Over the past crazy couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote from Mr. Rogers:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
So, as we all try to navigate away through these scary times together, I have found myself asking about how I could be that helper. Sleep helps COVID-19 as they have proven rest, and sleep is what is helping patience in-hospital recovery. As they place them in induced comas, to control their breathing. As we don’t wish to get into the position, let us look at what we can do now to help prevent this wherever possible.
And since my expertise is with young children and their sleep and behaviour. I decided I’d be most helpful by sharing a few things with you in the hope that you’ll find them to be helpful.
First things first
First and foremost at this time we are all focussing on staying as healthy as we can right now. Making it a great time to be reminded that one of the very best ways for anyone of us to be able to maintain a strong immune system is to get a good night’s sleep.
I could go into the science behind it, which is a lot of complicated-sounding words—explaining why and how this is. The interest of keeping you engage and putting it only has to do with “T-cells” being better able to fight infected cells when stress hormones are low. Our stress hormones are at their weakest when we are, yes, you guessed it. Asleep!
Now, let’s be real about this. If you have got a baby or toddler in the house who isn’t currently or has never slept well, then getting that good night’s sleep can be a little more challenging for you AND your little one, and in the same cases, the whole house is being affected by this scenario.
So, with this all of this in mind, there are some “tricks” you can try. Starting tonight. These can make a big difference I promise you!
These in the trade as referred to as “sleep hacks.” Now I will be honest at this point, while none of these are guaranteed to work for every child, these are the 6 “quick fixes” that I’ve found actually CAN make the difference.
Sleep Hack #1: Watch Their Waking Hours
One of the BIGGEST enemies of sleep is over tiredness – especially for babies and toddler… and many parents are surprised to learn just how soon their child will get overtired!
Simply point, below is a quick guide to how long your child should be awake between naps during the day:
Newborns (0-12 Weeks): 45 minutes
3-5 Months: 1.5–2 hours
6–8 months: 2–3 hours
9–12 months: 3-4 hours
13 months to 2.5 years: 5–6 hours
By making sure that your child is put down for naps BEFORE they get overtired, you will find that they fall asleep much more easily at those nap time… AND that they are more relaxed at bedtime, too!!
Sleep Hack #2: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
We as humans sleep better in the dark. Babies and Toddlers are included in this also.
By making your child’s room as dark as possible. (ideally, I recommend using a blackout blinds, but I’ve had clients try anything to see if it will help them. Some suggestions I have made in the past for them to initially try without the massive expense and a simple test is to taping cardboard over the windows, throwing a blanket of the curtains or whatever it takes!)
Be aware that in many cases, even the small glow from a nightlight or a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt your child’s sleep cycle! So be aware to remove all unnecessary light from their room.
BONUS TIP: By also keeping your child’s room as dark as possible during daytime naps, too can often make a BIG difference in how long your child will nap during the day!!
Sleep Hack #3: Be Predictable (being a little boring is best I promise you)
Predictability – Babies and toddlers love and thrive on a predictable routine. Having a predictable bedtime routine (which should last no longer than 30 minutes) is the best way to show your children that sleep is coming.
BONUS TIP: After your bedtime routine is complete, and it has been “boring”. Lots of children will do their best to try to “drag out” bedtime out. They do so by playing games, throwing toys out of the crib, standing up, etc. All I can say is Don’t participate.
If your child has thrown their blanket or much-loved stuffed toy out of the crib, calmly return the item without saying a word. Be boring, and not engaging with them, then the games shouldn’t last too long!
To help you understand what the best typical bedtime routine might look something like, I will show you a example here:
nursing or bottle (10 minutes)
bath (5 minutes)
put on pj’s (5 minutes)
read a story or sing some songs (10 minutes)
By making sure that this routine is the same every single time., you set the predictability for your child, helping them understand what happens next and help them to sleep better as it calm and relaxing for both you and your child!
Sleep Hack #4: Feeding AFTER Naps, Not Before
For a lot of babies and toddlers, their biggest single reason for not sleep well has to do with there is a feeding-sleep association.
What does this mean, simple words, your child has “linked” the ideas of feeding then sleeping. Meaning they believe they think that a bottle or nursing BEFORE they can fall asleep.
By making the simple change to feeding right after nap time – instead of before – you can help your child break this feeding-sleep association.
Sleep Hack #5: Same Place, Same Time
By remembering that your children love predictability. The best way to achieve this is to try wherever possible to have your child sleep in the same place – at the same time – every day while they learn to sleep independently.
This means ideally wherever possible that all nap times should happen in the same place as their nighttime sleep. (or at least with the same smaller routine as nighttime if at childcare). We are trying to where possible avoid them being in car seats, strollers, your lap at the coffee shop, etc.
For many parents, the simple act of changing WHERE their child naps during the day causes a big improvement in the length and quality of nighttime sleep.
Sleep Hack #6: Take Five
Before you put your child to bed (for naps or at nighttime), put a five-minute period in place before they are put to bed that is about being very calm and relaxing.
This will mean that the oh so common acts of one more throw up the air for your toddler stops… or watching TV… or tickle fights… all have to stop for those five minutes immediately before bed.
IMPORTANT NOTE: will I completely and totally encourage tickle fights and any other kinds of rowdy fun you can think of with your children. Its vital for the whole family to have those funs moments and memories. So I do always encourage families to have these, Just NOT in the five minutes before bed. I find that instead right after waking up is the best time to play!)
Now as I mentioned earlier, every single child is unique. It would be wrong of me to try and guess which one of these will work for your family. And in all honesty, the truth is if your child’s sleep problems have been going on for a long time. Then there’s a good chance that no single “trick” is going to get them sleeping through the night.
I do however still encourage you to give some of these a try. See if it makes a difference and if it does, I’d love to hear about it!
In fact, if after reading this you feel you have any questions at all about your child’s sleep. Please feel free to get in touch with me via email, or telephone. Like I mentioned earlier, I want to do whatever I can to help right now.
Latest changes to my service
In line with our social distancing, to do our part to stop the spread of the virus. I am NOT currently offering “in-person” sleep consultations.
HOWEVER, what I can offer is your consultations via video chat—proving to be a highly sought-after service. By me see what is going on right in your own home at the time it is happening. By connecting via apps such as WhatsApp and Skype as part of the various packages, I can offer.
The great news is many more clients are reaching out with this. As they see themselves first hand in a lot of cases for Dads due to them being at home right now and they are seeing and feeling what Mums are dealing with on a daily basis) Not many of those all so familiar phrases “what have you been doing all day” comments being made now which is great for the whole family. It means change will happen. That said I do still have some availability the next few weeks if this is something you are interested in. (Just reach out by phone or e-mail and I can let you know how it works.)
For those of you with toddlers. Please be aware and remember that their daily routines are VERY comforting and reassuring for them at this age. I know that many of us have had our normal daily routines upended. (ie. no daycare, pre-school, etc.), but I would encourage you to set up a new daily routine you can all follow at home.
This will not only give your toddler an important sense of security. It will also help keep you calm and focussed too!