Sleep is something that can feel quite elusive at the moment. Organising for Christmas, rearranging social gatherings, events or even just trying to balance our business against the backdrop of the global pandemic and associated restrictions, is it any wonder that we feel anxious? Our sleep and ability to relax suffers as a result of this all, so I am delighted to be hosting an expert in this field today, Lucy Shrimpton, who is here to impart her wisdom and top tips for getting a good night’s sleep, for both ourselves and any children in our lives.
Coping with sleep issues
By Lucy Shrimpton, The Sleep Nanny®
Without a doubt, a full night’s sleep is one of the victim’s of today’s pandemic. Struggling to drift off and experiencing regular awakenings in the middle of the night worrying about things, are incredibly common. And, our children are feeling the consequences too – often climbing into our beds in the middle of the night to help ease their anxiety.
But there are many ways that you can help combat a bad night’s sleep – both for you and your children.
Here are my top pieces of advice to those in need:
- A regular bedtime for children should be between 6pm and 8pm each night. Make sure you get them into a regular routine so they can recognise the cues and rhythms that will prepare them for sleep. Whether that’s a bedtime story or a bath, make sure they know that bedtime means bedtime. Be consistent; so if they want to crawl into bed at 5a.m, don’t expect them to not want to at all hours through the night!
- As tempting as it might be for some parents whose children wake up a lot, try not to keep them awake later as this will only lead to over tiredness and this is the root of all sleep problems.
- There is a lot of talk about the rise in childhood anxiety in the pandemic and so it’s important to be sensitive to how they are feeling and what they are hearing. Be careful not to have sensitive conversations within earshot that might affect them, and be weary of how much news they consume. Make sure they know they can talk with you about things if they are worried. While you can’t solve the problem of the pandemic, you can make them feel a lot better and secure by listening so they know you’re there for them. This should ease some anxiety and help them sleep better at night.
- Two things to avoid in the run up to bedtime, for both children and adults, is screen time and sugary foods. Sugary foods and caffeine cause a temporary surge of alertness which is just what you don’t want before bedtime, while the blue light omitted from your smart phone prevents the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls sleep, keeping you awake for longer and potentially causing more sleep disturbances in the night.
- If you’ve got a young baby, try to get them into a consistent bedtime routine – at the same time and place each evening. Keep their nap times consistent during the day and sustain these naps until they are around three and a half or four years old. Little children with really alert temperaments will appear not to need (or want!) these naps but they actually need it more and for longer than their more laid back peers. Some children aged three and above who are sleeping a solid 12 hours a night may not need a nap.
- If you are really struggling to get your baby to sleep, and get them into a regular sleep pattern, get help from a professional sleep nanny. There is really no need to suffer in silence, and with online zoom calls, it’s easier than ever to get that help.
- Try to keep your bedroom your sleep sanctuary; calm lighting, candles and soothing music will help to make your bedroom a retreat for you to relax in. And if you’re having to work from your bedroom during the day, make sure you transform the room from a home office to your bedroom at night; put away your computer and paperwork so that you’re not reminded of work just as you’re trying to drift off.
- If you’re one of the many people who wakes up in the middle of the night worrying about things, keep a notepad beside your bed so that you can quickly write things down. This will really help to soothe a busy mind and help you to relax and get back to sleep.
Lucy Shrimpton is the founder of The Sleep Nanny® (www.sleepnanny.co.uk). Her team of sleep consultants based across the UK and around the world help parents and caregivers of babies and young children to overcome the challenges with childhood sleep so that they can be healthy and happy and enjoy these precious years.
Thank you so much for your advice today Lucy!
If you have any comments about sleep patterns in your household, and what you do to keep your routine steady, please do drop me a note below.
N.B. I do hope that you found this post helpful. Please note, I have not received anything in exchange for sharing this information. To read more about how I work with others, please see my disclosure policy.
All photos are courtesy of The Sleep Nanny. Please do not reproduce without permission.