When you’ve been up 22 times in one night, how on earth are you supposed to be a good parent the next day?
This is the question Katie Elson, founder of Happy Little Dreamers was asking herself after another sleepless night with her son.
In desperation, Katie sought out a way to make her family life better. The search led her to the Sleep Sense programme and eventually to training in the US with programme founder Dana Obleman.
Now a certified Sleep Sense consultant Katie is always eager to share her expertise: “I have been on the receiving end of sleep deprivation due to my son’s sleep habits when he was a baby, and I will now admit I was NOT a true representation of myself! My passion is to help other parents find a way out of this hole and give them back a happy family life.”
5 essential things every parent needs to know about sleep:
1.) Sleep is as important as nutrition
No sane parent would feed their child a diet entirely of doughnuts because everyone knows how unhealthy that would be! Whilst people understand the value of good eating habits, sleep issues are often neglected.
When people eat an unhealthy diet they become malnourished and their bodies suffer. In the same way, people who have unhealthy sleep habits become mentally malnourished. Lack of sleep starves us of the energy we need to be happy and to survive the emotional and physical roller coaster everyday life throws at us.
2.) Everyone wakes in the night
All adults and children wake between 2 – 5 times a night! However, as adults, we have all learnt strategies to help get us back to sleep. When we briefly wake, those strategies kick in, getting us back to sleep without even knowing we have woken.
3.) Children need to learn to fall asleep on their own
Infants and toddlers can easily become dependent on ‘external props’ such as a dummy, a bottle, rocking, nursing, etc. If your baby can only get to sleep by using a prop, then it is likely your child is not sleeping through the night. This happens because children briefly wake (as we all do), realise that the thing that put them to sleep (the prop) isn’t there anymore, fully wake and start to cry. Children need to learn the skill of self-soothing which is essential if they—and you!—are ever to sleep through the night.
4.) Different ages bring different sleep challenges
As our children grow and develop their needs and abilities change. Creating a plan of action that reflects these needs and abilities is essential.
Newborns are not designed to sleep through the night, however—it’s true—some do sleep better than others. Forming good habits early in their lives will lead to healthy sleep behaviours in their toddler years and through to adult life.
Infants are often hindered by milestones. They grow more in their first year than at any other time in their lives, they start getting teeth, and they start to crawl or walk. This is a time when parents need to be mindful to encourage their children to maintain their self-soothing techniques—and not to introduce bad habits!
Toddlers are born negotiators and this can lead to endless requests: another story, a longer bath, one more hug. Learning to set limits and boundaries is key—though, admittedly, tough!
5.) You are not alone and help is available
When you have a child, sleep becomes the hot topic on everyone’s lips. This constant discussion can create a lot of pressure on you as a parent, and finding the right advice that suits your parenting style can be really confusing.
Remember, a child’s poor sleep habits are not a reflection of your parenting. There should be no shame or guilt in asking for help. Always use your family and friends as a support network. The parents in your NCT group are likely to be experiencing similar challenges and may have coping methods to share. Reach out for help if you need it.
The important thing is to make your family life a happy one. Teaching children the skills they need to sleep through the night makes for a happier home—and who doesn’t want a good night’s sleep every night?
For more information and advice contact Katie Elson – Certified Sleep Sense Consultant