Hey everyone, its Chloe again, yay! Take it from me, nothing can ruin a good night’s sleep quite like a
child peeling your eyelids open while breathing heavily in your ear, or the sound of the fridge
opening in the middle of the night and knowing your partner is right next to you. It’s right up there
with the sound of little feet slapping away on tile or hushed co-conspirator whispers or giggles, then
the click of the remote and the ‘duh duhmm’ of Netflix launching. It’s almost as sleep ruining as a
child who never quite goes to sleep to begin with, you know the one who continually gets out of bed
for a glass of water, to wash their hands, because their still hungry and then if your lucky they
remember to use the toilet after their continuous copious consumption of extra sustenance on top
of the dinner that they refused to eat! Otherwise in the morning with all that energy your ‘long
peaceful sleep’ provided you is going to be spent on changing sheets, cleaning accidents and
consoling a child who so desperately wants to be a big boy.
Do you feel me? If you think that maybe this is a wee bit of a touchy topic for me then you are right
on the money. I’m in the same sinking ship as the rest of you with my ‘three-nager’ who outlasts
even rechargeable batteries. I know he’s tired, he knows he’s tired but that doesn’t mean he will go
peacefully or easily even with me asking nicely, reading stories, giving cuddles as well as back
scratches. Let me share with you some things I’ve begun to try which seem to make a difference.
For anyone who does know me I am not a push over, but I love my sleep more than I love my
husband and after nearly ten years he has come to terms with that. I never had any of these issues
with my eldest and I hope to never have these problems again with my next wee one. But my middle
child drives me to the brink with his doe eyes, apologies and excuses when ultimately, I’ve figured
out that all he wants is my company.
So, get creative!
I will be the first to admit that the night time in my household is crazy, between dinner, baths or
showers, brushing teeth and sorting out all our four-legged friends all I want is a wine a can’t drink
again yet, the chocolate I’m eating too much of and a foot rub which bless my hubby will never
happen. But what I’ve discovered is that an extra 20 minutes of my undivided time, no phone,
television or sibling company saves me close to two hours of hostage negotiations. Here’s what I’ve
begun to do.
First, I got rid of the set bedtime rule for both my kids, I do have a general time window, but I’m no
where near as strict and my kids go to sleep one after the other, never the same time anymore. I
also make sure all electronics are shut down and completely off around two hours before I expect
my kids to be asleep. Fun fact, electronics generate blue light, which is a short-wave form of light
that has a direct impact on the sleep inducing hormone melatonin more than any other light
wavelength. There is a reason child care centres emphasize natural light and the limited use of
technology; besides the general cognitive benefits, a natural calm environment helps settle children
to sleep and helps children reach that REM sleep they need to grow and re-energize.
You’ll probably also understand that it sometimes doesn’t matter if you put your child to bed at
11pm or 7 pm they generally wake around the same time every day and if your one of the lucky
parents of a child who can sleep in on the weekends, bite the bullet and try not to let them over
sleep because it’s the long sleeps that can make our children feel like they’ve swapped time zones
and have a jet lag type effect.
Be consistent and realistic with your routine and the choices you give your child. Just like childcare
centres, give your child cues for transitions to different activities or steps in your routine. In my
house I avoid key words such as sleep as it triggers my son’s internal energizer bunny, instead I ask
for him to shower or have a bath and then I participate in it, chatting with him helping him wash his
hair if he lets me and being active in the actual routine. Brushing hair and teeth together and making
it an opportunity for him to have my undivided attention. If you have a child with ADHD like I do I
highly recommend lavender oil and drop a few drops onto the shower floor before washing.
Another thing that childcare centres do well to get our little ones calm and settled is preparing your
space ahead of time, lower the lights use a lamp, play calming music make your child’s room a room
without distractions, eliminate things where you can, get rid of that mountain of dust covered plush
animals and leave only the favourites, that way when you finally make your way there, there isn’t
anything to hype them back up again. Spent your last few minutes reading a story, having a cuddle
and generally facilitating a peaceful environment where your child feels safe enough to fall asleep.
In my case I believe my son refuses to sleep because he thinks I’m going on some crazy adventure
without him. I now tell him that he doesn’t need to sleep instead that its time for him to let his body
calm down and relax and I tell him exactly what I am going to do. Laundry, piles and piles of laundry
and that I will return and check on him in five minutes. I am on my second week of trying this and
yes, I’ve had return a laundry helper a couple times, but I do it quickly, firmly and I don’t give in to
his offer of ‘help’ I do a reset and settle and more than fifty percent of the time in the last week he
has gone to be without my consistent nagging, threatening, anger or frustration. Once I’ve seen or
heard that deep breath that tells me he is finally relaxing I slowly get out of earshot and view and
make frantic gestures at my husband to get the next one going because then end is near, and I can
smell the fabric softer on my pillow and I can taste the REM cycle calling my name and taunting me
with it’s nearness.
You’re not alone, and if you want to learn some other methods or techniques I highly encourage you
to come to Creative Childcare at Hunter Street’s Sleep and Settle Parent night on Thursday the 10 th
of May from 5:30 – 7:30.