Night times don’t need to be a nightmare!
Firstly establish WHY they’re waking up.
The first thing to look at is WHY your child isn’t sleeping very long at a time? Sometimes this is easy to work out, they’re too hot or cold, they’ve filled their nappy or wet the bed, maybe they’re genuinely hungry or thirsty or even ill. Other times it’s not so obvious so you might need look more closely at what is happening.
Imagine your night time nightmare was actually a film script, with you and your partner and child in the starring roles.
What actually happens? Your baby/child cries and naturally you want to go to him/her. How long do you leave it before you go through? Do you immediately leap out of bed or do you wait for a minute or two to see if they’ll settle back off on their own?
Then what do you do? Do you put the light on, or just stay in the dark, do you talk to them or pick them up? What systems to you go through to get them to settle down again?
It’s in here that the answer lies. Do they always want the same thing? Do they always need a drink or always need a cuddle, or always need a midnight snack? Do they seek comfort? Do they simply want to spend time with you one on one? Sometimes the middle of the night is the one key time when a child gets a parent all to themselves, with no distractions.
Often we’re so busy doing everything that we simply operate in parallel to our child (and in today’s society it’s hardly surprising when parent’s are expected to have a job, to maintain a house, be a parent, have a hobby, be a partner. There really is no wonder why sometimes the child’s only time to have their parent’s full attention is to scream at the top of their voice at 2 am! )
If you can work out why they’re waking up and what you do to solve the situation. Tonight take a step back and work out what is is that you do that settles them and see if from this you can work out why they’ve woken up in the first place. Then tomorrow night pre-empt it by offering whatever it is they wake up for BEFORE they go to bed.
If you’re lucky enough for them to be always waking up for the same reason) you might be able to shuffle your evening routines round to nip the problem in the bud.
If they’re waking up hungry, you could either serve them their dinner slightly later, or offer supper ~ generally a carbohydrate based snack and a milk based drink works the best, or perhaps a small sandwich. (Obviously if they’re allergic to any of these things, don’t offer them).
If thirst is the problem introduce a drink before bed, or make sure that they have several drinks throughout the evening thus diminishing actual thirst.
If they’re hot or cold, you can easily alter the room temperature with heating or fans depending which way round or to change the bedding type. Some children prefer HEAVIER blankets and duvets finding it harder to sleep under lightweight duvets. Some babies and children prefer a sleeping bag so that they can’t kick the covers off.
Light can also be a problem ~ some children like having the light left on so that they’re not scared of the dark, but light can affect the way the sleep hormone is produced so if your child is finding it hard to sleep it might be worth turning off any lights, including those on tv’s, stereos and alarm clocks. Natural daylight in the summer months and street lighting shining through curtains can also affect sleep patterns so a black out blind might help.
If they’re waking up for a chat, then re-organise your evening so you can have a chat with them before bed, hopefully meaning they can then go through the night without needing another one!
Calm, clean, clutter free bedroom is key. Another key reason some children simply can’t sleep is there is so much going on in their bedroom. Bedrooms work best when they are tidy (!) and clutter free. Whilst it’s the norm these days for toys, tv’s, computers, ipads, games consoles, mobile phones etc to be kept in bedrooms it’s not conducive to a good night’s sleep. If possible keep toys and technology downstairs (get dual purpose furniture which doubles up as toy storage and seating if possible). The other thing that sneaks into children’s bedrooms is laundry. Bedrooms should be used for sleeping in, and be as restful as possible, not filled with washing.
Sometimes children don’t sleep because they are over tired. If this is the case they’re not going to be able to get to sleep properly so it would be a good idea to introduce quiet times into their daily routine so that they’re not rushing about too much. If you’re running errands make sure you do this when their energy levels are naturally higher.
If your child continues to struggle to sleep and you’ve gone through the check list, it *might* be worth getting your child checked over by an osteopath, sometimes (though not always) a child can’t sleep because of problems with his/her back, which can be solved by sessions with an osteopath.