Struggling from Sleep Deprivation at the Hands of Your Child?
For advice on this topic, we’ve asked Kathryn Stimpson, the Family Sleep Consultant to guest write a post for us. Kathryn is a previous insomnia sufferer and mum to Oliver – the former sleep thief. In this post, she will provide you with the solution to getting your family better sleep.
Drained, exhausted and unhappy; not the most ideal words I used to describe my first experience of motherhood. However, after implementing key techniques for overcoming my own insomnia and my son Oliver’s sleep challenges, coupled with my qualifications in Advanced Sleep Coaching and Child Development, I ensure you get your family’s sleep back on track so you can bounce out of bed with a spring in your step.
Looking back at life when our first born Oliver wasn’t sleeping, I could not see the wood for the trees. Daily life was chaotic, stressful and it always felt like I was trying to keep my head above water whilst chasing my tail at the same time. In summary, I was bloody exhausted, so it’s no wonder everything seemed fuzzy and I had zero clarity on what to try first to resolve his sleep challenges.
So for those of you in the middle of full-blown child sleep deprivation, here are four holistic and essential ways to help improve your child’s sleep.
The Great Outdoors
As busy parents, we don’t always want to be going outdoors, especially during the Autumn/Winter months. However getting into appropriate clothing and being outdoors every day in the fresh air with your child is one of the easiest and readily available ways to improve your child’s sleep. Exposure to natural daylight helps your child to very quickly learn the difference between day and night. The scientific reason for this is that exposure to daylight triggers the hormone cortisol to be released which makes us feel alert and awake (in the right amounts) and darkness tells our brain to produce melatonin, which is the hormone that helps us feel sleepy. Thus, daylight helps to regulate sleep and awake cycles for both yourself and your child.
From about 12 weeks of age, babies can begin to understand the difference between night and day. This is an ideal time to implement a bedtime routine, this gives them a chance to wind down for sleep and also signals that sleeptime is on its way. My recommendations for an effective routine is to be consistent every day with the same timings and to make sure it flows nicely. It should last around 30 minutes from start to finish. Examples of elements to include are; massage, bath, feed, a bedtime story, a sleep phrase, a gentle sleep coaching technique and a comforter (not necessarily in this order).
Food Glorious Food
If your child is 1 years + and fully weaned, it is essential to consider what he or she is eating throughout the day. For example, eliminating or certainly reducing sugar from their diet, will help them to wind down to sleep and minimise bedtime resistance. Additionally, including lean protein in every meal and snack, helps them to stabilise their blood sugar levels, meaning their cortisol levels are also stable (the stress hormone that can prevent children falling and staying asleep) as well making sure they stay fuller for longer. It is always good to tick hunger off first on the “Why have you woken up list”. A balanced diet is significantly linked to good quality sleep, for further tips and advice on nutrition, check out The Family Nutrition Expert’s website.
Being Mindful – What’s That?
Having given birth to what felt like the biggest sleep thief going, I can put my hand on my heart and say I know how anxious and low you feel when you are severely sleep deprived. I used to dread every nap and nighttime sleep, but the problem with this is babies and children are very intuitive and can often mirror our own behaviours. Reconnecting with mindfulness during my sleepless stage really was the driving force for resolving Oliver’s sleep challenges. From becoming more mindful of my own thoughts and behaviours, I was able to see the world more clearly and source the professional help which went on to change our lives.
But what is mindfulness or being mindful I hear you say… Mindfulness is the practice of being mindful and aware in the moment, observing your thoughts whilst not passing judgment on them. Mindfulness has been scientifically proven to reduce Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia, Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Obesity… a few examples but the list goes on. Not only that, it has also been documented to help with managing everyday plate spinning, coping with life-changing events and work-related stress.
Teaching your child to be mindful as they grow up will significantly improve the quality of their sleep. However, you can’t teach your child to be mindful until you have mastered it yourself, otherwise, it would be like trying to teach your child to ride a bike when you can’t ride one yourself.
There are Kathryn’s four holistic steps on improving your baby or child’s sleep. If you would like to find out more of her expert tips then book yourself in for your discovery session with her, which she is offering for free for the rest of July. Just click here and enter coupon code FREEJULY.