Are these 5 things impeding your child’s sleep?
Today I want to address five things that we as parents can unwittingly contribute to that may be impeding our child’s sleep. Stopping sleep in its tracks. And that’s without us even realising!
Poor sleep affects all of us at some point; there will be days we have trouble sleeping, and a lot of different things can account for this. We may be sick, in pain, too hot, too cold or have too much on our minds (when older). But there are also things that parents do that can hinder sleep for children.
If your child is over the 6-month mark and isn’t sleeping through the night yet, here are five things to consider, especially when it comes to bedtime. I’m loathe to call these things mistakes, because chances are you’ve never even thought about them. But they are common reasons your child’s sleep progress may be delayed. Here they are, 5 things that may be impeding your child’s sleep:
1. Your child falls asleep outside the cot or bed
When you picture a Mum and a sleeping baby, is that baby asleep in Mum’s arms? It’s certainly a strong visual that is seen time and time again, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely notion. Rocking your child to sleep in your arms and then gently laying her down in the cot, looking down at her sweet face with tenderness and blowing kisses before you leave the room. Can you see it? Baby of course then sleeps all night and wakes refreshed and happy in the morning. It’s a Mother’s dream.
Are you laughing at me yet? Past a certain age, what most likely happens in this scenario is that Mum gently lays her sleeping child in the cot, tiptoes out in fear of the wake before she even gets out of the room, and then maybe gets 20-45 minutes of peace before baby is awake again. Sound familiar?
Putting an already sleeping child down in the cot is not helpful when it comes to a long happy sleep. The problem here is the waking up somewhere different from where they fell asleep.
Imagine if you fell asleep on the couch and woke in your bed with no recollection of getting there. You’ll likely wake up with a start, your mind will start racing as you try and figure out how you got there and, if you can’t remember, your adrenaline peaks and sleep is all over.
And it gets worse, not only is your little one now awake and agitated, she’s so use to making the journey to sleep in your arms that she’s also going to need you to do it all over again so she can settle down in the manner she’s gotten use to. Rinse and repeat, how many times a night?
2. The lively bedroom
Decorating the nursery means different things to different people. Again, parenting magazines have us thinking that we all need wall transfers, mobiles, night lights and the right decor to entice our child to sleep.
Now while your baby may not care about complementary colours (you know who you are) or the Feng Shui of furniture placement, they will care about the serenity of the room. All those mobiles, night lights, star projectors and musical toys are more likely to hinder sleep than help. Lights, movement and noises fascinate and distract children, and are unlikely to soothe to them sleep. A dark bedroom and a comfortable pair of Pajamas really are the best accessories for sleep.
3. Childhood negotiations
All Children LOVE to negotiate at some point or another, and bedtime is a perfect place for them to practice their haggling skills. What have they got to lose by trying to negotiate a later bedtime? Just the act of arguing itself is likely to keep them up later. And even if you do “compromise”, they’ll never (ever) be satisfied.
You may have heard that old saying, “give an inch and they’ll take a mile”; it was based around childhood (I’m pretty sure my father didn’t make it up just to describe me). This is where that one extra story leads to another extra story, leads to needing water and an extra cuddle… (if you have a toddler chances are you know what I’m saying).
Do yourself a favour and don’t buy into these tactics. Bedtime is bedtime and that’s just how it is.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t give your child choices around bedtime, you definitely should if you have a toddler or older child. But those choices need to be limited so they can’t take that mile. Give them “this or that” choices that are easy to make and don’t affect the routine at all.
Which leads me to my next point…
4. Changes to the bedtime routine
If you have an older child, chances are you’ve already had the request to read the same favourite book night after night (after night). This is tedious for a parent because, let’s face it, it can get boring for us. But for our children it’s something they know and it’s comforting to them. If you haven’t been there yet, chances are high that you will at some point.
Parenting is not exciting – it sure keeps us on our toes – but it’s not the fun, night on the town excitement that we sometimes crave. So having the same old bedtime routine, like the same old favourite book, can get tedious for us. It can seem like we’re stuck in a rut, night after night – and it can be tempting to change it up a bit.
Please, resist the temptation to change the routine! If you’ve found a working bedtime routine. Stick to it like glue.
The bedtime routine isn’t just about physically getting your child ready for bed. It’s also a strong cuing signal to the brain that the long night-time sleep is approaching. This cuing system helps the body and the brain wind down and relax into sleep. If you change the routine, you’re much more likely to have a child who doesn’t sleep well.
If you need a change, make it a daytime change and try a different park or some new games and activities instead.
5. Your child only sleeps if you’re involved in the process
Now I do expect you to put your child to bed, with a loving goodnight, and kisses and cuddles (especially if they still have that lovely baby smell fresh from a bath). BUT, if your child will only fall asleep when you feed her, hold her or rub her back, then she may not be able to fall back to sleep again on her own when she wakes in the night (and we all wake frequently in the night, that’s totally normal and to be expected –the trick is being able to get back to sleep again).
Teaching a child to fall asleep without your help is one of the cornerstones of healthy sleep, as it allows them to link sleep cycles seamlessly without your involvement in the middle of the night. It really is an important part of the process past a certain age. Indeed, I’ve worked with a number of parents who have solved their child’s sleep issues simply by taking themselves out of the picture at bedtime.
And there you have five potential impediments to your child’s sleep. Could they be impacting on your child’s sleep? They’re by no means the only things to look out for, but hopefully they can help save your sanity and give you all some better nights.
Have you made changes that have helped bring on peaceful nights and happy mornings? If so, please share them, I’m sure there’s a tired parent out there who will love you for it.
And if you’d like a little one-on-one help with a step by step plan to improve your child’s sleep, please book in a free initial call here. And if you’re aren’t already following along on Facebook and Instagram for blogs, tips and more, I’d love you to. Or if you have FOMO (fear of missing out), be the first to see my blogs by signing up to my email newsletter. Sleep well out there!