Nightmares & Night Terrors: How to Tell the Difference

Nightmares and night terrors are confusing in both cause and treatment. Knowing the difference between the two is the key to determine the best way to handle them. Nightmares
Nightmares occur during REM sleep, which happens near the end of our sleep period. When children have a nightmare, they will seek comfort from their disturbing dream and recognize you upon seeing you. They are able to recall the nightmare, but it may take awhile to fall back asleep and get the scary thoughts out of their minds. Nightmares are very common and are part of normal development. Their occurrence often peaks at two or three years of age when children have rich imaginations and trouble distinguishing between reality and fantasy. Nightmares are, of course, common after difficult events or when children are re-living a trauma. Here's how to cut down on nightmares:

  • Avoid scary videos, books, etc. prior to bed.

  • Don't play scary games.

  • Respond quickly when your kid has a nightmare and assure him that he's safe.

  • Help your child get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can increase nightmares.

  • Avoid high-dose vitamins at bedtime.

  • Check with your pediatrician to make sure your child is not on any medications that might be interfering with his night sleep.

Night Terrors
Night terrors are different from nightmares in both the symptoms and the experience. When a child is experiencing a night terror she may scream and appear anxious and may not recognize you when you approach her. There may also be sweating and/or a racing heartbeat. The child is often inconsolable. The terror usually lasts between five and fifteen minutes and then subsides. These incidents are often more upsetting for the parent than they are for the child, as children do not usually remember them. Night terrors occur during NON-REM sleep and usually occur within two hours of going to sleep. Night terrors are not bad dreams. They do NOT occur during dream sleep. They are not a sign of a psychological problem.

Night terrors seem to be more common in boys, and occur in 5% of all children. Sometimes they occur when your kid is working on a developmental milestone. Your child is more likely to have night terrors if either parent had them as a child, or if either parent had a partial arousal sleep disorder such as sleepwalking. The most common cause of night terrors is sleep deprivation or a disturbance in a child's sleep patterns—like traveling to different time zones, a new home or a later bedtime. Other reasons for night terrors can include sleep apnea and fevers.

Here are some tips on how to handle night terrors:

  • If your child is having a night terror, monitor the child but avoid interfering, as this can worsen the episode.

  • Make sure your child is physically safe during the night terror.

  • Put your child to bed earlier.

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule for him.

  • Don't talk about the terror with your child in the morning.

If your child is having night terrors two to three times a week at set times during the night (i.e. 2 hours after going to sleep) try the following:

  • Keep a sleep log to chart your kid's sleep patterns.

  • Wake your child 15 minutes prior to the time he usually has an episode.

  • Do this every night for 7-10 nights in a row and you will most likely see the episodes start to diminish.

As these two phenomena differ so greatly in treatment, it's important to clearly understand the difference between nightmares and night terrors. Once you know what you're dealing with, you'll be able to help your kid deal!

Credit: Lisa Ponton

Is Melatonin Safe For Kids?

Back when I was a kid, there was an ad that ran pretty frequently on daytime television for a book called, “The Doctors Book of Home Remedies,” and even as a child, I have to admit, I was fascinated.

Try rubbing aspirin on a bee sting!

Quiet a colicky baby by running the vacuum cleaner!

Swallow a teaspoon of sugar to cure your hiccups!

I’m not sure what it is that I found so fascinating about curing ailments with common objects they had lying around the house, but obviously I wasn’t the only one. The book has sold something like 16 million copies and is still available on Amazon today.

One of the big selling points of cures like these is that they’re “natural.” We’re not taking some labdesigned chemical to solve the problem. We’re using something that’s readily available in nature. You know. Like aspirin.

I should stipulate here that I’m not antihomeopathy, nor am I anti-pharmaceutical. I feel that health decisions are something that should be carefully considered by the individual with the advice of their doctor. If probiotics will improve your gut health, I say go for it. If you need serious medication to lower your cholesterol, then you should probably take that too.

But anything your going to put in your body, and every bit as importantly, your child’s body, should be evaluated for its efficacy and possible side effects, which is why I think we should have a quick talk about melatonin.

Melatonin has been touted by a lot of homeopathic experts as a safe, natural way of helping people get to sleep, and in a lot of ways, that actually very true, but there’s a whole lot more to understand about it before you take it yourself or give it to your child.

So what is it, exactly? Well, melatonin is a hormone that’s secreted from the pineal gland that helps to settle your body and mind down when it’s time to sleep. How exactly it does that is a very


complicated process and involves more biology that I can possibly hope to understand, much less explain. So in the simplest terms, melatonin is your brain’s way of drawing the curtains for the night. Cortisol is its counterpart, which opens them back up, and the two together make up a large part of what we call our “body clock,” but more on that later.

An important point here is that melatonin is not a traditional sleep aid. As Dr. Luis Buenaver, a sleep expert from Johns Hopkins explains it, “Your body produces melatonin naturally. It doesn’t make you sleep, but as melatonin levels rise in the evening it puts you into a state of quiet wakefulness that helps promote sleep.”

How does our body know when to start producing melatonin? Quite naturally, actually. When it starts to get dark, the body recognizes the onset of night, and gets the melatonin pumps up and running. That worked like a charm for a couple of hundred thousand years, until we invented the light bulb. And the television. And the smart phone. And the laptop.

Nowadays our eyes are flooded with so much artificial light that it can be difficult for our brains to determine when night is actually coming on, and it can interfere with melatonin production. That can mess up our body clocks and contribute to insomnia.

Now, in some cases, jet-lag and shift work being the biggest two, a melatonin supplement can help reset our body clocks if they’ve been thrown out of whack, but it’s not a solution to sleep issues. My first piece of advice to people who are having trouble sleeping is to turn off their screens a couple of hours before bed, turn down the house lights, and come up with a bedtime routine. Let your body know that it’s time to sleep, and it’ll do almost all of the leg work for you.

Side note: This is not the case for insomniacs. People with psychological or physical conditions that inhibit their sleep should definitely consult with their physicians.

Now, when it comes to kids, all of this information still applies. Newborns are something of an exception, as they don’t start producing melatonin and cortisol until they’re about 2 months old. Until then, they’re kind of flying by the seat of their pants, sleep-wise, as I’m sure you probably already know if you have any of your own. But past the 2 month mark, they start to establish a 24hour light-dark sleep cycle, which is the standard sleep cycle that we follow throughout our lives.

So now we get to the big question... “Will giving my child melatonin help them sleep through the night?”

And the answer is, “No it will not.”

It might help them GET to sleep at night, but it will not help them stay asleep.

This isn’t just my opinion, by the way. This is the general consensus of sleep specialist, researchers, and doctors worldwide. The National Sleep Foundation has found that, “...when scientists conduct tests to compare melatonin as a “sleeping pill” to a placebo (sugar pill) most studies show no benefit of melatonin.”

I do think being fully informed is important, of course. Melatonin is a hormone and can have serious side effects. There have also been studies that showed early sexual development in animal subjects given melatonin, but the link in human children hasn’t been established.

Again, I am not in any way against homeopathic or naturopathic medicine. Even in cases where the effects are psychological, and for some people, melatonin does indeed get them to sleep quicker and help them sleep through the night. If it’s just a placebo effect for some of them, no biggie. They’re getting the sleep they need and that’s vitally important in its own right.

But when it comes to young kids, I feel that it’s essential for us as parents to teach them the skills they need to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own.

And here’s the good news. Kids and sleep go together like jelly and ice-cream. They need a LOT of sleep, and for a short period on their lives, everything in their bodies is tuned to help ensure they get it. All they need from us is a little guidance and a determination to step out of the way sometimes so they can develop the ability to get to sleep and stay asleep on their own.

You can check out some of my other blog posts for tips on how to teach independent sleep skills, since this is already getting a little wordy, but giving them any kind of sleep aid is definitely not the answer, whether it’s melatonin or Benadryl. Just like learning any other skill, it takes practice and time. There’s no supplement that can teach you how to play an instrument, teach you long division, or sharpen your golf game. Sleep is, in essence, exactly the same thing. It’s a skill that needs to be developed, and once it is, it comes easily and naturally, so before you reach for the pills, try establishing a predictable, consistent bedtime routine, shutting down the TVs and tablets a couple of hours before bed, and encouraging your child to fall asleep without feeding, rocking, or other forms of outside help. I promise you, the results will be better than anything you’ll get from a pill, and they’ll last them a lifetime.

The Wonder Of Nap...

Sleep we all go through motions every day and hopefully you all get that much needed rest at night but do you ever stop and think about it in depth and how beneficial naps are to Young Children? 

For Children quality of sleep is as important as quantity, its plays an essential role in the development of your little ones nervous system. Naps as well as sleep at bedtime are crucial to healthy sleep of children. Naps help optimise your child's alertness and have impact on their learning & further development. Naps and bedtime sleep are very different to one another and both have their key factors. 

Lets face it I am sure their are many of you adults right now reading this who would love a nap but even though you would like this is it not a necessity like it is for young children, naps are a crucial player in the daily routine of little ones. 

Here are some benefits of Napping: 
1. Naps Supplement night time sleep where some children may have trouble sleeping

2. Children are less tired during the day which means they are more attentive, cooperative and willing to learn

3. Important brain development is properly fostered

4. Limits Children being over tired, which you may laugh but is a huge factor for children who have difficulty sleeping at night. Naps aid Bedtime. 

Sleep varies between ages groups: 

Under Six Months - average requirement is 14-18 hours with usual wakings being every few hours 

6-12 Months - around 14 hours is a good total - this would include 1-2 naps in day time 

1 - 3 Years Old - 12-14 Hours Now including 1 Nap Usually 

3 - 5 Years Old - 11-12 Hours - with only sleep at night and no Naps

5- 12 Years Old - 10-11 Hours - With only Sleep at night and No naps 

Making Naps part if your every day routine is important not only for the young child but also yourself as the parent, in this time you get to either nap yourself if your are having bad nights or it gives you opportunity to catch up on daily tasks and have a moment to yourself. A tired child can make for a stressful home, so Naps will help aid this. 

Create the perfect sanctuary for napping, when you know its time for your little ones nap follow these easy steps to make it a little easier: 

1. Make the Room as Dark as possible, you can buy Black out blinds or even cover the window yourself with card or bin bags (not aiming for style here) 

2. Put some white noise on or calming music, you can get machines that offer these sounds, sleep aids like teddies or simply put the sounds on a speaker or phone - Spotify and YouTube have great channels for such noises. Playing such sounds helps drown out other noises which may wake your little one plus it creates a lovely calm ambience. 

3. You can get some lovely Child safe sprays which have some lavender scents in, you can always spritz the room before your little one enters, this not only smells lovely but sets a chilled tone which is always helpful for nap time. 

We know sleeping and Naps are some times easy said then done, we know every child is different and we know getting a good routine in place is not always easy. This is why Helens Sweet Slumbers is here, we know parents need support and we have been trained to help little ones sleep better. So please do not struggle, get in contact today for a free consultation and we can discuss further making sleeping better all round. 

Extending Babies Nap Times

Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar…

Your baby wakes up in the morning after a solid night’s sleep. You feed her, change her, play with her for a little bit, take her for a little walk outside, then rock her to sleep and put her gently into her crib for her morning nap.

And then, 30 minutes later, she wakes up fussy and irritable and, despite your pleading, bargaining, and offers of riches, refuses to go back to sleep.

So after half an hour of trying to put her back down, you finally give in, hoping she’ll be that much more tired when her afternoon nap rolls around, only to have the exact same scenario play out again, and baby is a cranky ball of unhappiness for the rest of the day.

Sleep, like food, is one of those elements where baby’s got the final say on whether or not they’re going to cooperate, so there’s no sense trying to force the issue. If they’re not sleeping, just leaving them in their room usually won’t fix things.

So here’s what’s going on, and how to fix it. Babies, just like the rest of us, sleep in cycles. We start off in a light state where we’re easily woken up, then gradually fall into a deeper stage where even loud noises or movement might not be able to rouse us. This, incidentally, is the good stuff. This is the really rejuvenative, restful sleep where our brains and bodies do all of the maintenance work that leaves us refreshed, clear-headed and energetic when we get enough.

Once we’ve come to the end of the deep-sleep cycle, we slowly start coming back to the light stage again, and typically we wake up for a few seconds and then drift off again, and the whole thing starts again. In adults, one of those cycles typically takes about an hour and a half. In babies, it can be as little as 30 minutes. So the fact that your baby is waking up after only 30 minutes is actually completely natural. In fact, if she wasn’t waking up regularly, that might be cause for concern.

“But,” you’re thinking, “I have friends whose babies nap for two or three hours at a time.” Well, that’s partially true. But in a more literal sense, they’re stringing together several sleep cycles in a row. The only difference between their baby and your baby is…

Drumroll please…

They’ve learned how to fall back to sleep on their own.

That’s it. That really is the heart of the issue. Once your baby can fall asleep without help, they’ll start stringing together those sleep cycles like an absolute champ. That’s going to make your baby a whole lot happier and, on the self-indulgent side, leave you with two hours at a time to do whatever you like. (Granted, as a new mother, “whatever you like” might not mean what it

once did, but still, two hours twice a day to catch up on motherhood-related tasks is something we can all appreciate.)

So remember back at the start of that scenario, there you were, getting ready to put baby down for her nap, gently rocking her to sleep and then putting her down in her crib.

Stop right there. That’s where you need to make some changes. Because in this scenario, you are acting as what we in the sleep consulting business refer to as a “sleep prop.”

Sleep props are basically anything that your baby uses to make the transition from awake to asleep. Pacifiers are the most common example, but there are many others, including feeding, rocking, singing, bouncing, snuggling, and car rides.

Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t rock your baby, or sing to her, or read her stories, or love her like crazy. You absolutely should.

Just not to the point where she falls asleep.

When it comes to bedtime, whatever time of the day that might be, put your baby down in her crib, while she’s still awake, and let her fall asleep on her own.

There might be a little bit of protest for a day or two, but for the majority of my clients, the results start to materialize in about two or three days.

Think about that. Two or three days, and you and your little one could be enjoying the extraordinary

benefits of proper sleep. She’ll be happier, healthier, more energetic, and you’ll both sleep better at night to boot.

Some other pointers for extending baby’s nap time…

● Keep the bedroom as dark as possible. Buy some blackout blinds if the sun is getting in, or if you’re on a budget, tape some black garbage bags over the windows. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be functional. ● White noise machines are useful if baby tends to wake up due to the neighbor’s barking dog, the inconsiderate delivery guy ringing the doorbell, or any other noise that might startle them out of their nap. Just make sure it’s not too close to their ears and not too loud. 50 dB is the recommended limit. ● If you’re running into trouble applying these suggestions, give me a call and set up a free 15 minute consultation. The solution might be simpler than it appears, and most of my clients see a dramatic improvement in just one or two sessions

5 Common Myths About Baby’s Sleep

I can clearly remember, like most mothers I’m sure, the very moment I gave birth to my first child. I was absolutely buried in feelings of love and gratitude. And then, about ten to fifteen seconds later, I was equally buried in advice, suggestions, and information. This was all thrown at me with the best intentions, but it was overwhelming nonetheless. I can’t imagine the number of times I heard the words, “You should,”  “You’ll want to,” and “You’ve got to.” If there’s no such number as a “kajillion,” it should be created specifically in order to measure the number of suggestions a new mother receives in her first year of motherhood. Of course, those feelings of love and gratitude persist to this day, and so do the recommendations. And that’s coming from an expert, a professional, in the child care field. I can only imagine the tidal waves of hints and advice that must overwhelm a mother who openly asks for it. There’s no such thing as a casual mom. This gig is full-time, no matter if you’re a stay-at-home-mom, a working mom, or somewhere in between. Your kids are on your mind 24/7, no matter what else might be going on, so we tend to do a lot of research, and with access to unlimited data via the internet, Barnes & Noble, or your mother-in-law, (the latter having the most to say, by a mile) it’s inevitable that we get some conflicting information. Although when it comes to kids, I think the discussion even eclipses politics for the sheer divisiveness and claiming opinion as fact. So today, I want to focus on my area of expertise, that being sleep, and try to dispel some of the more popular myths I’ve seen in parenting forums, heard from Mom groups I’ve talked with, or had angrily shouted in all caps on my Facebook page.

1. Sleeping too much during the day will keep baby up at night. Not likely, except in extreme cases. Unless your little one is sleeping practically all day and up all night, you probably don’t need to concern yourself with the length of their naps. Newborns especially need a ton of sleep. In fact, up until about 6 months, I don’t recommend that your little one be awake for more than about 2 - 21/2 hours at a time. For newborns, that number is more like 45 minutes to an hour. 

What keeps babies awake at night, more than anything else, is overtiredness. You might think that an exhausted baby is more likely to sack out for a full night than one who slept all day, but it’s actually just the opposite. The reason we refer to it as being “overtired” is because baby has missed the “tired” phase and their bodies start to kick back into gear, which keeps them from falling and staying asleep. A baby who has gotten a decent amount of sleep during the day is far less likely to miss the sleep window. There are substantial variations depending on baby’s age and the length of their naps, but up to that 6 month mark, it’s really not uncommon for baby to be sleeping around 5 hours a day outside of night-time sleep, so if your little one is still within those guidelines, let them snooze.

2. Sleeping is a natural development and can’t be taught. Sleeping is natural, absolutely. Everybody wakes up and falls back to sleep multiple times a night, regardless of their age. So no, you can’t teach a child to be sleepy. What can be taught, however, is the ability to fall back to sleep independently. The typical “bad sleeper” of a baby isn’t less in need of sleep, or more prone to waking up. They’ve just learned to depend on outside assistance to get back to sleep when they wake up. Once your little one has figured out how to get to sleep without assistance from outside sources, they start stringing those sleep cycles together absolutely effortlessly, and that’s the secret to “sleeping through the night” as most parents understand it.

3. Babies will naturally dictate their own sleep schedule The idea that infant physiology is so flawlessly, naturally programmed to regulate a baby’s schedule is, to be blunt, laughable. Nothing against Mother Nature, but she doesn’t provide us with a ready-to-run baby like she does with say, the blue wildebeest. (Seriously? Walking six minutes after birth? Outrunning predators within a day? Our babies are cuter, but clearly not as prepared for battle straight out of the womb.) 

Our babies need extensive care and help in their development, and their sleep cycles are unbelievably erratic if left unregulated. If they miss their natural sleep cycle by as little as a half hour, their cortisol production can increase which causes a surge in energy, and things quickly spiral out of control. So as much as I wish babies could just fall asleep when they’re tired, it simply doesn’t work that way. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t respond to their cues, but you shouldn’t rely exclusively on them either.

4. Sleep training is stressful for the baby and can affect the parent-child attachment. Nope. And this isn’t just me talking here. This is the American Academy of Pediatrics. If there’s a more reliable source of baby health information, they’re astoundingly bad at marketing themselves. And according to a 2016 study conducted by eight of their top researchers, behavioral intervention, (A.K.A Sleep training) “provide(s) significant sleep benefits above control, yet convey(s) no adverse stress responses or long-term effects on parent-child attachment or child emotions and behavior.” Not a whole lot of gray area there.

5. Babies are not “designed” to sleep through the night. Putting aside our religious beliefs for a moment, I think we can all agree that, even if babies were “designed” somehow, whoever did the designing left plenty of room for some upgrades. Trusting your child’s physiology to dictate their sleep schedule, their eating habits, their behaviour, or just about any other aspect of their upbringing is a recipe for disaster.

 Is your toddler designed to eat three pounds of gummi bears? Surely not. Will they if you don’t intervene? Without a doubt. Is your baby designed to avoid predators? If so, nobody told my little ones, who would have happily hugged a hungry Siberian tiger if it approached them. (They might still, I don’t know. It’s never come up.) 

Our little ones need our expertise and authority to guide them through their early years, and probably will for decades after that. This is especially true when it comes to their sleep. Some babies are naturally gifted sleepers, for sure, but don’t rely on the advice of those who tell you that babies should dictate their schedules. You’re in charge because you know best, even if it may not feel like it sometimes. There are obviously plenty more myths and misconceptions surrounding babies and their sleep habits, but these are some of the most important to get the facts on. Remember, there are endless posts on social media and websites that portray themselves as factual, but there’s nothing stopping them from making that claim, regardless of their accuracy or basis in actual scientific evidence. Google scholar is a great place to find peer-reviewed scientific study on all things baby-related, and trusted sources like the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, American Academy of Paediatrics, the National Institutes of Health, Britain’s National Health Service, Canada’s Hospital for Sick Children, the World Health Organization, and other national children’s health organizations are excellent sources of information you can feel confident about using to answer questions about your baby’s health. And if you want more information about the benefits of sleep, I’m willing to talk about it to the point of obnoxiousness

8 Essential Back-To-School Sleep Tips

Can you believe it’s September! For some parents, that means back to school this month!

Some will be going back to school and getting back in the routine. Some Mums and Dads will have to move their schedules around to dropping off and picking up the kiddos at school, after school sports and activities, packing lunches and the dreaded homework !

For those of you with kids, back to school time means we get back onto a nice, predictable schedule. Or so we hope…

The first few weeks after the kids get back to class can be a little irregular.  Usually because we’ve been letting them stay up late.

Returning them to a proper schedule can be a bit of an ordeal, but don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. Here are a few strategies to get your little ones’ snooze cycle back in sync

• Don’t wait until school starts six weeks of late bedtimes isn’t something you can just snap back from in a night. Your child is going to need some time to adjust, so two weeks before school gets back in, start moving bedtimes back by 15 minutes every 4 nights or so.

• Set a timer. This is a great way of deflecting the blame away from you. After all, it’s not you hustling them to get to bed. It’s the timer! It can also be a fun challenge for them to get ready before it goes off. Put a sticker on the calendar for every night they beat the clock, and offer a reward for a perfect week.

• Turn off those screens:- Computer, TV, and phone screens all emit blue light, which tricks our internal clocks into thinking that it’s still daytime. If you want my advice, power down the electronics at dinnertime and keep them off until the next morning. (This goes for parents too!)

• Routine, routine, routine! It doesn’t matter if your child is going into reception or year 12. A good sleep routine is essential. It’s not just about getting them physically ready for bed. The routine signals their brain that bedtime is approaching, and the brain starts shutting down in preparation for sleep.

• Schedule an appropriate bedtime. Every child is different, so you probably have a good idea when they should go to bed. This is provided, of course, that your idea is 8:00. “Well,” I can hear some of you saying, “my child usually doesn’t get tired until around 10 or 10:30, so I figure…” Let me just stop you right there. 8:00 every night. Full stop. No later. Kids need at least 10 hours of sleep a night, so unless you can wake them up and get them ready for school in half an hour, 8:00 it is.

• Keep the room cool and dark. The sun is still staying up late and getting up early through September, so make sure the blinds in your child’s room are blocking it out. The sun also has a habit of heating up the bedrooms, so set the thermostat somewhere between 60 and 70 degrees an hour before bedtime.

• Allow some reading time. Whether you’re reading to your kids or they’re reading on their own, a half hour of book time is a great way to wind down before going to sleep. The repetitive eye motion and low-level brain activity is a natural sedative. (Which is why so many of us find ourselves falling asleep while reading to our kids).

• Remove temptation.  Older kids with cell phones can be tempted to sneak a few extra minutes of text messaging or web surfing if they’ve got their phones in their rooms with them. Keep their chargers in the kitchen and get them to plug in before bed.

If you still need help getting back in a routine, book a free call with me today and let’s get started BEFORE school starts!

Electronic Devices

Ninety percent of people in the U.S. admit to using a technological device during the hour before turning in, and children often use electronic media to help them relax at night. If you’re among these nighttime technology-users, you may not realize the extent to which this can make it harder to settle down to sleep. But it can. The truth is, using electronic devices before bedtime can be physiologically and psychologically stimulating in ways that can adversely affect your sleep.
Here’s what happens: Using TVs, tablets, smartphones, laptops, or other electronic devices before bed delays your body’s internal clock (a.k.a., your circadian rhythm), suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and makes it more difficult to fall asleep. This is largely due to the short-wavelength, artificial blue light that’s emitted by these devices. The more electronic devices that a person uses in the evening, the harder it is to fall asleep or stay asleep. Besides increasing your alertness at a time when you should be getting sleepy, which in turn delays your bedtime, using these devices before turning in delays the onset of REM sleep, reduces the total amount of REM sleep, and compromises alertness the next morning. Over time, these effects can add up to a significant, chronic deficiency in sleep.

All of this is true for kids and adults alike. It’s important to initiate a digital curfew for the entire family, a time at which you and your kids turn off all electronic devices for the night. Try setting the curfew at two hours before bed, one hour before bed, or even 30 minutes before bed—the earlier in the evening, the better, but whatever feels realistic.
One good substitution is reading. Reading an old-fashioned, printed book under lamplight (as opposed to bright overhead lighting) is a great choice. And using an e-ink e-reader (like the Kindle Paperwhite, as opposed to the Kindle Fire) is also a good idea, because it doesn't produce the same type of blue light that a smartphone or tablet would.

Early Wake Ups

What can I do to get my baby to sleep in longer in the morning?

Early wake ups can be very frustrating for parents. Just when you think you´re going to get a full night sleep and bam! Baby starts waking up at 5am. This is a really common problem and there are a few things we can look at to help babies sleep for longer.

You need to keep it as dark as possible in the baby´s room. If possible, as dark as it would be in the middle of the night, especially in the summer months. It´s great living in places such as Spain because most apartments are fitted with black out blinds which keep the room like the deepest darkest of caves. It´s really important to keep the light out because even the slightest change in light variation can stimulate anybody to wake up. As an adult, you can look at the clock and notice that it’s not time to get up, yet. A baby can’t do that.

Another tip is to make sure you have an early bedtime. A lot of people make the mistake of keeping their child up later so they will sleep later in the morning. That´s a myth and hardly ever works. What you actually end up doing is making your child overtired which leads to night wakings and early rising. So make sure you stick with a nice early bedtime to make sure your child is getting as much night sleep as possible.

Look at food intake throughout the day. I know a lot of people tend to force large dinners on children hoping they will sleep longer in the morning. But that can also backfire. If you have a really big dinner and are so full when you go to bed, you can actually be kept awake from tummy pains while your body is trying to digest. One thing you can try is to make sure you give your child a decent size afternoon tea. Don´t skip over afternoon tea, it´s really important. Preferably something healthy and filling, like fruit with yogurt, milk and some sugar free cookies.
Another important thing is try not to feed your child as soon as he wakes up. If you get into the habit of feeding him at 5am, his body will start waking him up at 5am for that feed. Try to drag it out until at least 6 or 630. Have a play, have a cuddle, read a book all in a darkened room – but don´t feed him until later. That way you are helping to train his body to wake up later and have a fixed breakfast time.

If you have tried all of these things and your baby is STILL waking up early, you will have to just stick it out for a while. It´s normally a temporary thing and in a couple of weeks your child will just start naturally sleeping for longer. Any changes you make you will need to stick with for around 2 weeks to see any permanent changes. It takes a while for our bodies to accept change and new routines.

4 Reasons Why Tired Parents Hire Sleep Consultants

Why in the world do people hire sleep consultants? When there seems to be an unlimited amount of information available online and on the shelves of Chapters, it can seem a little bewildering to imagine budgeting for a professional to help you get your baby to sleep through the night!

I get it, Mumma!

I mean, our parents didn’t need professionals to help us sleep through the night, and we all have that friend with three kids who all slept like angels from the day they came home from the hospital. Surely, they have some wisdom to impart. Maybe they do.

But, when you’ve tried it all and are still ‘Sleepless in the UK’ it might be time to call in the big guns.

So, why do people in the UK (or where ever you are) choose to hire a professional to help to build better sleep habits for their children?

Parents choose to hire sleep consultants because they want to get their children sleeping well without a bunch of trial and error and fuss.  

When you have a problem at work that you don’t know how to fix, you hire an expert to handle it. Valuable resources can be wasted by trying every idea and suggestion that comes your way and valuable sleep can be lost trying to troubleshoot your baby’s sleep. Get straight to the point by bringing in a professional who is experienced and trained to identify what is causing your problem (your baby won’t sleep more than a couple of hours at a time, associates feeding with going to sleep, etc.) and let them develop a customised strategy.  

Tired parents choose to work with a sleep consultant because they don’t want to go it alone.

You’re so sleep deprived your coffee needs coffee. You need support and guidance from someone who gets it! A sleep consultant can be your new sleep BFF! Most sleep consultants provide a range of packages that allow you to choose just how much support you need from an intensive 30 minute consulting call to support at bed time in the comfort of your home. You don’t have to feel alone.

Tired parents choose to work with a sleep consultant to be sure they’re putting their baby to bed safely and want reassurance that they’re doing what’s best for their family.

You share a deep connection with your child and want to be sure that you are meeting their needs and keeping them safe.

Babies and children often protest when developing healthy sleep habits and that can make it challenging to identify whether you are doing what is best for your baby. A sleep consultant provides a plan to meet your family’s needs and then provides the support to help you follow through, with reassurance that you’re doing everything you can to keep your baby safe and healthy.

A sleep consultant can help you to relax through the process of implementing your sleep plan and reassure you that all is normal and well.

Sleep consultants are a reliable resource for well researched (and still tired) parents.

Many clients are well researched in the ways, methods and theories behind pediatric sleep. For the knowledgeable client, there can be a lot of anxiety around choosing the best method for your child or forgetting necessary information and steps.

Working with a sleep consultant means you can have a clear plan and someone to reach out to for clarity. Unlike family and friends who offer well-meaning advice, your sleep consultant is not emotionally attached to your experience. For someone who is looking for unemotional support and information, a sleep consultant is the perfect caring resource.

If any of these reasons resonate with you in your search for more sleep, I encourage you to contact me with questions.  I would love to meet you where you are in the process of developing a sleep plan for your family and help you and your child get the sleep you need!

The Four Month Sleep Regression

As a professional sleep consultant, I hear the term “regression” used in regards to just about every imaginable circumstance. Essentially, if baby doesn’t sleep well for a couple of nights, parents start dropping the ‘R’ word. Some people subscribe to the idea that there’s an eight month regression, a 9 month regression, a 1 year regression, as well as teething regressions, growth spurt regressions, and so on. Others see these as simple hiccups caused by extenuating circumstances.

But the four-month regression, everybody agrees on, and for good reason. It’s the real deal, and it’s permanent.

So in order to understand what’s happening to your baby during this stage, first you need to know a few things about sleep in general. So here’s the science-y part, told in plain English.

Many of us just think of sleep as an on-or-off situation. You’re either asleep or you’re not. But sleep actually has a number of different stages, and they make up the “sleep cycle,” which we go through several times a night.

Stage 1 is that initial stage we’re all familiar with where you can just feel yourself drifting off, but don’t really feel like you’ve fallen asleep. Anyone who has ever seen their partner nodding off in front of the TV, told them to go to bed, and gotten the canned response of, “I wasn’t sleeping!” knows exactly what this looks like.

Stage 2, which is considered the first “true sleep” stage. This is where people tend to realize, once woken up, that they actually were sleeping. For anyone taking a “power nap,” this is as deep as you want to go, or else you’re going to wake up groggy.

Stage 3 is deep and regenerative. Also known as “slow wave” sleep, this is where the body starts repairing and rejuvenating the immune system, muscles tissue, energy stores, and sparks growth and development.

Stage 4 is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This is where the brain starts to kick in and consolidates information and memories from the day before. It’s also the stage where we do most of our dreaming.

Once we’ve gone through all of the stages, we either wake up or come close to waking up, and then start over again until the alarm goes off.

So what does this have to do with the dreaded regression we were talking about originally?

Well, newborn babies only have 2 stages of sleep; stage 3 and REM, and they spend about half their sleep in each stage. But at around the third or fourth month, there is a reorganization of sleep, as they embrace the 4-stage method of sleep that they’ll continue to follow for the rest of their lives.

When this change takes place, baby moves from 50% REM sleep to 25% in order to make room for those first two stages. So although REM sleep is light, it’s not as light as these 2 new stages that they’re getting used to, and with more time spent in lighter sleep, there’s more of a chance that baby’s going to wake up.

That’s not to say that we want to prevent or avoid baby waking up. Waking up is absolutely natural, and we continue to wake up three, four, five times a night into adulthood and even more in old age.

As adults, however, we’re able to identify certain comforting truths that baby might not be privy to. When we wake in the night, we’re able to recognize that, “Hey, I’m here in my bed, it’s still nighttime, my alarm isn’t going to go off for another three hours, and I’m reasonably certain that there are no monsters lurking under my bed. I can go back to sleep”

And we do. Usually so quickly that, the next morning, we don’t even remember the brief encounter with consciousness.

A four month old baby, of course, lacks these critical thinking skills. To a four month old baby who fell asleep at her mother’s breast, the reasoning could go much more to the tune of, “OK, last thing I remember, there was a familiar, beloved face, I was having dinner, and someone was singing me a soothing song about the Teddy Bears’ Picnic. Now I’m alone in this dark room, there’s no food, and there’s probably at least three, possibly four, scary monsters in the immediate vicinity.”

That’s probably an exaggeration, but who knows what goes on in the mind of a four month-old baby?

Anyways, now that baby’s suddenly realized that Momma’s not around, and they’re not entirely sure where they’ve gone, the natural response is to do a little freaking out. That stimulates the fight-or-flight response and, next thing you know, baby’s not going back to sleep without a significant amount of reassurance that everything is OK.

The other major contributor to this 4 month fiasco, I find, is that up until this point, parents have either been putting their baby to sleep with a pacifier, or by rocking them, or by breastfeeding them, or some similar technique where baby is helped along on the road to falling asleep.

Now that baby’s spending more time in light sleep, and therefore has a higher probability of waking up, this suddenly becomes a much bigger issue. These sleep props or sleep associations can be very sneaky indeed, because although they may be helpful in getting your little one to that initial nodding off stage, the lack of them when they wake up means that baby’s not able to get back to sleep again without some outside help. Cue the fight-or-flight, the crying, and the adrenaline. When this starts happening every half an hour, parents can find themselves in a nightmarish situation.

So, the good news for anyone experiencing the dreaded Four Month Sleep Regression is that it’s not, in fact, a regression at all. A regression is defined as “reversion to an earlier mental or behavioral level,” and that’s actually the opposite of what your baby is experiencing. This would be much more aptly titled the “Four Month Sleep Progression

So, onto the big question. What can you do to help your little one adjust?

First off, get all of that light out of baby’s room. I’m not kidding around here. You might think that baby’s room is dark enough, or that baby might not like the dark, and that it’s comforting to have a little bit of light coming through the windows or seeping in from the hallway.


Baby’s room should be dark. I mean coal mine on a moonless night kind of dark. Tape garbage bags over the windows if you have to, or cover them with tinfoil. (Just be prepared to explain it to the police when the neighbors accuse you of running a grow-op.)

Newborns and infants are not afraid of the dark. They are, however, responsive to light. Light tells their brains that it’s time for activity and alertness, and the brain secretes hormones accordingly, so we want to keep that nursery absolutely pitch black during naps and bedtime.

The other nemesis of daytime sleep, (and nighttime for that matter, although not nearly as often) is noise. Whether its UPS ringing the doorbell, the dog warning you that the squirrels are back and for sure going to attack the house this time, or something falling on the floor three rooms away. With baby spending more time in lighter sleep, noises will startle them easily and wake them up, so a white noise machine is a great addition to your nursery.

“Wait, isn’t that a prop,” you’re asking. Well, in a way, it is, but it doesn’t require any winding, resetting, reinserting, or parental presence. It’s just there and it can be on as long as baby’s sleeping, so it’s not a prop we need to avoid.

Bedtime routines are also an essential component to getting your baby sleeping well. Try to keep the routine to about 4 or 5 steps, and don’t end it with a feed. Otherwise, you risk baby nodding off at the breast or the bottle, and that will create the dreaded “association” that we talked about earlier.

So try to keep the feed near the beginning of the routine and plan the songs, stories, and getting into PJs towards the end.  The whole process should be about 20 - 30 minutes long, and baby should go into their crib while they’re still awake.

If you’re noticing baby getting fussy before bedtime, you’ve probably waited too long. Four month old babies should really only be going about two hours between snoozes, and bedtime should be between 7 and 8 at night.

Now, there are going to be regressions, actual regressions, later on in your little one’s youth. Traveling, illness,  cutting teeth, all of these things can cause your little one to have a few bad nights in a row. But when it comes to the four month “progression,” I’m happy to report that this is a one-time thing. Once you’re through this, your baby will have officially moved into the sleep cycle that they’ll essentially be following for the rest of their life. Four glorious stages repeated multiple times a night.

And by taking this opportunity to teach them the skills they need to string those sleep cycles together, independently, prop-free, without any need for nursing, rocking, or pacifiers, you’ll have given them a gift that they’ll enjoy for the rest of their young lives.

Of course, some kids are going to take to this process like a fish to water, and some are going to be a little more resistant. If yours falls into the former category, count yourself as lucky, take delight in your success, and go ahead and gloat about it on Facebook.

For those of you in the latter camp, I’m happy to help in any way I can. Just visit my website or give me a call and we can work on a more personalized program for your little one. The most common thing I hear after working with clients is, “I can’t believe I waited so long to get some help!” So if you’re considering hiring a consultant, now is absolutely the time. I offer a free 15 minute evaluation so I can get to know the specifics about your little one’s situation, so book a call now and we can move forward as soon as you’re ready to get your little one sleeping through the night!

Baby Sleep Cycles

We all need sleep otherwise we feel drowsy and unable to cope with life’s normal demands. Lack of sleep effect’s every aspect of our daily lives. This is the same no matter what age you are. We need sleep so our brains can rest.  Sleep allows the brain to do its “filing”. When we sleep our brain sorts out and stores information, it can solve problems! Scientists also believe that it is when the brain produces proteins and hormones. If you miss one night’s sleep you might feel irritable the next day, if you miss two night’s sleep you may not be able to think properly or focus. If you miss a number of consecutive nights sleep you may begin to hallucinate. Therefore sleep is vital for you to be able to function properly and carry out normal daily tasks.

Baby Sleep Cycles are Important
Deep sleep (Non-REM sleep) restores the body and is vital to remain healthy. It repairs tissues and muscles, boosts your immune system and stimulates growth and development. Light sleep (REM sleep) is very important for your mind. It processes the information you have learned during the day and produces dopamine and serotonin which are feel good chemicals which will help your mood during the day.

When we sleep, we go through a sleep cycle of deep sleep and light sleep. You go from one sleep stage to the next right through the night. Usually when an adult goes to sleep they go into a deep sleep for the first hour or two, then into a light sleep for twenty minutes, back into a deep sleep for 1 hour and then a light sleep for approximately 30 minutes. As the night goes on the amount of time you spend in a deep sleep shortens and the light sleep lengthens.

When babies or young children sleep they spend a lot less time in a deep sleep and more time in a light sleep. According to Dr Richard Ferber there are 4 sleep stages, Awake, REM, Light Non-REM and Deep Non-REM. Newborn children enter REM sleep immediately after falling asleep. By about 3 months of age a babies sleep cycle changes and they enter a non-REM sleep stage before REM sleep as we do as adults.

A child will go from being awake to a Deep Non-REM sleep within 20 minutes. He/she will remain in a deep Non-REM sleep for approximately 60 to 90 minutes, followed by a brief Light Non-REM sleep for about 10 minutes. He/She will then return to a Deep Non-REM sleep for another hour or so. The child may then awake briefly and return to a Light Non-REM sleep for 30/40 minutes before returning to a brief Deep Non-REM sleep. After this the child will go from REM sleep to Light Non-REM sleep with some brief awakenings for approximately the next 5 hours. In the early morning he/she will return to a Deep Non-REM sleep followed by a brief awakening to a brief REM sleep to brief Light Non-REM sleep until they are finally awake for the day.

Considering Ferbers’ analysis of the baby sleep pattern, it is inevitable that the child can awaken a couple of hours after being put to sleep, with an increasing probability of awakening as night goes on.

Normally problems arise when a child is unable to resettle themselves after a brief awakening when non-REM sleep has been completed. This could be due to the child being hungry, circumstances having being changed after they went to sleep (i.e. not in parents’ arms anymore or their soother falls out), feeling unwell or uncomfortable, etc.  Also, when children awake briefly they can talk to themselves or cry for a few moments.  If a parent is too quick to respond to these activities the child may become fully aroused and be unable to resettle themselves back to sleep.

When a parent reacts too quickly in these instances, the baby can rapidly learn a negative sleep association of requiring the parents’ presence and not be able to resettle themselves unassisted.  The resultant effect is that the parent must constantly tend to the child at every awakening throughout the night.

If these negative sleep associations are not addressed they can last for 3 years or may even lead to a lifetime of sleep problems for the child.  It is vitally important that children get sufficient amounts of sleep as sleep deprivation can not only increase temper tantrums and irritability but can also lead to a poor immune system, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, increased risk of obesity and diabetes and children may be more accident prone or even develop depression.

A child who is not getting a sufficient amount of sleep is not processing the information they are learning during the day as they should. Their memory will most likely be negatively affected. They are unlikely to be as aware of their environment as other children, as they may not be as alert during the day.  As lack of sleep also affects hand eye co-ordination their fine motor skills could suffer, this can lead to problems in their confidence and their ability to do things for themselves. In an older child, they may not be interested in physical activities due to fatigue and spend more time on the couch which can in some cases lead to obesity.

Inevitably, the child’s sleep problems will in turn affect the whole family as if the child is waking frequently during the night, his/her parents are also being deprived of sleep. This subsequently can lead to an increased likelihood of moodiness and irritability, depression, poor judgement, marital problems, illness, loss of motivation and in obtuse cases, depression.

As you can see, sleep deprivation has numerous effects on children and their entire family. Therefore, it is vitally important that sleep problems are addressed as soon as possible for all concerned.   Negative sleep associations should be changed as early as possible so that child does not suffer long-term from the effects of sleep deprivation.