Saturday, March 7, 2015

Spring is upon us and so is Daylight Saving Time

This Sunday, March 8 we “spring forward”!  

Be sure to turn your clocks ahead 1 hour before you go to bed on Saturday night.  If you/your child (ren) typically wake at 6am, then they will likely wake 7am.  If you like this change then YEA!  Keep naps and bedtime on the new schedule (1hr later). 

To protect this new schedule and time make sure you use continuous white noise for all sleep periods and keep the room really, really dark.  You won’t achieve this without black out curtains or shades.

If the new time doesn’t work for you, below are some options to help your family adjust:

Gradually adjust:

This is ideal for children under 2 or those who don’t do well with big changes.  Go to bed 15 minutes earlier every night this week.  Each day, wake up your child 15 minutes earlier in the morning.  If napping, put her down 15 minutes earlier for each nap. 

Continue to adjust the schedule earlier in 15 minute increments (wake up, naptimes, meal times and bedtime) until you get to your goal according to the new clock time.

Adjusting all at once:

On Sunday, schedule your day (wake up, meals, naps and bedtime) on the new clock time.  But don’t start your day any earlier than 6am on the new clock time (it will feel like 5am)!

If you think the one-hour adjustment is too much for your child, split the difference and put her to bed at 7:30 p.m. (new time) starting Sunday night and for a few days.  Then shift bedtime earlier to 7:00 p.m.  Don't forget to adjust your entire schedule eg: earlier wake up time, nap time(s) and meal times.

The biggest challenge will be to help your child get to the new (later) bedtime without being overtired! That means you have to make naps a priority. Watch her sleep windows (look at my blog on the ideal schedule for by age), have a comforting pre-nap routine and get her down for nap time.

Don’t forget an early enough bedtime!  For most children that is between 7 – 8 PM.

The adjustment to the new clock can take a few days, but it seldom takes more than a week!

Sweet Dreams!

Written by: Michelle Donaghy

PS: Ensure your child is going to bed awake, relaxed but awake.  On a scale of 1 to 10 and 10 is fast asleep your child should be at a 5 when they get into bed.   It should take them at least 5 minutes to put themselves to sleep.  If it takes less, your child was to sleepy and it is likely the cause of your night waking and also your early rising sleep issues (see my blog on early rising issues).

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Independent Sleep is Learned in Stages

Once you and your child are ready to start sleep coaching, knowing how sleep is learned will help you achieve success and get the much needed sleep for you and your lil one.

Bedtime is the easiest time to learn independent sleep!

When you are ready to begin teaching your lil one the skill of independent sleep - start at bedtime (the easiest time for your lil one to learn the new skill).  6-8 months is a great age to begin sleep coaching, if you haven't already taught your child to fall asleep independently.  If your child is older, don't worry it's never too late to work on this life long skill.

I have many parents tell me ‘we tried that awake thing at a nap once and it didn’t work’ or ‘I tried that in the middle of the night’.  These parents all started at the most difficult time to teach this important skill.

Independent sleeping skills are learned in stages:

  • stage 1-  bedtime
  • stage 2 - middle of the night
  • stage 3 - early morning 
  • stage 4 - nap time/day sleep. 
Bedtime is also the time when you will be able to make better decisions and be consistent with your plan.  If bedtime coaching is all you can handle right now, it’s okay to focus your effort there.  Once your lil one is falling asleep independently at bedtime, you will have the confidence to address night waking.

Having a relaxing and consistent bedtime routine that you do every night before
bed will help cue the brain and your child that sleep is coming.  Your routine could be bath, lotion, massage, pajamas, pre-bedtime feed (if age appropriate), brush teeth, followed by reading a book or a song.  Then lights out and put your child into their bed relaxed but awake.  If needed, write your routine down and share it with all who care for your child.  For an older child a chart with pictures can be helpful and will involve them in the process which will help make them more willing to participate.

Bedtime and middle of the night, 2 different skills!

Learning to go to sleep at bedtime without a sleep crutch (any service that you provide to or for your child) is one skill. Learning to go back to sleep after a partial arousal (see below) during the middle of the night is another skill.

I have parents tell me ‘he can fall asleep at bedtime independently, that is not the problem, he just won’t stay sleep and wakes up every 2 hours’.  I come across many children who can fall asleep independently at bedtime but still require assistance to get back to sleep during the night.  The reason is, they have not mastered the next stage in sleep learning.

Once your child can put herself to sleep at bedtime from an awake state, you may see their night waking decrease - but it is not likely that all of the night wakings will go away unless you remove the assistance or service you give them during the night.  

Ask your child's pediatrician how many hours your child can go without a feed at night.  If they do need to eat in the night, factor in that feeding.  Then for all other waking’s use your sleep coaching method to help your child learn to go back to sleep at each night time waking. 

No one sleeps through the night!

The phase sleeping through the night is very misleading … everyone wakes in the middle of the night.  We all pass through sleep cycles during the night - we switch from REM to non-REM and the change in our brain activity wakes us up a little bit.  These are called partial arousals.  We also have complete arousals, which wake you up a bit more and they occur about 3-4 hrs. during the night.
If your lil one was rocked, nursed, bottled, or held to sleep at bedtime then they will need you to come back and help them again at each arousal.

What I frequently see parents do is confuse the partial arousal (or brain wake up) with a hunger wake up.  If your child is over 6 months of age, she may not have been hungry at all.  Most children will be happy to have a lil warm milk and a bit of snuggle in the middle of the night. But you have reinforced the waking.  

Don't rush in at the first peep, give your child a chance to get back to sleep on her own.  Especially now that you now know they are really just shifting sleep cycles.  Often they are not completely awake.

It is common for children to wake, cry out then go quiet or babble or moan until they drift back to sleep.  If you rush in you are interfering with the child’s ability to learn how to put herself back to sleep after an arousal.

If you take this knowledge of how independent sleep is learned in stages, you will be much better equipped to help your child learn to sleep through the night and get the quality sleep you both need!

I wish you and your family sweet dreams!

Written by: Michelle S. Donaghy