When we become a parent sleep overtakes us, or the thought of sleep at least!
With World Sleep Day coming up this Friday 15th March and Daylight Savings ending in Australia on the 7th of April we thought we would get some tips on how to find a good night sleep for you and your family!
For many parents the change in daylight savings just adds and extra layer of stress to their bedtime routines, or lack thereof. Our general advice with daylight savings time changes is firstly – don’t stress, have a routine and make small changes to the time of your routine in the week or two leading up to the change which allows your little ones body clock to slowly change.
With this in mind we caught up with Laura from Snotty Noses Australia and asked her about her BEST 8 sleep tips EVER to have bedtime sorted for good.
Sarah: Now we're talking about your best 8 sleep tips ever please share them with us!
Laura: Modern parenting is a busy, challenging job and every parent knows that bedtime routines should be calm and consistent for their child, but for toddlers and preschoolers the nightly routine can be a difficult part of the day because it's just more instructions, another transition that has to happen, separation from you and that coincides right at the time when everyone in the household is a bit tired and frazzled from a long day.
So we’ve put together a best 8 tips that can be applied tonight. You can start using these straight away to get a better bedtime for your child, whatever your parenting styles, whatever your sleep preferences, these tips are just to make small changes that help you.
So we're going to start with tip Number One and it's all about YOU, Parents Mood!
So yes we're starting with us because, I swear if I'm extra tired or rushed or a little cranky my kids pick up on it and bed times may not run as smoothly as I would like. So parents words and actions should match their behaviour and you need to be responsive to your children's needs at that time. So, not just sending a work email and not being on the phone to your sister and things like that. Focussing that 15 to 30 minutes of dedicated time on your little one getting to bed can mean that you are rewarded with a few hours of child free time in the evening.
That’s what we need to recharge our parental batteries! If bedtime is extending on for hours and hours and it can, let’s be honest for whatever reason, it can extend for hours. You can change this though. Your children need, depending on age of course, between 10 and 12 solid hours of sleep at night and parents need that little bit of child free time at the end of a very busy day simply to reconnect with one another, get some jobs done or just sit and watch a movie and relax and breathe for a minute.
Tip number 2, I have titled this My way or Your way and it’s the conversation that two parents need to have really from the time their baby is born. What is our combined approach for the big picture stuff of parenting? I'm talking about feeding, nurturing, sleep. They’re the big three.
If two parents can take turns at bedtime, you don't have to follow an identical script, but you really should have a similar routine. And this is a big one, you need a similar response to bedtime power plays, fears and manipulation - “One more story…” “But Mum I need a drink…” “But Dad doesn't do it that way…”
They might only be 3, 5 or 8 years old however we all know little ones can be master manipulators, they pull on our heartstrings. We know for the greater good that consistent bedtimes, a gentle ‘love you,’ sit with you for 5 minutes, kiss goodnight, all of those nice things and then mummy or daddy is heading out the door.
Children will get used to it and in terms of My way, Your way, I think it's even more important if parents are separated and children might have a bedroom or a sleep routine at Mum's house and then something totally different at Dad's place. That can be confusing (but children will learn).
Be kind of yourself and the kids and work out something that's a consistent approach for all.
Tip Number 3 is Soothe, not Stimulate.
If you've got really little babies and toddlers choose the same place and time each night for a bedtime routine. It could be stories and a bottle of milk on the lounge, or it could be books and cuddles in their room. Keep it fairly the same and then with toddlers and even primary school aged kids choose quiet relaxing books or puzzles or card games. Now is not the time for an epic game of wrestling or hide and seek, or the loudest craziest movie on the TV! it does affect them more than we realise, so be kind to yourself and keep it soothing.
Tip Number 4 is Leave time to unwind.
I know so many of us are busy, we’re walking through the door from work and daycare pick up at 6 p.m. There’s dinner, there’s bathing, it’s like an hour of power, but although life is busy rushing bedtime really doesn't work and a bedtime routine doesn't need to take hours, aim for 20-30 minutes because if you rush your little one will be more likely to run out of bed or stall or beg you to stay longer.
Give them at least 30 minutes, allocate that same time each night at around the same time and just to go through that process. It can feel mind-numbingly like Groundhog Day for parents and I get it, I'm a parent of a 10, 8 and 6 year old, I understand that you think “am I seriously doing this again” but for me that end goal of having them in bed at their age appropriate time is worth it. We all know things happen, you might be late on a Friday night, all sorts of things. We get it but generally try for at least 5 out of 7 nights a week. It should be just the same old consistent routine.
Sarah: That doesn't really change as they get older does it. My son is 12 now and I find that as soon as his head hits a pillow that's when he wants to start talking to me about his day, what his experiences were and anything that's bothering him or his troubles. I find it a really nice time of the day to chat to them as they are getting older, when they're not distracted by anyone else or anything else and to have a nice conversation with them.
Laura: There’s a funny saying that ‘You'll never find a child with a greater story to tell than one minute before you put them to bed.’ Whether they’re 4, 12 or 18. I agree with you, it is beautiful to have those 15 or so minutes to connect and talk, but we do need to set a limit, we don’t want to be there an hour after. They need sleep and we need time.
Tip number 5 very much applies to 12 year olds, Screen Free
This is where it just come into its own SCREEN FREE. Technology is getting us from all corners and we need to keep things screen free, especially for little ones under 5, in that hour before bed. The blue light stimulant and the noise and intensity of TVs and iPads just wires little brains, making them stay alert and it goes against the body circadian rhythms to slow down as darkness falls outside. Now that Daylight Savings will end we will be getting darkness a little bit earlier so it's the perfect time to keep everything screen free and just embrace the darkness!
Now I am not for one moment suggesting we walk around in the dark by candlelight, you need light on in your house of course you do it but it's just the blue light from TVs and iPads. There is multiple research projects to back this up, for little ones all the way up to teenagers it's just wiring their brains so let's keep their bedroom a screen free place
Sarah: And I always read the same applies to adults too who have trouble sleeping - put your phone or your tablet or your computer aside an hour before bed to give yourself a chance to switch off before you try to go to sleep
Laura: Yes, it’s a habit that were all guilty of… I might just check Instagram and an hour later I can still be scrolling on Instagram! I am wide awake and wired and I wonder why I do it to myself. However if I have my reading light on and I am reading a book, I can be out like a light in about 10 minutes. My eyes are so heavy, it's just a completely different use of our brain with blue lit devices vs a regular light or book
Tip Number 6 is Blame it on Sam (Sam Sheep Sleep Clock)
Sam Sheep Sleep Clock is an ingenious little creation and it's a real investment in calm bedtimes and morning sleep ins because it's a digital and analogue electric clock with a soothing night light and little eyes that open and shut and Sam can be a great way to get bedtime sorted in fun and creative ways, particularly for 2 to 5 year olds.
So it goes something like this “Sam says we need to stop reading at 7 pm,” so we have 10 minutes to read our lovely books in bed and then when it is 7 pm, when your child says one more book, or I need a drink, you can say “Oh look Sam the clock says its 7pm, lights out there cant be any more books now. We will read some more tomorrow.”
Just blame it all on Sam! It’s Sam’s decision.
Put the blame over to Sam and it can be a real masterstroke, but you do need to stick with it and be consistent with it every night. If you're going to introduce something like this clock with the eyes that open and shut it really is cute and, my goodness, my 6 year old when he was 4 he was telling the time so well because he got so used to having this lovely clock in his room he knew exactly when 7pm was coming up and then it would be bedtime.
Tip Number 7 is to teach your child creative visualisation and plant a dream!
Toddlers and preschoolers might say that I'm not ready to sleep, or I can't keep my eyes closed, and you can let them know that even adults can have trouble falling asleep it's OK but eventually your body will learn to rest.
Try some breathing techniques, put their hands on their tummy and let them feel the rise and fall of their breath. That's a classic yoga trick that works for adults and it will help your little one calm down as well
I sometimes use my fingertips and sprinkle some dream dust into my little ones eyes , you can rub their temples and tell them you're planting a dream and give them a memory to focus on - the day they went boogie boarding, the bike ride they went on to the city, catching a river ferry, swimming with their cousins… so put that little idea into their mind just to help them refocus and get their mind off ‘my mum's leaving, shes putting me to bed and shes going.’
Better to focus on a nice memory, or dream up a complete fantasy… tonight I'm going to think up a little dream of travelling through space or tonight you can dream about being a ballerina. This distraction can be really helpful, particularly if they wake up from a scary dream or nightmare in the middle of the night, refocus and put a different idea into their head so they can calm themselves down.
Tip Number 8, it's going to sound weird but I'm actually going to say technology can help!
Back in tip number 5 we mentioned about turning off the screen, however one type of light can actually help a baby or child, in fact even an adult, fall asleep and that is a deep red light which increases the production of melatonin.
Melatonin is a sleep hormone in the brain, we produce that from birth all the way through adulthood. We recommend using a little new product called the Aroma Snooze with red light therapy in built. Placing it near the cot, or the bed, where your little one can see this red light and they can watch it and stare at it for 5 to 10 minutes, it's actually helping them wind down.
Now if you've never used the night light before, your child might be over stimulated or distracted by the light in the first few nights. They’re just adjusting so if sleep regression does occur don't panic, use it consistently every night for at least a week with all of the functions built into the machine, it's got mist vapor, aromatherapy, red light therapy, sound therapy and voice recorder, all in the one little machine. Using something like that, it's cute, it's quite a novelty, but it is scientifically proven all of those features and functions can help your little one wind down.
So there they are. Our 8 tips for a good night sleep and to nail bedtimes in your house!
You might be listening and thinking what a lot of effort, what a lot of gadgets.
But the rewards are endless because a well rested baby or toddler or child or teenager will be happier, healthier and they’ll even be smarter!
And parents will get some restorative child free hours in the evening to recharge those parental batteries!
World Sleep Day is an annual event, intended to be a celebration of sleep and a call to action on important issues related to sleep, including medicine, education, social aspects and driving. It is organized by the World Sleep Day Committee of World Sleep Society (founded by WASM and WSF) and aims to lessen the burden of sleep problems on society through better prevention and management of sleep disorders.