When it comes to sleep, or lack of sleep, we immediately think about babies and how to help them. But what happens when your child is still waking frequently throughout the night, bedtime has become a battle or sleep has suddenly changed?
There certainly isn't a huge amount of information out there to help us through this tricky part of parenthood and sometimes when a child isn’t sleeping it is brushed off and we just told it is something they will grow out of.
But what happens if they don’t or the lack of sleep is affecting their behaviour or your emotional well-being?
Solid sleep is so important for development, learning, and overall mental and physical health. Sleep is when a child’s body restores itself, recharges itself, fights off illness and consolidates all the important information learnt throughout the day. That is why we should never overlook when sleep has become a challenge for a child and their family.
There could be a number of reasons why your child is waking up throughout the night or why they have started to want you there as support at bedtime. The most common reasons are starting school, moving house or introducing a new sibling. These all have huge impacts on a child emotionally which can have a knock on effect to how your child feels about sleeping.
The first step into understanding why sleep is a challenge for your child is through communication. If your child has started to become anxious before bedtime, ask them why and see if they are able to express the reasons for this. Understanding this will give you a greater depth into how to best support your child through this time.
Promoting healthy sleep hygiene can lead to a calmer bedtime and more peaceful overnight sleep for your child.
The school day can be exhausting, especially during their first year. Exhaustion can lead to many battles, especially before bed. Include a good amount of wind down time as part of your child’s bedtime routine. Wind down time will also help your child’s mind and body get ready for sleep.
Having a consistent bedtime routine will have a huge positive impact on your child’s sleep hygiene. Give your child sleep cues in the run up to bedtime, starting your routine by transitioning your house into night time mode. This will create a calming atmosphere for your child, allowing them to understand that it is nearly time to sleep.
If you have recently moved house or your child is expressing being scared of their sleep environment, allow them to enjoy some independent room play during the day and even set up a room party for your family to enjoy on the weekend. Your child’s bedroom should be a place where they feel happy, and a place where they want to spend time away from sleep - their own special hideaway. A bedroom doesn’t just need to be for sleep, and I believe if your child loves being and playing independently in their room they will begin to feel secure enough to fall asleep by themselves.
Blue light has a negative impact on sleep. Being exposed to blue light close to bedtime disrupts our circadian rhythm and suppresses the release of melatonin. It can make your child start to feel wired during their bedtime routine, rather than sleepy and relaxed. If TV is part of your child’s routine, let your child watch it at the beginning, and not for very long, so that they have time to fully relax before bed.
We can sometimes forget the huge impact praise has on a child. Once you start to see positive changes to your child’s sleep, praise them for this. It is important to celebrate every little win, and remember if it only seems like a small sleep achievement to you, it will be a huge step in your child’s world.
Connection is a big thing when it comes to children and sleep. I am a firm believer that spending special, quality time with your child as part of their bedtime routine can leave them feeling more secure when it comes to sleep. Focus on your child, talk to them, hug and kiss them and giggle with them in the lead up to bedtime time. Make their heart burst by telling them three things you love about them before you say goodnight.
I'm Lydia an infant sleep consultant offering online support for 0-6 year olds. I created Sleeps & Bounds in the understanding that when a good night's sleep feels a million miles away - whether for newborn or young children - it in fact possible to flick that life-changing switch - through investigative process, careful adjustment and daily support.
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