One of the top topics of conversation on our online community is sleep… how to encourage your child to settle, how to stop them waking in the night, and how to make sure you’re getting enough yourself.
So, we recently decided to run a Q & A with Scope’s sleep practitioners and here are some of the great tips we took from it. I hope you find them useful, and please do share your own!
1. Consistency is key
If your child wakes in the night, return them to bed, tuck them in and say, “It’s night time (name) go to sleep”. Don’t enter into any discussions or negotiations.
2. Social story
If your child has learning disabilities and has trouble settling or sleeping, especially if they are scared of having bad dreams, try using a social story explaining what dreams are and that nightmares are just bad dreams.
3. Natural wakings
We all wake naturally four to five times a night. Once we have learned to sleep, we don’t wake fully during these natural wakings. One of the common reasons a child will wake fully is because the conditions have changed – for example, if you were with them when they fell asleep, then vanished.
4. Family photo
Try putting a family photo in your child’s room, as that can be comforting for natural night wakings.
5. Smells like mom
Try putting your own pillowcase on your child’s pillow, as the scent will be comforting.
6. No controlled crying
We don’t advocate controlled crying as an approach as it’s too emotional for parent and child, and only makes your child over stimulated.
7. Golden hour
There is a ‘golden hour’ before bedtime. If your child is lying in bed for too long before bedtime, they will not associate bedroom with sleep. If their bedtime routine is too short they will be too awake.
8. Keep it boring
Children come up with some fantastic distraction techniques to avoid going back to bed at night! If your child asks for a drink, offer water. If they’re thirsty they’ll drink it. If not, they’ll get tired of being given a boring drink after a couple of nights and stop asking.
9. No vanishing acts
Make sure your child is awake when you kiss goodnight. If you stay while they fall asleep and then sneak out, it will only upset them when they wake naturally in the night and you have vanished.
10. Start earlier
If your child is taking a long time to fall asleep, start their bedtime routine earlier, so they associate bed with sleep.
11. Give it time
It can take two weeks for a child to learn a new behaviour, so consistency is key to whatever approach you take. Parents who say they’ve ‘tried everything’ may not have given each approach long enough.
12. Sleep diary
It is not uncommon for children with cerebral palsy to wake frequently at night because they become stiff or experience pain, and need repositioning. Using a sleep diary and hypnogram can help you work out when to do it so your child is in a deeper stage of sleep and you don’t fully wake them.
13. Gradual changes
Disability can be exhausting and many children with special needs need extra sleep. As children get older they will need less sleep, so make gradual changes, say around puberty, moving bedtime by 15 minutes every 3 days.
14. Special teddy
Try keeping a teddy that belongs to you close to you for several days, then allowing your child to look after it overnight and return it to you in the morning. This can act as reassurance that you will be there in the morning because you will need your teddy back.
15. Gradual exit
If your child gets comfort from you being there while he/she goes to sleep at night, try making a gradual exit. Start by sitting on the bed holding their hand with a glove on, removing yourself gradually over 2/3 weeks leaving them with the glove.
16. Hold off the lavender
Too much lavender can prevent the production of melatonin, so don’t overdo lavender in the bath before bed. Make sure bath is half an hour before bedtime, giving time for your child’s body temperature to drop.
17. Wind down time
Start preparing your child for sleep an hour before bedtime, turning off the TV, computer etc, and doing some reading or fine motor activities which will help with relaxation and the production of melatonin.
For more great tips and ideas, why not see what other parents have tried. Check out our fab sleep tips section on Scope’s online community.