Let Me Sleep

“OMG I Just want to SLEEP!”

Sleep deprivation is no joke. I can understand why people can find it torturous – it is. You can’t think clearly, you are slow to react, emotions are heightened and fatigue is all consuming. Having a child who finds it hard to self-soothe, nap or sleep right through the night can be unbelievably debilitating. Add in an excessively busy diary of appointments and numerous illnesses – here lays a perfect recipe for insomnia for you and them!

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Sleep has always been a challenge for G, from not napping from age 4 months onwards to taking anything between 1-4 hours to put to sleep each night.

Pre school children need between 11- 14 hours of sleep a night

Sleep is and has always been our biggest challenge – throw in Reflux, Eczema and Psoriasis of the scalp and you have a 95% chance of it being hard to get her to fall asleep/ stay asleep for the night.

After a visit to her Paediatrician, she was prescribed Melatonin to help lull her to sleep. But me being stubborn and not wanting to use drugs I decided to keep trying to get her to sleep naturally.

Listed possible Side Effects of Melatonin:

Headache, short-term feelings of depression, daytime sleepiness, Increased blood sugar, Increased blood pressure, risk of seizures, dizziness, stomach cramps, and irritability. 

Infants and children: Melatonin should not be used in most children. It is POSSIBLY UNSAFE.

Because of its effects on other hormones, melatonin might interfere with development during adolescence” WebMD

Listed possible Side Effects of Melatonin:

Studies show that 44-83% of children with Autism have disturbed sleep patterns, Sleep studies with children with Learning difficulties show similar results (Richdale,2001)

Disturbed sleep is strongly linked to poor behaviour.

Here are my 10 tips for getting a better nights sleep

  1. Keep a sleep diary – this can be invaluable information for tracking times they take to go off to sleep, what days are worse or times they wake in the night.  Here you can start to create individual solutions for your child.
  2. Get a routine – an obvious tip – but probably THE most crucial. I began getting Gs in place as early as possible, on holidays, on weekends – ALL THE TIME. Create a Strict routine – Mine means NO naps after 3 pm (this may be changed to no naps at all soon). A nap after 3pm gives her enough energy to stay awake up until around 10pm. It is a nightmare. So NO naps after that time now.
  3. All electrical stimulants turned off – that pesky “Blue light” stimulates the brain to stay awake. So these are all switched off at least an hour before bed.
    (TVs, Phones, Ipods, Ipads, Electrical toys).
  4. Declutter the bedroom – remove or pack away any distractions like toys and electronics. Try and keep wall distractions away from the bed area as again could stimulate them as they go to sleep.
  5. Blackout Curtains: Invest in some black out curtains! A God send for those summer nights.
  6. A bath before bed – this is now incorporating Epsom salts. Epsom salt is a great detoxifier, it has much-needed minerals including Magnesium. Magnesium is a muscle relaxant and so more often than not after an Epsom salt bath, your muscles are likely to feel a lot more relaxed. The minerals are beneficial to those who suffer from skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.So it relaxes, detoxifies, replaces minerals and helps heal skin conditions!  I mix with coconut oil in the bath for additional moisture and antibacterial anti fungal properties.Some children can find a bath over stimulating and the bath has the opposite effect. So this may take a bit of trial and error. If that is the case, switch baths to the morning!

  7. Fine Motor activities before bed: After her bath, it is the end of her routine and she knows its Medicines, Teeth and Bed – if she is still alert (as sometimes she is ready to go straight to sleep!) then it is time for a story or puzzle. Hand / Eye activities are a great low stimulating activity which actually stimulates the brain to begin releasing Melatonin – the sleep hormone.

    Doing this in a quiet not overly bright situation is certainly going to promote further signals to the brain to begin relaxing and settling for sleep.
  8. Sensory Needs – Have a think about what might help calm your child, a chewy, a fiddle toy, low lighting, being completely quiet, weighted blankets, eye masks, cutting off labels in PJs (they can irritate a sensitive child) being overheated, or too cold…
  9. WAKE THEM UP! – Now this gem I learnt from Gs school, if your child loves to wake up 3am on the dot every night (THIS IS MY LIFE) studies show if YOU wake them quickly (I know, fear struck my heart too but stay with me!) 15- 30 mins BEFORE their due time they are likely to carry on sleeping through and break the habit.  So creep in SAS commander style and as quickly and silently as you can (no talking, hugging, kissing!) wake them gently (perhaps sit them up for a second or two) lay them back down and they SHOULD begin a new sleep cycle and carry on through the night.  I am about to try this myself – but let me know how you get on!
  10. Keep the routine going every day, don’t break it on a weekend or holidays as you start to mess with their systems and create yourself more pain! So on a Saturday when you are tempted to let them ‘lie in’ know that you are making it harder for them that night to get back into the routine you want and they need.

I haven’t spoken about how to get them to sleep on their own or breaking habits like climbing into our beds as this is still a work in progress for me! G sleeps in her own bed, I sit next to her while she falls asleep then I leave her room ninja style 🙂 She does wake in the night and it can be hit/miss as to whether she stays in her bed but I am encouraging her to stay there, I limit her options for coming to my bed. Little by little she is staying more on her own.

I would love to know your tips on how you get your children to sleep and stay asleep!

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