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Uncategorized

Is it a Sleep Regression? Or Separation Anxiety?

Does this sound like you? A few weeks ago, things were trudging along okay. In fact, you might even be as bold to say that your child was sleeping fairly well. You had a little routine, and sure it took some effort. Maybe some songs, a few stories and a cuddle to sleep…but it worked (most of the time anyways). 

But lately, nothing is working!

Or maybe you’ve been struggling all along (If this is you, I am sending virtual hugs Mama! Stick around, this blog may just help you too ;)) 

If you have a child who:

  • Will suddenly only sleep on or touching you in some way
  • Is taking foreverrrr to fall asleep – whether it is constant battles, or crying when you try to leave
  • Wake the second you leave their side… or
  • Needs A LOT more from you overnight than you’d like, with things like crying out, or sneaking into your bed

You are probably wondering what the heck is going on!?

Could this be a sleep regression?

Do Toddlers Even Have Sleep Regressions?

You might be wondering if your child is experiencing a sleep regression?

The truth is, there really isn’t even such a thing as a sleep regression!

Sure, sleep can go belly up now and again. This is quite common with babies around 4 to 5 months, and again around 7 to 9 months. Toddlers experience dips in sleep too, most often around 18 months, and 2 years old.  

But don’t get too caught up in the numbers. There really isn’t any predictability when it comes to sleep development. Scientists have been researching looking for patterns, but have had no luck!! (crazy right!?)

Sleep is not like a magical elevator where we all hop on, put in our time and eventually get to our destination. Nope, I’m afraid sleep is more complex than that.

Sleep is like a roller coaster ride through a corn maze. Only you are blind-folded, and have no idea what is to come, or when the ride will end.

In the medical world, regressions mean a loss of something. A return to a previous developmental level. Do you get less sleep, yup in some cases this happens. But your child has not actually lost the ability to sleep. 

It’s more like their brains and body are too busy working on other things. Learning and growing, developing brain cells, and forming relationships. It’s more like they’ve taken a different route on the ol roller coaster. 

Fun right!?

So no, your child is not experiencing a sleep regression?

If you’ve ruled out illness, and teething, it may actually be that your child is experiencing a developmental shift that is contributing to some separation anxiety.

How to Know If Separation Anxiety is Impacting Your Child’s Sleep?

Before you freak out, you should know that in most cases separation anxiety is normal. Pretty well all children experience it at some point in childhood. 

It’s common to see peaks of separation anxiety around 7 to 9 months, and between age 1 and 3 years. But it can happen at anytime, or even multiple times!

It has a lot to do with development and attachment, and when we think about it from an evolutionary perspective, on some level it helped to keep kids who were growing in independence from wandering out into danger.

Mother nature didn’t want all of our littles to be eaten by tigers afterall!

What Does Separation Anxiety Look Like?

During the day you might notice…

  • That your child is more clingy or whiney than usual
  • That they are less tolerant of receiving support from alternate caregivers (they only want YOU!)
  • Crying or upset whenever you leave their sight
  • Apprehension or fear in new situations, or among strangers

At night, you’ll likely notice one or more of the lovely examples I mentioned above…anything from a refusal to sleep, or increase in the number of awakenings, to a change in the amount of support normally needed.  

Fun right!?

So now what…?

How Can You Help Your Child with Separation Anxiety to Sleep Better?

Parenting is hard enough as it is, and becomes a heck of a lot harder when kids need more from us. 

So what can you do?

You’ll no doubt face massive pressure from family and friends (or even yourself) to make changes, and quickly – before any ‘bad habits’ start, or before they get ‘too dependent’ on you. 

Balarsky!

The truth is, if your baby or child is showing signs of separation anxiety, the best way to help them sleep is to support this need. 

While it is true that most kids will outgrow separation anxiety on their own. There are a number of ways that you can support them, while not losing your sanity!

Supporting Separation Anxiety Through Play

Practice mini separations – during the day – through play. Lift the flap books, and peek-a-boo for young ones, and games like hide and seek, or go, go, go stop for kids. Role play, or tell stories that resemble your family situation, but with happy, peaceful separations and reunions. Keep these short, sweet, and fun!

Changing Your Sleep Mindset

Re-Write your Story. Remind yourself that your child needs you. No, you are not spoiling them or making them more dependent! Reassure yourself that this is likely just another temporary blip that will restore itself in time. During the more challenging moments, it can help to use a mantra. I am a big fan of: “They aren’t giving me a hard time, they are having a hard time.” And don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate being loved so much by such an adorable little human!

Meeting Your Child Where They Are At

Don’t force it. This isn’t really a rip the Band-Aid off type of situation. Now is not the time to make big changes, whether to do with sleep, or daytime. Avoid sneaking away, or  pushing them to spend time with others. If you can, focus instead on meeting your child where they are at. For sleep this might mean cuddling them to sleep, or shifting to bed-sharing for a while. I know it’s tempting, but making changes with a goal towards independent sleep right now is likely to be a whole lot harder than it needs to be. 

And lastly… Just give it time 💕

Meeting your child’s needs in a gentle, supportive way is without a doubt the quickest and easiest way through this – for both of you!

If you are looking for more practical tips for your child’s sleep routine, then click here to sign up for my free Peaceful Bedtime Mini-Course. 

Maisie xx

Categories
Sleep Tips

Top 3 Quick & Easy Sleep Tips for Toddlers

Today I am going to chat a bit about sleep hygiene. Sleep whaaat?

No this is not about fresh pyjamas, and clean teeth….though those are certainly beneficial aspects to your bedtime routine 

(CLICK Here to download my FREE bedtime routines guide)

If you are like Most Mama’s that I work with, you are tired! Fearful of starting bad habits, and anxious get your child sleeping better. 

You also want something QUICK so that you can get some much needed rest – like right meow!

Sleep hygiene is the fancy, technical word I have been taught to call quick wins!

Read….Quick and easy sleep tips!

Better sleep doesn’t have to be complicated. A lot of this stuff is common sense, but somehow life with kids rids us of our common sense (#mommybrain)

We sometimes forget the little things. But these little things can add up, and make a world of difference. 

Let’s get them working in your favor!

These are my top 3 Quick Wins

3) Get moving!

We all know that exercise is important. Problem is, the chaos of our everyday lives does not leave enough time for most families to meet the daily recommended exercise requirements. 

According to the Canadian 24 Hour Movement Guidelines, children between the ages of 1 and 4 should spend – at least – 180 minutes moving!  We want this physical activity to be spaced throughout the day. For children 3-4, we want some of this to be “energetic play”

I haven’t yet met a kid who had too much exercise!

Though, it is not just about exercise. We don’t neeeeed to be in perpetual motion. (Though calories burned does help us build our sleep pressure)

Source: https://csepguidelines.ca/

My second tip, builds on the previous. {I am already preparing for the eye rolling…But here goes nothing}

2) Ditch the Screens. Or at least limit them to no more than an hour a day (less is better). This includes television, phones, tablets, etc.

There are a couple reasons for this. It mostly comes down to the fact that we don’t want our kids to be spending too much time sitting. Ideally, kids should avoid spending more than an hour at a time sitting. This includes being in a stroller, car seat, and screen time. 

The best sedentary activities are learning activities, like reading, and art work which utilizes concentration and  fine motor skills.

Screens can also hinder sleep because of  the light they emit. This is especially problematic in the evenings.  

When it comes to my twins, I find that TV turns them into little tele-loving zombies, and all too often I “miss” that sleepy window because they are quiet. Turn that TV off and the rambunctious munchkins return! Problem is, it’s then suuuuuuper difficult to get those hyper monkeys into bed!

My number one quick tip 

1) Spend loads of time outdoors!

The outdoors is so beneficial for our circadian rhythms. See our internal clock can get a bit outta whack because it is slightly longer than the earth’s 24 hour cycle. 

The sun basically helps to regulate us and keep things in check. 

You know how electronics and routers sometimes start to act a bit persnickety and need to be reset sometimes?

The sun is our refresh. It resets us

Without this our biological rhythm shifts forward. 

Meaning bedtimes get later!

In theory, you might think that this means mornings will shift too. And they might! But I find shifting bedtimes can also lead to dreadfully early mornings.

So it’s important to get your timings right.

See….The sun is good for vitamin D, sleep, mood and so much more!

The sun also helps us to collect all the building blocks needed for the release of Melatonin come evening time. Melatonin is our sleepy hormone, and we want it working in our favor.

For another quick Melatonin tip, check out the video above! where I talk about the role of the sun on sleep 😉

Sleep well Mama,

~ Maisie Zzz

Categories
Bedtime

What Time Should I put my Kid to Bed?

What Time Should I put my Kid to Bed? The answer is not that simple. There are cultural considerations, sleep requirements, and individual characteristics that come into play. 

In many cultures later bedtimes are common for babies and children! But in Western society those evening hours are sacred. I think it has to do with the fact that we are such a fast paced, high achieving society.

We are just plain burnt out by the day’s end and need some quiet time!

So what does science have to say about the time that I should put my kid to bed?

https://youtu.be/ApBjsuNcVFE

A research team, headed by Hoyniak and colleagues (2019), discovered something interesting. 

They followed 500 tots over time, from the age of 2.5 to 3.5 years old. It was a longitudinal study looking at cognition, and socioeconomic status, but they looked at a number of other things as well – like bedtimes! 

So what did they find?

They discovered that on average kids were not asleep until 9:30pm (even though the average bedtime was 8:50pm) Say…..what!?

Okay, why is this!?

To really understand, it’s worth taking a minute to remind you what averages mean (insert math class flash back here!)

In science there is something called a bell curve, which is commonly seen when researchers plot data from large groups of people. It helps us to understand averages. 

Within the bell curve, “most people’ will fall within 95% of average. This 95% is generally thought of as “normal.”

Some people – the 2.5% on either end of the curve, will fall below or above that normal range. In general. 

The bell curve applies to alllllll sorts of things. Anything from height, to weight, or even letter grades in school. 

When we think about sleep this makes sense. Some kids will have early bedtimes, and others will have late bedtimes, but most will fall asleep around the same time (still with me?). 

One thing to keep in mind here, is that our own sleep is an average too. We don’t sleep the exact same amount of minutes or hours each night.

We all have good nights, and bad nights.

Kids are no different!

So before you freak out that your child slept poorly, or was up late last night. Stop and think about the last few days. Or even the last week or month.

How do kids sleep on average?

Later bedtimes have a lot to do with naps

Naps for toddlers and preschoolers are super beneficial, despite being under utilized in Western society. 

Problem is….too long, or too late of a nap and your child might not be tired enough to sleep come bedtime.

Too nap, or not nap your child is an individual question. It really comes down to whether your child can tolerate a dropped nap. Many kids get cranky, wired, or emotional. 

While your following child’s lead, and monitoring their mood and behaviour is always going to be your best bet. There are a number of sleep recommendations and guides spammed all over the web that can give a rough guideline on sleep. Like this one 😉 

Best Sleep Times for Kids

what time should i put my kid to bed

When reading guides like these, all I ask (or beg of you) is to pleeeeease keep those averages in mind.

Sleep is not one size fits all!

But, the reason I am sharing this with you today, is to illustrate another point. The kids in Hoyniak’s study were sleeping on average 8.18 hours a night at 30 months, up to 8.51 hours at 42 months old. 

They were IN bed around 10 to 10.5 hours though. They just weren’t sleeping this entire time. The difference can be accounted for by the time spent falling asleep, or awake during the night. 

Still, this is WAY different than recommended 10 to 13 hours of sleep (*in a 24 hour period) by the National Sleep Foundation. 

In sleep and parenting groups, I often read about parents cutting naps short, or stopping them all together, so that they can get their child to bed “on time.”

On the whole there is nothing “wrong” with this practice. But, I really think our society needs to rethink this whole bedtime thing. 

So the next time you “fight” to get your child to sleep by a specific time, so that you can enjoy that glass of vino in peace and solitude please keep all of this wonderful knowledge in mind.

What is the Take Home Here?

Take home message – Don’t worry if your kid is up late.

It’s normal, and perfectly healthy to put your child to bed at a time that works for you AND your family.

When in doubt, look to your child. If they are happy and healthy you probably have nothing to worry about. 

If you truly are concerned, then reach out and I will give you an honest opinion of whether I can help. Let’s plan the best time that you should put your kid to bed.

Oh any by the way, I have a FREE bedtime guide! Click HERE to learn more of my top tips. 

Sleep well Mama!

~ Maisie Zzz

References:

Hoyniak CP, Bates JE, Staples AD, Rudasill KM, Molfese DL, Molfese VJ.  Child sleep and socioeconomic context in the development of cognitive abilities in early childhood.  Child Development 2019; 90: 1718-1737.

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Uncategorized

Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Sleep Coach

I get a lot of families coming to me for help. Many of whom have tried solving their sleep struggles on their own. Between Dr. Google, and all your Mama Friends, there is a wealth of information out there.

Sometimes this advice helps, sometimes it doesn’t. With so many differing opinions, it’s easy to doubt your next move.

I get it. Hiring a sleep consultant isn’t exactly high on your list of ways to spend you hard earned cash!

Maybe you just learned that sleep consultants exist and are not sure if this is something for you. Or maybe you have been contemplating getting professional sleep support for a while now and just need some motivation.

Many people have a good couple of nights and think “I can do this!” but then retreat into desperation and despair when the sleeplessness returns. The sleep roller coaster is REAL and sooooo emotional!

So, I am going to start off by saying what I needed to hear when I was in your shoes with my boys a couple years ago.

You are doing a great job!

Just the fact that you are here reading this blog shows that you are a caring parent, carefully weighing your options.

But even more than this…you are brave. Why? Because it takes a brave soul to ask for help. It should’t be this way. But our culture and society has led us to value independence. We are expected to be self-sufficient. To not complain, and to do it all.

Only this isn’t how we are supposed to parent. No…our anthropological history valued something very different. It valued community. In fact, we are meant to parent together. A whole village of support! A village our culture lacks despite the fact that it is so desperately needed – especially among new moms.

So let me tell you about the ways a sleep consultant can help.

1) You are tired

So, I’ll keep this one quick. A sleep consultant saves you the time and energy of having to solve things by yourself.  

2) Cut through the crap

With the MASSIVE amounts of information out there on the internet, a sleep consultant can help you get to the important stuff quicker. Why waste your time searching and reading and watching content that doesn’t even seem to really apply to you?

3) Education

Anyone can read a book or blog on sleep. (In fact, most of my clients have a good collection of DIY sleep books). There are countless publications about sleep. Many of which are great! The vast majority, however, spout off the same old lessons, full of unresearched, and contradictory methods which only help to perpetuate the many myths and misconceptions that help to keep me employed!

4) experience

THIS is really what you are paying for. Knowledge is great, but it can only get you so far. A good sleep consultant can tell you WHY they are recommending something, and importantly steer you away from the things that others have found difficult or unhelpful – AND help you avoid the stuff that is NOT backed by science.

5) coaching

Try to rid yourself of the mental image of the angry athletic coach pushing you past your breaking point. Will I tell you how it is? Sure. But, for me, coaching is more about helping you to maximize your strengths. While, creating an awareness of how our every day lifestyle can negatively effect sleep.

Its sort of like having your very own cheerleader to help motivate you and keep you accountable when you are feeling overwhelmed or get stuck making the same mistakes over and over.

6) i’ve got your back

Is your spouse skeptical? Are your in-laws razzing you yet again? People are judgmental, and they LOVE to give {bad} advice about sleep. I am big about involving family in the assessment and planning process.

A supportive family increases your odds of success! So, invite them along, send them a copy of your plan – I love educating people on sleep!

7) boost your confidence

Not knowing if you are helping or hindering a situation can be stressful. Most of my clients are anxious. They simply want to know that they are on the right track.

Rest easy – Stop second guessing yourself! My goal is to give you the tools to start parenting confidently not just at night, but during the day too!

8) personalization

Your personal beliefs and values are important. If something doesn’t feel or sit right with you, you are not going to be invested enough to follow through. A sleep consultant can help you discover what your non-negotiables are, so you can spend your time and energy in the areas you are willing and able to change.  

I will never expect you to try something you don’t agree with. YOU are the expert on your child, your input is not only needed, but valuable.

9) troubleshooting

Something not working?  Not sure if you are doing the right thing? Have questions? One of the best parts of hiring a sleep consultant is that you have someone knowledgeable and experienced to problem solve with. Most sleep packages come with follow-up support. Reach out for help!

10) take back your life

A better sleep is about a whole lot more than just sleep! A sleep consultant who specializes in a holistic approach can help you modify your lifestyle in a way that will help to set the stage for sleep.

My coaching plans include a holistic health and wellness assessment covering areas like self care, anxiety management, and nutrition.

I hope this helps! I am an over-analyzer by nature and so lists like this help me to make decisions.  I really hope this helps to paint a clearer picture of what working with me will be like.

In the end, what it comes down to is S-L-E-E-P. The ultimate prize.

In truth, I haven’t met a Mama that didn’t want my help! 

You just feel badly asking for it, and even worse having to pay for it.

Why is this?

Why can we spend $6 on a coffee, $20 on a bottle of wine, worse – $200 on a new hairstyle!? Yet we cannot rationalize spending a little extra on our health…our wellness….and our life!?

When working on your sleep, you are investing in your future. Results that will definitely outlast those new highlights.

But I also get that this can be a lot of moo-lah 

So, I offer a variety of different packages, including pay-as-you go support. Just like you would do with a massage or physio therapist.

For those who just want some quick reassurance or have a one-off question – I now have an option for that too.

Not sure what is best for you? Send me a message at [email protected] and I’ll help you decide!

Sleep well,

~ Maisie Zzz

Categories
Bedtime

Why I Wont Sleep Train your Child

Alright folks. It’s time to unleash the Cry-it-Out debate!

I am guessing that by now you have at least heard about sleep training.

Maybe you’ve come across the term while Googling some sleep tips after a particularly difficult night. Or, maybe a well-meaning friend or family member is nagging at you to get on with it already. 

A little disclaimer for anyone who has used or tried sleep training in the past. I get it! I really do. The sleep world is so H-A-R-D! This is not meant to make you feel bad, or regretful, or doubt your parenting skills in any way. In fact, I think the fact that you are reading this makes you just the savvy parent that is going to raise a wonderful kiddo!

For those who are new to this. There are a number of names, brands and variations of sleep training. Including: cry-it-out, CIO, extinction, graduated retreat, timed checks, ferberizing and more…

They are all similar in that they involve leaving a baby or child to sleep independently, typically in a crib, in a separate bedroom from their parents with minimal, timed, or no response from the parents during the night – even if the child is crying.  

In essence sleep training is when you set a limit on what you will (or won’t) do for your child. The caveat here is that this limit is decided by the parent (or sleep coach) WITHOUT factoring in the child’s actual and very real NEEDS for responsive, close, loving, connection and comfort. 

Sleep training involves doing the bare minimum (or nothing!) to support your child to fall asleep. The argument that sleep trainers love to use, is that you are training your child to become self soothers who can then put themselves to sleep independently. Usually, there is a push for them to sleep in their own room. (I’ll admit this does sound lovely!)

However, these methods came about decades ago, based on behavioural philosophies. Historically, they had been recommended by some big names in the literature. Advocates of sleep training promise a quick and effective solution to your sleep problems. 

Opponents (including myself) are not quite convinced. 

Let’s just say for a minute that it does work, personally, I still want to know…at what cost.

What are the side effects?

Is there any potential for harm?

This is the very root of informed consent. Knowing all the risks, and all the benefits. 

The truth is we really don’t know!

So, today, I am going to talk a bit more about what we DO know, and what we have yet to learn about sleep training. 

1) Crap Research

The first problem is that we do not have enough quality research. Sure, there have been studies looking at sleep training. The problem is that this research has been highly flawed. It’s true that there is no such thing as perfect research, but the best studies looking at sleep training have serious challenges, like: high dropout rates, small sample sizes, and poor comparison groups. One study looking at the relationship between sleep training and stress even tested the wrong type of cortisol (apparently there are two different types, who knew!?).

2) It Doesn’t Always Work, and Is Not a Long Term Solution

Advocates of sleep training commonly cite these flawed studies when convincing parents that sleep training is the best option. What doesn’t quite make sense to me is how they drew this conclusion though. Some of the studies show no benefit, and of the ones that do, show a modest benefit (as in a mere 20 mins in 24 hours!). To make matters worse, any benefit gained tended to be lost following any change in development or circumstance (i.e. nap transition, teething) requiring the sleep training process to be repeated multiple times. Talk about stressful!

3) It Stresses Kids Out

The part that sticks with me the most is the results of one particular study that showed heightened cortisol levels in babies – even after the babies stopped crying! This research tells us that when sleep training, the babies remain stressed and anxious even if they are quiet and seemingly calm. 

So as it turns out, this self soothing or self settling thing that often is the key selling point for parents when deciding whether to sleep train their child is actually a myth. The more appropriate term for this would be self regulation. Which does not even start to be developmentally possible until the age of 4, and continues on developing until the mid to late TWENTIES!

You could add this all together to say that sleep training is essentially training your child to stop signaling (i.e. crying) for their parents. So instead they lay alone and stressed until they fall asleep out of exhaustion, and/or maxed out sleep pressure.

It’s a pretty bold statement, that hits home a little too hard for some (including me!)

4) Too Much Stress is Bad

Research tells us two things about our parental response. 1) That children who have been parented with a nurturing, responsive approach tend to develop more gluticorisoid receptors (which is a good thing). This helps them to respond better to stress and to get over things more quickly – even into adulthood! 2) That children who have been parented by non-responsive parents tend to have fewer gluticortisoid receptors which can lead to a heightened stress response and a slower recovery from stress – again into adulthood. Scary right? Problem is…

5) We Don’t Know Where to Draw the Line

How much is too much?  The fact is we just don’t know. There are some who equate sleep training with child neglect (a form of child abuse) which has the potential to cause physiological (i.e. biological), psychiatric, and psychological harm. Personally I think that this is a bit of a stretch to equate sleep training with the type of long term, devastating neglect seen by social workers. However, the fact remains that all babies, toddlers and children are individual. They have their own unique set of protective factors, genetic predispositions, and vulnerabilities. I do not doubt for one minute that some little ones are harmed more than others. It’s just not worth the risk!

6) It Can Make Sleep Worse

It is not uncommon for parents to report a worsening of sleep following sleep training. This is in part because we have broken our child’s trust. Children thrive on consistency. It helps them to feel SAFE. When we don’t respond to them in the way that they expect and require, they can become anxious or develop separation difficulties. Parents often notice that their kids become more clingy in the days and weeks following sleep training. This is likely related to our innate need to repair any rupture in attachment. Which makes sense, babies especially are 100% reliant on their parents. They NEED that relationship to work. 

Here’s another sciencey tidbit about attachment and sleep. Research tells us that kids with a secure attachment tend to sleep better. This includes having less difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, AND their sleep tends to be of better quality overall. These benefits last into adulthood!

So by attending to your child responsively, and developing that secure attachment you are increasing your chances at having a good sleeper for life!

7) It’s not Biologically Normal

This might surprise you, but contrary to societal expectation, babies (and even toddlers and preschoolers!) are NOT actually meant to sleep through the night. Nope afraid not! They are biologically hardwired to sleep the way they do. This is, in short, shallow sleep cycles. Part of this is to ensure they get adequate milk. But, we also now know that this is protective against SIDS. Their circadian rhythm is actually quite a bit different than adults, so we probably shouldn’t be expecting them to sleep like adults. Hmm. 

8) It Makes Sleep a Scapegoat

Sleep is not always the problem. There are SO many reasons why kids wake at night. Think feeding issues, torticollis, reflux, sleep apnea, teething, gas pains, environmental stressors, hunger, discomfort, itchiness, etc etc etc. The list goes on. Focusing entirely on correcting sleep without looking to the why ignores the cause. The problem is, that if the cause is not actually a sleep issue, the solution will not work! (they don’t tell you this in the sleep training books do they!?) Think about it though, if your little one is in pain, or has sleep apnea for example how is this going to help them sleep better?

This is why I am a big fan of holistic sleep support. The goal is to find the cause, and work on a solution….and let me tell you, it’s rarely just about sleep!

9) Parents Hate Doing It

Parents don’t tend to want to do CIO. And, why would they? There are alllll of the negatives discussed above PLUS it’s incredibly stressful and exhausting. As parents, and especially Mothers…we are biologically hardwired to react when our babies cry! This is adaptive genetics at its finest and it’s basically so we don’t end up abandoning our child and leaving them to the wolves in the wild whenever we need a break. Thus, it is incredibly hard to listen to a child cry while doing nothing.

No parent really wants this. They just want to to know that their child is normal, that they are doing the right thing as parents AND of course they want to feel more rested

And if all of that is not enough, here is my last point. I should have probably mentioned it first, because it’s an important one that I don’t think many parents realise. 

But…

10) You can help your child sleep better WITHOUT sleep training!

And that my friends is what I have based my business on. All of the ways to help families get rest that are in tune with normal, biological sleep requirements, attachment theory, positive parenting practices, maternal mental health and and family wellness. 

Not only is it possible, but most parents prefer this to sleep training.

Better sleep, better everything!

~ Maisie

PS – If you are tired and want to give my Ultimate Guide to Bedtime Routines a try CLICK HERE!

Selected References: 

Gradisar, M., Jackson, K., Spurrier, N. J., Gibson, J., Whitham, J., Williams, A. S., … & Kennaway, D. J. (2016). Behavioral interventions for infant sleep problems: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics, 137(6), e20151486.

Hiscock, H., Bayer, J. K., Hampton, A., Ukoumunne, O. C., & Wake, M. (2008). Long-term mother and child mental health effects of a population-based infant sleep intervention: cluster-randomized, controlled trial. Pediatrics, 122(3), e621-e627.

The Holistic Sleep Coaching Program https://www.holisticsleepcoaching.com/

Hookway, L (2019). The cry it out debate. https://feedsleepbond.com/the-cry-it-out-debate/

Middlemiss, W., Granger, D. A., Goldberg, W. A., & Nathans, L. (2012). Asynchrony of mother–infant hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis activity following extinction of infant crying responses induced during the transition to sleep. Early human development, 88(4), 227-232.

Price, A. M., Wake, M., Ukoumunne, O. C., & Hiscock, H. (2012). Five-year follow-up of harms and benefits of behavioral infant sleep intervention: randomized trial. Pediatrics, 130(4), 643-651.

Simons, S. S., Cillessen, A. H., & de Weerth, C. (2017). Associations between circadian and stress response cortisol in children. Stress, 20(1), 69-75.

Categories
Bedtime

Why Wont My Child Sleep!?

It’s late. You’re tired. They’re tired. Everyone is tired. Your patience is gone and you feel the anger and resentment rushing through your veins.

“Just go the *#@% to sleep”

“Why wont you sleep!?”

These are words I have said to myself…many times! (twins are hard LOL)

It is in these moments that our insecurities run wild. Our anger flicks a switch inside our brains (ever heard of the amygdala!?) and our “animal brain” takes over. This causes us to act instinctively rather than consciously. In fact, it is ridiculously difficult to think rationally when we are experiencing big emotions like anger, resentment, and defeat.  

Bedtime turns into a battle, and we feel incredible pressure to win. We ‘must’ win!

We worry that if we give in, if we lose that battle, then…

  • We will be seen as weak parents
  • Our children will walk all over us
  • They will never go to sleep
  • Evenings will be ruined  F-O-R-E-V-E-R…..and 
  • You’ll end up with a codependent adult child living with you until they’re 40!

But herein lies the problem. These are irrational thoughts. 

It’s a vicious circle really. Our culture, and social norms are part to blame (but that is a whole other blog!)

Even just using the language “bedtime battle” can set this tone. Psychology tells us that our language choices matter. Speaking positively, you are more likely to feel positively and so on. 

The phrase bedtime battle implies a conflict, that we are at war against our children. It implies that, as parents, we need to win (we are bigger and stronger right?). Which naturally leads to resentment and insecurities, as listed above.  

What is worse, it goes against the serve & return nurture sequence that we know is so important to child development and also risks breaking attachment – both of which are suuuper important for long term health and quality of life.

So I try to avoid using the term bedtime battle (or even the nap equivalent of “fighting naps”) whenever I am talking with parents. And, I encourage you to take a look at your vocabulary too.

Why? Well because we are not at war with our children. And, I think it is safe to say that no-one wants to step onto the battlefield on a daily (or even weekly) basis. 

So how do we make peace?

The answer my friend, lies in prevention, connection, and planning

Prevention

This piece is all about setting the stage for sleep. 

Often bedtime can become difficult simply because the child is not tired enough. Think about it for a minute. What would happen if you went to bed when you weren’t tired? You would probably toss and turn, you might pick up your phone or turn on the TV. Maybe you’d even get back up and try again later.

Have you ever tried to fall asleep with someone yelling at you to go to sleep? Exactly. LOL

Knowing basic sleep biology is important here. 

We have two main sleep forces. Our circadian rhythm is determined by the sun, our daily routine and to some degree our genetics. We also have our sleep drive (sometimes called sleep pressure). 

In order to get good and sleepy both of these factors need to be paired in a sort of harmony. 

Perhaps, the biggest thing that comes into play for kiddies is sleep pressure. Think of it like a balloon. We need that balloon to be full come bedtime, or there will be no pressure to help push that child into dreamland. If you’ve got a floppy weakly inflated balloon, there will be no push for sleep.

Ideally, the sleep pressure balloon will be linked in time with the circadian rhythm because this is what is responsible for the release of our natural sleepy chemicals like melatonin.

Too much daytime sleep, or poorly timed naps can lead to bedtime resistance simply because they are not tired enough to sleep. So can lazy days i.e. not enough exercise or activity. Or not enough stimulation. Babies, toddlers and kids of all ages need to be learning and moving! Their brains and bodies are developing at such a fast rate. They thrive on this. 

(On a side note – I have never met a kid who is getting too much exercise. Hint hint LOL)

Often parents are stressed, and try to make life scheduled, calm, and predictable. While it is true that little ones (and parents) thrive on routine, it can also get a bit boring. They neeeeeed stimulation. Too much of the same, and well…you just plain don’t tire them out enough. 

Ever notice how well they sleep on the days you go on a day-trip (even if you spent half the day in the car)? What about on the days where you go somewhere new? This is why!

Of course the opposite can be true. Overtiredness happens too. However, I hesitated even writing this here. Why? Well because overtiredness has become a sort of buzz word in the sleep community. It is treated sort of like a scapegoat. All sleep problems seem to be blamed on overtiredness, with a recommendation to extend naps, or move bedtime earlier. Unfortunately it is a whole lot more complicated than this. 

It is true that the human body produces increased cortisol (the awake hormone) to counteract that inflating balloon, especially as the balloon starts growing too big. It is also true that increased cortisol can make it more difficult to sleep, and can lead to a poorer quality of sleep too. Kids can get sort of wired and hyper. And, trust me, it is much easier to just let that phase pass, than to convince a squirmy child to lay still. LOL I call it ‘bedtime bonkers.’ 

All of this is true. Science tells us so…

BUT 

I want to highlight that society’s expectation of sleep needs ALSO differs VASTLY from what the research shows. Believe it or not, but it is NOT normal for kids to sleep 12 hours a night. 

My best advice here…Pay attention to your child! Their behaviour is more indicative of their sleep needs than any chart you will find.  

Connection

This section is all about connection. Maintaining that peace. (and for those of you who have been in the trenches for a while….making amends and starting fresh)

For many littles, bedtime is the one time of the day, where they get their parent’s undivided attention. This is especially true for working parents. 

When you think about it this way, why would they want to go to bed? They want to spend time with YOU – all of you!

I hear about this a lot from Moms as they transition back to work after maternity leave. Often bedtimes become difficult and night waking increases. A lot of times this is when parents start bed-sharing (if they haven’t already) as this is a way to connect with our children. 

One way around this is to boost our connection during the day. 

Now, I am not meaning to overwhelm you by implying you have to spend massive amounts of uninterrupted 1:1 time with your child all day, every day. (Though it would be amazing if you could!)

But, you can make a world of difference by intentionally chunking your time. Try to have a couple of small 15 minute blitzes where you focus on connecting with your child. Involve them in your activities. Engage them in conversation. Look in their eyes. Cuddle their soft skin. 

Believe it or not, but this actually can improve sleep!

Planning

So what does planning have to do with bedtime? 

I think we can all agree that life is easier when we are prepared right? When you have a plan, and you know what to expect, there are a lot less unknowns. It’s easier to stay on track. 

If you know that bedtime takes forever, plan for it. Plan for an easy and relaxed night. 

It’s all about the little things

If you are relaxed, your child is more likely to relax.

If you have had nothing but difficult bedtimes lately consider clearing your evening commitments so that you don’t feel rushed. No, not forever, but this process takes some time and it works best when you give it your best shot. 

This wisdom has been passed down by my own Mom. She has always said that the days go easier when you don’t have an agenda . This message cannot be truer.

It is always on the days where I am feeling pressured to do something, to be somewhere, to get the house clean, to do something – anything! It’s always these times that I become most frustrated, angry or resentful of my boys when things don’t go according to plan. 

So just let it go!

Live in the moment. 

I find it helps to ask myself. Will this matter tomorrow? A week from now? A year from now? 

If not…then it’s probably best to just let it go! 

Okay back to more planning stuff… 

Plan a nice relaxing evening. No, not the whole evening (kids have a lot of energy to burn and we don’t want to stop that balloon from inflating), but an hour before bed is a good place to start. Think of some activities that you can do together (remember that connection piece we talked about earlier). Puzzles, colouring or blocks work well

Cut the screens (yes this includes the TV). Dim the lights and throw some Gentle Baby Essential Oil Blend into the difffuser. This helps let your bodies unwind and know that sleepy time is near. 

Then as you prep for bedtime make sure YOU are ready. 

Run through your own internal checklist (or write it down if that is more your style)

  • Have you have eaten dinner (we don’t want you hangry)
  • Are you calm? If not take a minute (or a few) to help get you there
  • Oh and make sure that your bladder is empty (cuz having to pee will make anyone a little rushed! LOL)
  • The next step is to start the bedtime routine. 

You probably already have a bedtime routine with your child, whether you realize it or not…

A bedtime routine is simply the list of things that you do to get ready for bed. As parents, we tend to kiss our children and or say things like sweet dreams. Some of us sing a song, or read a story. 

It sounds simple, and it can be. But it can also work against you if not done correctly. It’s a very misunderstood and underutilized strategy for improving and maintaining a healthy sleep pattern.

Don’t have one? Or unsure if yours is doing the trick…then check out my FREE Ultimate Guide to Bedtime Routines.

You know what, scratch that. Just download the guide. Even if you have an amazing bedtime routine, my guess is that you’ll learn something to make it even better!

Now, before I go, a quick disclaimer. These are all important factors in a healthy bedtime, but they are not the only variables. If after incorporating some of these tips and tricks, you find that you are still having problems, then please reach out to a professional for help. Sleep doesn’t have to be a battle.

Sleep well friend,

Maisie Zzz