People talk about sleepless nights when having a baby, but nothing can prepare you for the exhaustion that comes with that. Sleep deprivation isn’t just feeling tired. It can affect our mood, our relationships, and our ability to focus. It can have a detrimental effect on our mental health and can cause some serious illnesses such as diabetes.
In many countries, having a sleep consultant is as standard as visiting the dentist. However in England that isn’t the case. So many new parents struggle to find a healthy balance with sleep because it’s often perceived as a luxury. People paint the picture that sleep deprivation with parenthood is ‘normal’, that they come hand-in-hand, and that it’s a sign of failure to ask for help. But in reality, sleep is not a luxury. It is a necessity for our bodies to function and for our children to be able to develop and grow and for their immune systems to rebuild.
Ask for help!
It’s ok to ask for help. It isn’t a sign of failure, but that you recognise there is room for improvement. By seeking advice from someone who has ‘been there’ and ‘done that’ you are putting your child above your pride. You can effectively minimise sleepless nights by following guidance. We wouldn’t hesitate to take our car to the garage if we thought it wasn’t running right, and we should look at sleep in the same way.
Improving sleep can feel an impossible task, especially when you are ‘in’ it and feeling like it won’t ever get any better. That’s the sleep deprivation talking, by the way. People think they need to make massive changes to improve their little one’s sleep habits. But often it’s the smallest changes that will give you the best results.
Here are some of my top tips to focus on before you make any other changes.
1. Sleep environment
Look at where your child is sleeping. Is it a consistent space, or do they sometimes sleep on you and other times sleep in their cot? Or are you co-sleeping? Having naps and bedtime in the same place helps our little people feel safe and secure. This in turn will help their sleep habits and reduce sleepless nights.
Is the space dark? If you can aim for around 80% darkness, this will help stimulate their sleepy hormone melatonin, and that’s always a winner when it comes to sleep.
The temperature of the room can be tricky to get right. Safe sleep guidance advises you aim for around 18°C, but this can be tricky to maintain in some homes. It’s a good idea to have a thermometer in the room, and adjust clothing and layers to make sure your child isn’t getting too hot or too cold.
The Lullaby Trust is a reliable source that provides some great details on safe sleeping for babies. From correct clothing, sleep positions and room temperatures, they cover a variety of areas to ensure you are doing everything you can to help your baby get the safe and refreshing sleep they need.
Having a baby who is overtired or undertired can be a real battle. It’s often thought that if they haven’t napped, they will be tired and sleep better at night, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. You will find an overtired baby will be restless, harder to settle, will wake more often in the night and wake up early in the morning. Track your nap times and bedtimes, looking at the amount of sleep they are having in a 24-hour period. Adjusting these times can really help avoid over or undertired little ones and encourage a much smoother bedtime.
Having a routine helps babies feel safe and provides them with the ability to read cues and understand what comes next. It also helps to regulate their body clock by releasing the right hormones at the right time. There will be things in life that throw routines off track, such as holidays, illness, visitors, and sleep regressions. However, if you have established good routines and foundations, it’s far easier to get their sleep back on track and eliminate those sleepless nights again.
Spending some time focusing on the above tips will prove beneficial, not just for your little ones but for yourself too.
At the Little Cherry Tree Company, I don’t use a one-approach-fits-all technique. Instead, I tailor every plan I make to the individual family. I’m not an advocate of controlled crying and use more gentle approaches that build foundations for lasting healthy sleep habits.
To find out more about how I can help you take back control of your routine and sleep, please visit me at www.thelittlecherrytreecompany.co.uk