent imagine you fell asleep in your bed with your duvet, pillows, glass of water etc. When you come to the edge of your sleep cycle (every hour and a half or so) if everything is the same you will go back to sleep and not remember the ‘mini awakening’ in the morning. If, however, you came to the edge of sleep on the kitchen floor, for example, you will be very disorientated and probably wide-awake.
This is what happens when little ones are assisted to sleep, even with a parent sitting with them at bedtime, because when they come to the edge of their sleep cycles after a period of deep sleep they are then disorientated and can’t get back to sleep without that parent coming back. They may even need to sneak into with mummy and daddy‘s bed.
The only way around this is to guide your little one towards their independent sleep skills and allow them to fall asleep independently without a parent being there. If your little one is a toddler, or older, this will need to be done gently and over a period of time.
Early morning waking
Some little ones settle and sleep well but wake early in the morning. We generally don’t treat anything before 6am as the morning. Early morning waking can be a sign of overtiredness but there are also some back to basics we need to check.
- Ensure that there is no light coming in the bedroom as mornings are so light at the moment. Also check there are no unwanted sounds outside. Using blackout blinds (or even black card) to ensure that the bedroom is pitch black will help and you could consider using white noise to block out any unwanted sounds.
- Ensuring your little one is warm enough in the early morning, around 4 am is when our body temperature is lowest so we don’t want to little ones to be unable to settle as they are a little chilly.
- Consider using a Gro clock with older children so they know they cannot get out of bed until morning. I would suggest setting this for 6 o’clock to begin with so that you’re not making it too hard for them.
- If your little one is still napping, consider their total daytime sleep because they may be getting too much.
With older children some basic sleep rules can work really well if you are struggling with a small aspect of sleep. For example, asking your little one to lay in bed quietly at bedtime and stay in bed until morning.
A reward chart can be really helpful for implementing these rules. Introduce one new rule every couple of days, starting with something a little one always does (like putting their pjs on) so that they will absolutely get the reward the next morning.
Making sure you are consistent in giving them the reward is also really important and ensure the reward is something they are really interested in. Very often sticker charts are not enough but using something like The TotsUp Reward Bus, which is more visual and engaging and can stimulate your child’s imagination, can be really helpful.
If you are still struggling with any aspect of your child sleep even after these tips, then please do get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (07572) 309404.