Even before we were parents we’ve had experience of poor sleep… thinking too much, worried about something, being disturbed by a snoring partner etc. We often felt tired the next day, and then hopefully caught up on sleep the following night. However if the lack of sleep continues, our tiredness increases, and even when we sleep, it’s not great sleep, and as a result we may be grumpy the next day, or unable to focus on our work.
Once we become parents, sleep often becomes our most desired thing. Nights feeding a newborn, or toddlers with poor sleep habits often leads to huge stress on the parent, and the toddlers!
If you have a newborn who needs those night time feeds (as they do), then it’s important to schedule in some sleep for you the next day when bubs is having a sleep – even a 20 minute cat nap can work miracles!
With a toddler it is vital that you help them learn good sleep patterns, otherwise you will have toddlers who stay up very late… 10/11/12pm, and consequently not only are they grumpy the next day, they don’t function well, and neither do the parents! There is also the risk of parents becoming resentful of their lack of ‘me-time’.
Good sleep patterns are essential for well-being in terms of optimal rest, brain development and growth.
Sleep has two parts – REM sleep and non-REM sleep. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. In a simple examplation, during the REM part of the sleep cycle, your body is often quite still, but your eyes may be moving under the lids… this tends to be when your brain is processing information from the days events. During Non-REM sleep, the eyes and brain are more still but you may turn over or move your body. Together these 2 parts make up one sleep cycle. You will generally have several of these cycles during a night’s sleep. This is true for children too.
Like most things, children learn sleep habits from their parents. If the parents have poor sleep habits it’s likely that the children will ‘learn’ these too.
So, how do we establish good sleep routines for our children?
- Have fairly ‘set’ bed-times for the children, dependant on their ages, and consistently stick to these – that’s The Parenting Cafe‘s mantra…. ‘Calm and Consistent’.
- Reduce the amount of noise and activity just prior to bedtime eg turn the TV off and put on gentle music, turn the racing car set off and play with a puzzle inside. By increasing the ‘quiet’ time, you help your child start to slow down also.
- Establish good night time routines, where events happen in the same sequence each night whether Mum, Dad or Grandma are getting them ready for bed. The routine may be something like dinner, teeth brushing, toileting or nappy change, story time, cuddle time and then goodbye kisses, and then you leave the room. Children will try many stategies to get you back into the room – I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I want to give you a cuddle. At times like this it’s important that we, as the parents and adults, remember that our goal is to teach them the routine of bedtime in order that they are refreshed ready for the next day. When we pander to their requests for another drink, and another story, we are teaching them that the rules/ routine of bed doesn’t matter.
Our consistency – whilst remaining calm- will bring good results after a few nights.
- And importantly, parents are ‘allowed’ to have some grown-up time, for them to sit and talk without the usual chatter and activity of little ones. Allow yourself this ‘privilege’!