kids

'For months our daughter suffered through broken sleep. Here's how we fixed it.'

Three years ago, Cara Benau’s step-daughter struggled to sleep after losing someone very close to her. It affected her deeply, for months on end. So, after trying every trick under the sun, her and husband Aloni turned to natural products: Pink noise, a humidifier, red LED lights and essential oils. Miraculously, it worked. So, they put it all together and created Glow Dreaming, a product to help the sleepless fall asleep. Now, as experts in sleep, they’re offering some tips for those desperate to get some much-needed rest.

I think I can confidently say that nearly all parents will face a period where their children don’t sleep through the night. For some it will come early in the child’s life, for others a little later, maybe even in their teens. For the very unfortunate it will be a constant theme they deal with throughout the child’s development.

The results are the same: exhausted, irritable and even depressed parents and grumpy children unable to concentrate. In extreme cases, the lack of sleep can drive a family to breaking point.

Here are a few tips that might help you get through the more standard sleep issues.

Image: Supplied.

Rule 1. How Much Sleep To Children Need?

While children’s needs may vary slightly, the rule of thumb outlined by most sleep experts is a good guide. This guideline - as per The Sleep Foundation - should include naps:

Infants (three-11 months): 14-15 hours

Toddlers: 12-14 hours

Preschoolers: 11-13 hours

School-age children: 10-11 hours

Rule 2. Establish Healthy Sleep Habits

By four months old, your baby should be getting most of their sleep at night with three daytime naps. You should notice a more established day-night cycle. This is the perfect time to establish a sleep routine.

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Babies and children crave consistency, so by creating a schedule with regular nap times and a set bedtime you can develop very healthy sleep habits. When putting a baby to bed try and make sure it’s while they are drowsy and not when they are fully asleep. Babies need to learn to soothe themselves to sleep so they’re not always relying on you to do it.

Rule 3. Set A Bedtime Ritual

Setting a routine helps your child understand it is time for bed. This routine will help trigger the feeling of general fatigue. Humans of all ages are creatures of habit and regular triggers will help induce certain feelings. Many parents rely on the three Bs for babies: bath, books, and bottle. Feel free to create your own bedtime routine as long as it’s something that relaxes them and prepares them for sleep.

Listen: How to get your child to sleep. (Post continues...)

Rule 4. Setting The Right Environment For Sleep

Just like most adults, children need a calm, quiet space for sleep. Make sure your child has a comfortable bed, and that the room is a comfortable temperature. Unlike what I hear so often, the room doesn’t have to be pitch black at night. You’ll now find a lot of studies showing that having it pitch black can often lead to sleep issues later on in life. If your child is more secure with a night-light on that’s ok, just make sure it is only red, yellow or orange and LED in nature. Any other colour or light source can actually be detrimental to sleep as it emits blue light waves which interrupt production of melatonin.

Rule 5. Feeling Full

Naturally, when your baby is full they will sleep longer and better. When trying to get a baby to sleep, it’s best to breastfeed or give them a bottle before putting them down. For older kids, though, be careful about what you feed them right before bedtime. It is best not to give them fruit juice or sweets after 3 p.m if they suffer from sleep issues.

Rule 6. Winding Down

Children aged two and over often have a hard time winding down for bedtime, so start calming things down about 30 minutes before the sleep routine begins. This should include turning off the TV and limiting any kind of physical activity to focus on more relaxing pursuits, such as listening to some calming music. A suggestion that I’ve seen work for quite a few parents is sitting down and quietly talking about everyone’s day. It doesn’t hurt the old bonding process either.

Rule 7. To Nap Or Not To Nap

Many parents believe that if their child doesn’t nap well during the day, they’ll simply make up that sleep at night. Unfortunately that isn’t the case. A bad nap usually means a bad night’s sleep. A child who is cranky and overtired will have difficulty getting to sleep and might wake up several times throughout the night. Specialists usually recommend at least one nap each day in the child’s own crib or bed — not in the car seat or stroller. It’s the best way to ensure they get a good quality rest.

Rule 8. The Way You Talk About Sleep

It is recommended that you don’t use the words “go to bed". If your child is overstimulated or having sleep issues, this can seem like a command and cause anxiety. At nap time, call it ‘rest time.’ At bedtime, call it ‘night-night time.’ Children will respond better when you soften the edges a bit and avoid being too direct.

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Rule 9. Be Consistent

If you’re constantly moving around your child’s sleep times, you’ll have a hard time getting them to nap and sleep through the night. Aside from special occasions (holidays, birthdays), be sure your child stays on schedule and you stick with your daily routine. Creating healthy sleep habits now will help you — and your child — in the long run!

Of course these nine rules have simplified what can be a very difficult issue. Life can get busy and sometimes following the nine rules can be difficult. Sometimes there are simply other factors at play with your child’s sleep.

If those tips don’t work, then Glow Dreaming may be able to help. Based on the latest sleep research and science, the device tackles sleep issues using multiple technologies. After creating it for my step-daughter, my husband and I have never looked back. Here's how it works:

  • Red Led light therapy: to increase melatonin production, comfort the child and combat night terrors
  • White noise: to drown out background noise and help soothe children back to sleep
  • Humidifier: for clearer smoother breathing, easing sleep apnoea and reducing the occurrence of colds and flu
  • Aromatherapy: to relax the muscles and mind and help break poor sleep cycles.

What tricks have worked for you when getting a child to sleep?

This post originally appeared on Glow Dreaming's website and has been republished here with full permission.

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