Losing out on sleep is something as parents we expect to have to contend with in the early months of parenthood with our babies, through their different illnesses, teething or getting back into routines after holidays, moving house or other changes they might experience.
But constant, night after night battles at bedtime and night awakenings can be relentless for some families and long-term sleep deprivation can be pretty damaging for the whole family’s health and well-being.
The good news is, if you’re little one has been in a good sleep routine which has been disrupted due to a change like sickness, holidays or visitors staying over, then they are likely to get back into that established routine more easily if you act quickly once things have settled down – do what you’ve always done and be consistent with it, there may be some resistance from your little one at first but keep at it, it will be worth it in a couple of nights. As hard as this may be at 3am in the morning and after the umpteenth time they’ve woken you up, just don’t let them get into your bed! Your consistency of returning them back to their own bed will pay off in the end – stick with it.
Sleeping is a skill
Sleep is a skill babies learn and we have to teach them how to do it. They aren’t born knowing how to sleep, their internal body clock doesn’t develop until they’re 6-8 weeks old when they start to recognise the difference between night and day. Then at 3-5 months of age, a baby’s sleep pattern starts to develop into an adult like one which can cause havoc with their sleep. Some of these developmental changes can take more than 12 months to settle down for some children. If they don’t master getting to sleep in their own space (moses basket/crib/cot) early on, then these problems can carry on into childhood as sleep deprived parents look for a quick solution to do whatever they can to get some sleep.
So what can you do? For children of all ages, the key is to start with a short, consistent bedtime routine. This should last no longer than 20-30 minutes, so if your routine involves anything longer than that have a re-think and involve:
- Quiet time prior to the start of your routine – no devices or screens 1 hour before bed, the blue light emitted from them interrupts the natural production of melatonin (the sleepy hormone).
- If your child has one, a small drink of milk and sugar-free snack before moving on to:
- A quick, 5 minute bath to be taken half an hour before the time you plan for your child to go to bed – the body’s temperature drops when you get out of the bath and induces the production of melatonin in readiness for sleep at bedtime.
- Do not return downstairs or to your living area after the bath so your child knows its bedtime next.
- Check the environment – is it too hot/cold, make sure all devices are switched off and unable to be switched back on! Lighting – if your child needs a night light make sure the bulb is a low watt orange/red/pink to help maintain the production of melatonin.
- Read a short story with your child in a relaxed, dimly lit room. Tuck them in and kiss goodnight. Leave the room.
If what happens next and throughout the night is the difficult part for you and your child then it may be that they have developed some unhealthy sleep association behaviours.
With some careful guidance and planning with an experienced Sleep Practitioner, you can resolve these issues and aim to get a good night’s sleep for the whole family. If this is something you would like to fix, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we can resolve the problem together.