Sleep! As I write this, I realise I haven’t had a full night of undisturbed sleep for over five and a half years. From the last trimester of pregnancy when a woman’s body is cleverly getting ready for the new-born sleepless nights, to the fact that my two sons, now five and two, still sleep with my husband and I. What would I do for a full night’s sleep? Probably quite a lot!
By Erica Loi
Recent research from Silentnight’s Safe Nights Collection revealed that the average mum or dad loses 6.2 hours of sleep per week due to their baby – that’s a whopping 13 days a year. Times that by 5 and… I’ve lost too many days. And I’m sure I’m not the only one!
Sleep not only recharges us physically, but also mentally. While going to bed exhausted is known to make for a terrible night’s sleep, having a decent routine each night can have huge benefits for the next day. But if we can’t get our kids into a decent routine, let alone ourselves, how do we crack this?
Her top tips to a good night’s sleep are:
I spoke to Lucy Shrimpton, sleep expert and founder of The Sleep Nanny®. Lucy has a team of sleep consultants based across the UK and around the world. The team helps parents and caregivers of babies and young children overcome the challenges of childhood sleep so that they can be healthy, happy and enjoy these precious years.
For Babies and toddlers
•Get them into a regular, consistent bedtime routine at the same time and place each evening. You can start this from as early as two to three weeks.
•Create an environment for your baby that is dark, calm and quiet. Make sure there are no busy mobiles above the cot and if your baby is sleeping in your room, no electronic devices.
•If your toddler wakes up early, don’t be tempted to put them to bed later. The number one reason why toddlers wake up early is over-tiredness, so a period of early nights should remedy this.
•Keep your nap times consistent during the day. And sustain these naps until the kids are around three and a half or four years old. Little children with really alert temperaments will appear not to need (or want!) these naps, but they actually need it more and for longer than their more laid-back peers.
•A consistent bedtime for children up to the age of eight should be between 6pm and 8pm.
•Avoid over tiredness – it’s the root of all sleep problems.
•Be aware of what your child is picking up and hearing – conversations you might have with other adults on the phone, the TV or the radio. When they pick up tensions or certain words, it can cause anxiety.
•Talk honestly and openly with your child if they want to discuss the changes going on in the world and let them share their worries with you. While you’ve probably not got a solution to the problem, talking about their feelings will help ease some of their anxieties and bring you closer together.
•Be utterly consistent. If they wake up, don’t let them crawl into your bed without expecting this to happen again. Consistency is key.
•Like with adults, avoid screen time for at least an hour before bedtime.
•Similarly, make sure your children avoid sugar or caffeine, which can cause a temporary surge of alertness that will hinder sleep.
•Try to keep a relaxing bedroom environment. Warm lighting, candles and soothing music will make your bedroom your retreat to escape the world and unwind in.
•Try not to work in your bedroom if you can by setting up a desk in another part of the house while working from home. Or, if you don’t have a choice because space is limited, try to transform your work desk so that it looks completely different when you’re not on allocated work time.
•Place your computer and paperwork out of sight and make something else in the room the key focal point so you’re not reminded of work just as you’re trying to drift off to sleep.
•As hard as it might be, especially for those who use your phone as your alarm clock, try to limit your screen time for at least an hour before you want to sleep. The blue light prevents the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls sleep, keeping you awake for longer.
•Try not to eat dinner too late and avoid sugary foods and caffeine for at least three hours before bed. Foods containing high levels of tryptophan like bananas, green leafy vegetables, eggs and dairy combined with some fibre filled carbohydrates are the best combination to promote healthy sleepiness.
•Keeping a notepad beside your bed is a great idea for those with a busy mind. You can unload your thoughts, ideas and ‘to dos’ by brain dumping these onto a page and allowing your mind to let go and relax.
Find a good book to read before bed that’ll help tire your eyes out and take you to another world.
The Sleep Nanny® offers a team of sleep consultants based across the UK and around the world. The team help parents and caregivers of babies and young children to overcome the challenges with childhood sleep so that they can be healthy and happy and enjoy these precious years.
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