How to Help your Child with Sleep Issues

Why is Sleep so Important for our Children?

Sleep is an extremely powerful restorative process. If we don’t have enough sleep, we don’t have enough energy to manage our day.

Good sleep has a great effect on our behaviour, our emotions, and of course our concentration. As adults we understand that we need a good sleep routine and we usually know how to do that and how to cope with it if we aren’t getting enough shut-eye. However, our children don’t understand that they NEED their sleep to make them grow, physically and mentally, so it is up to us parents to take control and ensure that they have good sleep hygiene prior to bedtime and even better sleep hygiene during the bedtime process.!

So, What does that Mean?

That means that a lack of sleep leads to the child not being able to concentrate in school or being grumpy at breakfast and not wanting to GO to school, and even almost falling asleep in school. A friend of mine is a teacher and I remember her telling me once how she had had several children in her class who were routinely falling asleep in class, and when she asked them what time they went to bed they said something like ten or eleven o’clock. She asked the parents about it and they explained that they had great difficulty getting their child to bed at night.

“To Sleep… Per Chance to Dream?”

William Shakespeare

Good Sleep Hygiene and Routines

Depending on the age of the child, you should set a good sleep and bedtime routine. Naturally infants need so much sleep, their routine will be to sleep for a few hours then wake for a feed and stay awake for a couple of hours and this continues through day and night for the first few weeks. This is perfectly normal behaviour for a new – born baby. However, as the baby gets older and is more settled and feeding well, mum can start to encourage less daytime sleeping and more night time sleep by putting the baby into a brightly lit room during the day and obviously in his crib or cot at night in a darkened room. Eventually he will sleep more at night and less during the day.

But one thing I have forgotten to mention here. A lot of babies sleeping patterns may also depend on mum’s emotions. There are so many family dynamics – mum and dad with their first child for example, mum may be very anxious and if the baby can sense that anxiety – it will cry. However, a mum and dad with two or three children already – mum is not anxious (as a rule!) and will calmly be getting baby into a good sleeping pattern.

Make the Room Perfect for Sleep!

The bedroom should be darkish and not have too many distractions in it for a young infant. Naturally as children grow older, they have all sorts in their bedroom – games consoles with lights on, phones that vibrate with text messages, alarm clocks that glow in the dark, I could go on!  But, for the best sleep bedrooms should be normal temperature, erring on the cooler side, with a very low night light. Bedclothes should be a suitable weight for the time of the year, and if your child does require a weighted blanket then do make sure that at least his pj’s are fairly thin material, the same for the blanket or duvet ( a lower tog)

Beds for younger children 3-12 years old should only be used for sleeping.  Teenagers use their beds for everything – including watching TV, doing homework, eating supper etc but if you allow younger children to do this, when they are in bed, they will feel like they should be watching TV or playing games on I pad!

Be Consistent and Persistent!

In my capacity as a children’s hypnotherapist and children’s behavioural therapist, I have helped hundreds of parents get their child sleeping at night – at a reasonable time – and in their OWN bed. The biggest problem most parents have with children and sleep is inconsistency! Once you have established a good bedtime and sleep routine for your child – at whatever age – YOU MUST stick to it. For example: if your routine is that your child has her tea/supper, then some quiet time, then bath and clean teeth, a story and then sleep, he/she will get used to that routine in no time (a few days) and she will like THAT routine because it is predictable. Children feel safe and secure when there is predictability, when they KNOW what’s coming next.

Now, this does not mean that you can NEVER be flexible – far from it, but as long as the child knows that “ just for tonight because Granny is here you can stay up another half hour” or “ Just for tonight you don’t need to have a bath as it is late and you need your sleep” so you see, as long as you communicate with your child – all will be well. Also, we must remember that children are all different – and what works for one child might not work in the same way for another, so YOU have to be flexible in your approach too.

Your Bed is Your Bed – The Child has his OWN Bed!

One of the biggest problems I come up against when parents bring their non sleeping child to me is that they are allowing (some of them even encouraging) their child to sleep in their bed, or at least allow him or her to come into their bed in the middle of the night. This can cause so many problems so please don’t start it as it will take you a LONG time to reverse it.

The child should know right from being very young that he sleeps in his bed and mummy and daddy sleep in theirs! If the child wakes up in the middle of the night, you should get him back to his own bed and room as soon as possible.

Kids like having these late – night interactions with mum and dad but you really must do all you can to minimize any reward that they may be getting from it. Don’t get into any long conversation with him and don’t allow him to get into your bed. You will regret it when he’s 13 years old and still insisting on sleeping with mum and dad and believe me I am not exaggerating – I see this very often!

Routine and Self-Soothing

Children need to learn to self soothe from a very young age and teaching your baby to get herself back to sleep will be one of the best gifts you ever give her.

If your child is NOT sleeping and you cant find a reason for it (they are not poorly) then it’s always wise to find a therapist, someone like myself who works with children with anxiety, because I can teach them skills like self – soothing, relaxation techniques, mindfulness tools and all sorts of relaxing ways to get them to sleep.

Some parents suffer for years with a child not sleeping. One mum of a nine year- old said to me

“We haven’t had a good night’s sleep since the day she was born – if you CAN help us, I’ll be very surprised, but please try! We’ve tried everything else – doctors, audio tapes, pediatrician.”

Within five nights that child was sleeping in her own bed and going to bed like a dream!  The only thing that had been wrong was – the parents hadn’t put a good routine in place and had not been consistent with the bedtime rules. The child had pushed and pushed those boundaries every single night for nine years! Yes, it was tough and mum nearly didn’t continue with it because she was tired and exhausted and hated hearing her little girl cry. But, following the rules and testing the boundaries are all part of learning and growing up. If your child won’t follow YOUR rules how are they going to be expected to get through school, college or uni and a job where they need to do as they are told?

My child wants to go to sleep but she just doesn’t seem to be able to, what can I do?

If a child is happy to be in her own bed, but just can’t get to sleep then you have to assume that there may be an emotional reason for the insomnia. I have treated hundreds of children over the years with this problem and it’s usually just a little bit of anxiety that is keeping them awake – their mind is probably hyper – active and they can’t settle.

But for whatever reason your child is not sleeping – don’t let it go on too long as it won’t do the child or you, the parents any good. You can find out more about the sessions here.

or Contact me:

Telephone me on – 0203 8887173

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All sessions are currently being done on-line and are proving highly successful. Children feel less anxious in their own environment!

All sessions with children are done with games, role play and stories – it’s all fun!

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