Experts Corner

A Child Sleep Specialist Teaches Us How Parents Can Get Great Sleep

December 17, 2020   By Deb Herdman
Sleep is one of those things that we crave when we don’t get enough.

It affects our physical, mental and emotional health and impacts the way we perform and function at work, at home and around the people we love. We’ve brought in Deb Herdman, a nurse and sleep specialist, to teach parents how to look after their sleep.

Is it time to take a good hard look at yourself?

Striving for perfect sleep can be tricky and some preparation around sleep hygiene is where you should focus. Having a comfortable bed and an inviting sleep environment is a first priority.

Once the sleep environment is calm and inviting, checking personal habits like pre-sleep caffeine, alcohol, spicy, sugary and high fat snacks should be swapped out for water, milk and healthy snacks, but, only if you are hungry.

If you think your sleep problem goes deeper, seeking professional help can make all the difference. Sleep issues are often multi-faceted and when you take the time to evaluate your environment and your mental and physical health, you increase your opportunity to waking alert, restored and rejuvenated.

It’s not you… it’s your kids that keep you awake

Becoming a parent changes your sleep patterns from being self-focussed to involving a vulnerable and dependent third party that has its own sleep agenda that can be very difficult to manage. Your sleep schedule, pre-children, now becomes a lost schedule as you adapt to the needs of your baby and their waking and sleeping timetable.

Babies often need help in becoming sleep secure and many manage to lengthen their night sleep as they develop circadian rhythm and maturity, but many more struggle to find their ‘sleep groove’.

Every milestone can significantly affect their sleep habits with frequent waking and difficulty settling causing prolonged sleep latency; the time taken from being awake to fully asleep. Sleep dept then becomes the new normal for you and your child.

Parents wait too long to seek professional help

The problem with sleep debt is you are always trying to pay it back but most of the time it is out of your control because you haven’t acted early enough. Many parents assume lack of sleep is normal but fail to seek professional help early enough. It’s crucial to have a plan when sleep goes off…and it will, because like all humans, we have bad nights. The trick is to prevent a bad night from becoming the new normal.

“I need sleep NOW” – the signs

Know the early sleep cues!Looking away from you, disengaging – looking right through you, jerky movements, sucking hands – all happen before grizzling and crying…but the time frame can be very short. Act fast to make sleep a priority.

Routine

Although many parents follow feed/dinner, bath, story, song, know that it’s ok to shorten the routine so you don’t push your little one into overtiredness, and irritability.

Emotional trauma that many kids experience at bedtime can make parents equally irritable. We use TED our sleep time play therapy bear to keep the bedtime mood happy. Keeping the mood positive means stress hormones remain low and manageable. In addition to happier moods, using red light, offers an environmental sense of calm.

Re-connection

Supporting your little one’s emotional cup helps them know they are loved. This nurtured approach is completely the opposite to controlled crying and keeping anxiety low essential to getting to sleep fast. Mood is really important because children are sensitive to feelings and enhancing a calm mood can be easily accomplished using the Nigh’ Nigh’ lullaby. Designed from scientific evidence to specifically engage the brain with the right information to enhance bonding and provide emotional support, children can develop the confidence to need less support from you and become sleep independent.

Relaxation

Irrespective of age, you cannot fall asleep unless you feel relaxed. Nigh’ Nigh’ Lullaby helps with that process and is particularly useful in helping babies learn to string sleep cycles together to sleep deeper and longer. Then parents get to enjoy longer and deeper sleep.

Can parents stay one step ahead of sleep debt?

Absolutely!

Routine, Re-connection and Relaxation forms the foundation to preventing sleep issues arising to insurmountable levels.

We know that being sensitive to the needs of your child and helping them sleep well provides them the best opportunity to learn, grow and be healthy. Families that sleep well, stay well and live a better life.

About the Author

Deb Herdman helps families in Australia, and around the world to get good quality sleep, by providing sleep solutions that work. She is a Sleep Specialist, registered nurse and the creator of the Nigh’ Nigh’ Sleepy Head system, an Australian invention, that gives babies and toddlers a safe, gentle and calming environment to naturally fall asleep with.


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