Helping older children with sleep issues

Helping older children with sleep issues

I know sleep consultants often focus on babies, but it’s not unusual to find older, school age children who struggle to sleep throughout the night as well. In fact, it was my then seven-year old who refused to close his eyes at night that led me into this sleep journey.

I had two poor sleepers. Yes, they did eventually sleep a little better around the 3 – 4 year mark, but they certainly weren’t great sleepers even then. So, I know what it’s like, and yes you can live through the pain (around 6-7 consecutive years in my case), but there is a better way.

In hindsight, I can see that my children’s poor sleep affected us all. It made it much harder to be a cohesive family unit; my children were whinier and grumpier, and to be honest I was too.  I couldn’t lose weight, and it definitely affected my work/life balance.  Carrying around sleep debt affected performance where it counted most for me, in my relationships. It could be affecting you too, and you don’t even realise it.

So if you have an older child who isn’t a great sleeper, I want you know that it doesn’t have to be like that.  Maybe something that has happened during the school years have stopped sleep in its tracks, or maybe it’s because he or she hasn’t yet “grown out of it” – it’s never too late to learn good sleep skills!

If your child is a poor sleeper, here’s what I want you to know:

Don’t feel bad

Seriously, don’t feel bad! Sleep is one of the strongest habit forming behaviours we have – so if they’ve learned early on to sleep with someone or to be attached to a certain external sleep prop, it’s quite normal that the issue will continue to linger.

Statistically 85% of babies who don’t sleep well, turn into toddlers who don’t sleep well, and school age children who don’t sleep well. It has a lot to do with the relationships we form with sleep.

There are also children who need to be specifically taught how to sleep well. Sleep is a skill. There are methods to help anxious children, those with learning challenges or ADHD and autism. It’s important that you know that and not just accept a lifetime of poor sleep.

Poor sleep habits can be fixed

The good news is that poor sleep habits can be fixed. Your child can be taught new habits.

I really think it’s important that all children have a beautiful relationship with sleep. I want this for your child. When they’re tired at the end of the day I want them to realise they’re tired and look forward to climbing into bed. Sleep is what will rejuvenate them.

The most common problem with older children, particularly for those aged up to 10 years, is that they fall asleep at bedtime with a parent. Because of this, they really think they need the parent to fall asleep. It becomes a very strong habit.

Sleep is a skill that can be learnt

To break this habit it’s important to teach them that they can fall asleep independently.

It’s possible to do this gradually and wean yourself out of the room. Teach them it’s OK. Get them on board, and let them know they’ll be happier with better sleep. No, it’s not a magic solution – it is a bit of a process over a few weeks.  But once they’ve mastered it, those sleep skills are going to last a lifetime.

My son was the worst sleeper, yet just the other day he expressed disbelief that a friend of his didn’t like going to bed at night. He actually astounded me with his comments that sleep was the best! I was floored, and pleased, and so relieved!

Just remember it’s never too late to start good habits. And if you’d like a step-by-step plan to help your child become a better sleeper, contact me. Or, go straight to booking a free initial call HERE. Because everyone needs a good night’s sleep!