Sleep challenges are nor always easy to solve and sometimes need out of the box solutions. In this article I share some challenges and solutions I have encountered as a Certified Paediatric Sleep Consultant. I hope you learn a few things.
You have worked so hard at making sure you have a great family sleep routine, perfect sleep environment and finally figured out your kid's sleep. Once everything is in place you get hit with - a cold or flu hits your family. (This could also be vaccines, unexpected late nights or travel) We've all been there.
No one is sleeping well. You are busy caring for your kids, and you might be fighting the same cold, or up worried.
My rules for sick kids or other sleep interruption - try and relax, do what you need to allow you to protect your kid's sleep and get them to sleep. Techniques can include extra cuddles, naps, extra drinks in the middle of the night or even crawling into bed with you. I always tell parents to fill your kids with love and let your gut lead you.
Remember it can only take as little as three repeated reactions to create a new habit for your child. It could be that you go in and check extra times at bedtime with your 3-year-old or you go back to nursing your 6-month-old at every night waking. (I've done both more than once) or your 18 month old is sleeping in your bed. Either way, they were sleeping through the night or at least sleeping independently.
Once everyone is feeling better it’s time to get back to our normal sleep patterns but HOW?
Look at how you got them to sleep independently the first time. Whatever method you used that will be your starting point.
It could be using the chair method, check and console or "good night/good morning" (what I like to call extinction). Regardless of the method, it's time to retrain your child. Don't panic. Your child learned to sleep once so they will sleep independently again.
It won't necessarily be easy, but they will remember what to do. You need to bring out the sleep plans, start being consistent and predictable with an early bedtime, and use your sleep cues and routines. You can do this.
I like to modify when possible shortening the method. Instead of making a change every three days start making one every 1 or 2 days. As soon as you begin to see improvements run with it.
If you used the chair method, you might start by moving the chair every day.
If you used 'check and console' skip to checks every 10 minutes.
If you used extinction/ 'goodnight/good morning' jump right in.
Remind yourself that they did this before, you did this before, and you will all get back on track quickly. The longer you were off your routine, the longer it will take to get back.
Until you are back to your regular schedule. Try an extra early bedtime and give yourself a break. It will be worth the hard work when everyone is sleeping better again.
If you have fallen off your sleep routines and need help getting back to your happy place get in touch.
Parents remember after a cold or flu has made a pass through your house it is also important you get extra sleep. Try adding a nap and/or an early bedtime will help you recover a little faster.
I will be the first to admin, I didn’t love Halloween until my kids were old enough to get me excited about this holiday. I now happily participate! Watching the joy in my girls eye makes me love all of it.
I have slowly started to participate more and more every year but never not wanted to jeopardize my girls sleep. We have started early, done the baby in a carrier jaunt and now just enjoy the excitement and get back to schedule the next day. I always try to remember it’s only one night.
Last night I event took my girls for a drive at bedtime to see all the spooky lights. Who am I?
My top tips for balancing sleep and this spooky holiday
Plan ahead. Talk about the the evening and bedtime. For toddlers and preschoolers they like to know what to expect.
EXCITEMENT - if your kids are anything like my kids they are very excited for halloween. Find fun ways to embrace the holiday while sticking to your sleep routines. Include bedtime themed books, make up stories, crafts, colouring sheets and games. One of my favourites is to practise trick or treating…great fun but also a great opportunity to work on manners and behaviour.
Halloween Fear - during the days leading up to halloween or even while trick or treating your child might see or hear something that is scary. Bedtime is often when these memories come back and scare us or our children. When your child does wake up scare or worried - the best plan is to show your child empathy no matter how irrational it seems to you. Talking it through will show you care but can also help them work through it. If the issue is a scary movie or character maybe look for a better movie or tv show.
Scaredy cats- is your child a little too young or nervous about the whole idea of halloween? Look for alternative places to show off costumes such as Nursing homes, malls and even community events as less scared ways to celebrate. If you live in Calgary please check out too cute to spook.
Afternoon nap or quiet time - give your kids the opportunity to nap or have quiet time in the afternoon and make it a little longer as you can expect the excitement and sugar will likely make bedtime a little later.
Have your children leave out pyjamas and bedtime story before you leave the house.
I know it’s hard to limit candy on halloween but the associations between sleep and candy are real. A scientific study concluded that ”Sugar intake is associated with lighter, less restorative sleep with more arousals.” I will give my children one or two to try before we start trick or treating but only after a healthy dinner.
Once you get home turn out the light and bring in the candy. This will limit the number of interruptions you will have during your bedtime routine. Most people respect the no lights or pumpkin rule.
Use your sleep tools - white noise to reduce the outside noise, dark room, bedtime sleep cues - stories, songs and kisses. These are things that help your kids get into the mood for sleep.
Relax - remember this is one night and you can get back on track the next day. Enjoy and make some new memories.
Halloween is lots of fun but making family memories is sometimes as important as a good night's sleep. I’m always happy to talk you through any concerns.
As always please email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I am more than happy to help you find the right sleep solution and support to help your family get a better nights sleep.
Sleep can also take a few weeks to adjust to the brighter mornings and increased outdoor activity. I’m sharing my tips for mastering sleep in summer. Here are my Top Tips to keep kids sleeping this spring.