ANXIETY / FEAR, Behaviour, Routine, SLEEP, The U URSELF Routine

SLEEP LIKE A BABY THIS WORLD SLEEP DAY

During lockdown we’ve all suffered from sleepless nights, whether that’s through anxiety, not enough exercise, unhealthy eating choices or disrupted routines. Added to that we’ve had clingier children who have picked up on our fears and anxieties too. In fact, lockdown has caused our children to become more dependent on us as parents and more needy than ever, leaving us at our children’s beck and call 24 -7.

Some children born into lockdown know no other way, others have just become accustomed to having us around doing everything for them.

But we need our U Time and rest as much as they do.

Friday the 19th of March is World Sleep Day, so here’s some tips to help restore a good night’s sleep for our little ones, because if they are sleeping, we can too!

CREATE THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT

Children need to feel comfortable, safe, and relaxed in their bed. We can make bedtimes more inviting and cosier for our children by addressing the basics and reviewing them from time to time, as our children grow.

That busy, blue, rocket wallpaper may have seemed a good idea when you found out you were having a boy, but how practical is it today now your toddler wont sleep?

CALM COLOURS

We don’t want our children to be stimulated at bedtime, so instead of choosing the traditional bright colours for you child’s bedroom, opt for more subtle, green tones. Green is closer to nature and offers a relaxing, tranquil environment, which is conducive for sleep and much more soothing.

LIGHT NIGHT

Have you noticed recently that your child has started to wake up earlier in the morning?

This could be due to the change in seasons. We may not have needed black out curtains or blinds during the dark winter months but now spring is on its way, bringing lighter mornings and evenings, this can prevent them dropping straight off or arouse them too early. Any signs of light will wake them easily and affect their body clock, so it’s a good idea investing in blackout blinds or curtains, while avoiding night lights or leaving landing lights on to comfort them.

TEMPERATURE TROUBLES

As the seasons change so do the temperatures and what was once a nice, warm duvet in the winter, is now a hot, heavy burden in the summer, so changing duvet togs and the number of blankets or textures can help. Likewise adding extra blankets in the winter will ensure they are never too cold. Remember infants can’t regulate their own temperature so this is important for us to monitor. We can also regulate temperature by opening a window, using a fan or putting the heating on or off.

OVERTIREDNESS

Lack of sleep can be detrimental to overall health and wellbeing, no one should be deprived of the basic necessity to sleep. Lack of sleep is also accumulative, so our children have to catch up on sleep whenever they can.

Even if this means a nap in the day to make up for lost sleep at night. 

Parents sometimes avoid their children taking daytime naps, fearing they won’t sleep as long at night, but the reverse is actually true.  Sleep deprived children have the worst sleeping habits, and those who nap in the day, actually sleep better at night. Children who need, but do not take a nap in the day, become overtired. Physical and mental capacity is impaired with too much activity and stimulation. This can be nearly as bad as none at all, making learning to relax a useful skill, so offering quiet time to rest, relax, and daydream throughout the day, is just as important as napping or sleeping at night.

MAKE IT INVITING

When my children were young, bedtime was our favourite Us Time together. We’d chat about the day, have a story and a cuddle and share with one another 3 things we were grateful for that day. By making bedtime an inviting, relaxing time, children will look forward to it.

WARNINGS AND REMINDERS

Children see bedtime as a fun spoiler, especially if absorbed in play or watching their favourite TV programme. But we can make it easier for them to accept by offering plenty of warnings and reminders. We need to gradually prepare them, letting them know fifteen minutes beforehand, with 5-minute reminders in between, e.g., if their bedtime is at 7pm then start at 6.45pm with- ‘Time to put your toys away.’ 6.50pm, ‘Let’s brush our teeth.’ and 6.55pm, ‘Let’s hop into bed for a story.’ This gives them the chance to mentally and physically prepare themselves.

ROUTINE IS KEY

Routines have gone out the window for many of us. Not having to get up for school has caused havoc and late nights and lay ins have become the norm. children’s sleeping habits have changed without the usual structure to their day so this will have impacted everything else, such as our children’s behaviour. To remedy this, it’s time to start or get our children back into a routine.

The U URSELF Routine.

I recommend the U URSELF Routine to help restore harmony at home, as it covers;

U Time, Us Time, Recreation and Exercise, Sleep, Esteem, Love and Food, all of which impact a child’s sleeping habits.

You can read more about the U URSELF Routine on our web page by clicking the button below

Or alternatively you can listen to my audio book through Audible just click the link below

BE ON TIME

Having a regular time to go to bed is vital. Setting a regular bedtime and sticking to it helps develop certain sleep wave patterns. These don’t change at the weekend; their body clock will send them to sleep and wake them up the same time on a Saturday, as it would on a Monday. So, bedtime needs to be consistent even at weekends.

We won’t be able to make them sleep while in bed, but our job is done when we make sure they are tucked up at a set time. There’s no need to argue with them to sleep, we are just setting a routine. They will fall asleep of their own accord when their bed becomes their cue to, and there’s nothing else stimulating on offer.

BE QUIET

Keeping noise down helps a light or sensitive sleeper too, if they can hear you laughing at the TV downstairs then that’s where they’ll naturally want to be.

One child may be younger, making their bedtime different from their older siblings, and this is where difficulties can lie.  Obviously, the younger child won’t want to be going to bed alone and will try to prevent this. There’s nothing we can do to make them sleep; however, we must still stick to their bedtime routine and make sure they go to their room at the appropriate time, ensuring all members of the family are respectful of their need for quiet.

PAIN

If their physical environment is conducive to a good night’s sleep, and hunger or overtiredness can be ruled out, yet they’re still not sleeping through the night, the usual culprits are illness, teething, and general pain or enuresis.

ENURESIS BEDWETTING

Regressive behaviours like bedwetting don’t keep children awake, sleeplessness is usually a symptom of laying in wet pyjamas or bedding. We can help minimise the frustration to ourselves by changing sheets immediately, with minimum fuss. We can do this by always making their bed up twice, with two layers of waterproof sheets and normal sheets, just in case. This preparation means if they have an accident during the night, this limits the time and disruption of having to completely remake the bed. Simply throw off the top layer of wet sheets and waterproof, then underneath there will be more dry sheets and another waterproof sheet.

REGRESSIVE BEHAVIOURS

Regressive behaviours are their way of showing they still need us, or simply a coping mechanism to return to that time when they felt protected. In those moments, they need reassurance from us that everything will be ok. We must be understanding, reassuring any fears they have in a calm and confident manner, whilst still communicating to them that, what we are asking them to do i.e., go to sleep, is not bad but good for them!

Stay Present,

Em x

Proactive Parenting, Routine, SLEEP, The U URSELF Routine

SLEEPING PAINS

After environment, other physical factors such as Illness and pain can be a cause of sleep disruptions. If a child has a fever or rash, are severely lethargic or unresponsive, then we can assume they’re ill and need immediate medical attention. Teething or colic pain is not always visible but should subside of its own accord. Not helpful when trying to get a good night’s sleep, I know, but there are over the counter remedies to help with this period. If constant over a few days, then it may not be teething. You should always contact your GP or out of hours if you are concerned. Even if it turns out to be teething, it’s always best to get it checked, as our children can’t let us know how they are feeling. But we can usually visually tell or sense if our children are responding differently, always follow your gut instinct, you know your child better than anyone else.

If unsure of the severity of their pain, there’s a general test I like to recommend; next time they awake crying at night, let them hop into bed with you. If their pain magically disappears as soon as they jump into bed, it’s not going to be pain keeping them awake.

We can be sure pain is not the cause of their sleeplessness because pain remains, regardless of where or who they sleep with.

If your child has a chronic medical condition or they have experienced stress or trauma, such as a parent leaving, you might feel sorry or guilty and encourage them to co-sleep with you for comfort. We need to reflect on the beliefs we have around our children’s illnesses or circumstances to see if we are trying to overcompensate unnecessarily. Asking ourselves honestly whether they need our comfort to help them go to sleep, or whether we are interfering with their necessity to sleep alone because of our own emotions and beliefs.

Are we looking for comfort and company, or projecting our own fears and anxieties onto them?

If they are ill or under any sort of stress, they will need to sleep more than ever.

It’s tempting to comfort and soothe them to sleep at these difficult times but when will the cut-off point be? The odd night is normal such as when they are sick or have had a bad dream, but if we make it a regular habit, we could still be sleeping with our teenagers!

I know all those attachment parents out there who believe co-sleeping is best will be going wild right now, everyone’s entitled to parent their own way. I’m not saying my way is right and their way is wrong, but I have a strong attachment bond with my children, and we haven’t co-slept.

Attachments come from love, and I believe routines provide all the love and comfort our children need to feel safe, secure, healthy, and happy. Routines make us proactive and responsive as parents, helping us meet the needs of our children before they desperately need them. Mums need a good night sleep to be emotionally and physically available to their children.

We also need to maintain a loving relationship with our partners to keep that bond strong too, something sharing a bed with our children makes impossible.

There were 3 in the bed & the little one said ‘Roll over!’

I’ve encountered many parents who have this attachment parenting style, who reject routine and let their children choose what they eat, wear, and when and where they sleep. Personally, I’ve not found these children any happier than any other child. I don’t think children are experienced or capable of making the best choices for themselves. Given the choice, what child wants to go to bed early, on their own, or eat vegetables over chips?

That doesn’t make us unfair for insisting they do though. But that’s just my opinion. I’m an advocate for having close physical contact with your child. I kiss and cuddle my teenagers, and tell them I love them more than once every day, and have done so since they were born.

Since my children were born our family has benefited from the comfort and reassurance of a consistent routine #TheUUrselfRoutine

I also encourage them to be themselves and express how they feel and comfort and reassure them in times of need. But even though they are teenagers now, I still know what’s best for them, and yes, they both still have a bedtime routine and are in bed at a set reasonable time on a school night. Call me old fashioned, but I want them to get all the rest they can and to feel refreshed for school the next day. Obviously, they’d prefer to be on their electronic devices, but we take them off them at bedtime so they can’t. I’m not punishing them though. I’m helping them.

I encourage you to try letting your child lead the way if you want to experiment, then come back to a routine if that’s not working.

It’s a lot harder to provide consistent routines and to encourage our children to adopt healthy eating and sleeping habits, but that’s the kind of nurturing that being a parent is all about. They can spend the rest of their adult lives making their own independent choices regarding what’s right for them, until then, let’s show them the healthiest ways.

As previously said, we offer our children routines for their own good, out of love. That doesn’t mean that they are going to feel good about them in the beginning though.

If we have co-slept with our child for the last six years, but now would like them to move into their own bed in their own room, then we need to understand how they might feel. From their perspective, we’re telling them to move from the shared, warm, safe comforts that they have always known to the cold, lonely, dark, unknown room across the landing.

Understandably, this new bedtime routine would upset them and seem more like a punishment for growing up. Their behaviour toward the changes, which could lead to angry or emotional protests or regressive behaviours such as, bed wetting or clinginess, is not intended to upset us for moving them into their own room. This is merely a normal reaction to change and to feeling afraid, anxious, or unsettled.

Regressive behaviours are their way of showing they still need us, or simply a coping mechanism to return to that time when they felt protected. In those moments, they need reassurance from us that everything will be okay. We must be understanding. Calming any fears they have in a calm and confident manner whilst still communicating to them it’s not a bad change in circumstances, it’s just different!

If you would like an issue covered in next month’s blog posts, please email me the issue to emma@happychildcare.club

Next time we’ll tackle Enuresis aka, bed wetting, until then, Stay Present Em x