'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring....' words that give a magical tingle to any parent anticipating the excitement of Christmas morning when their children wake to see their stockings at the end of the bed, yet for many parents those words couldn’t be further from the truth and there has been plenty of stirring going on!
A poll on parenting website Netmums revealed that less than half of parents – 45.8% - say that their child regularly sleeps through the night, with more than 11% getting up three or more times, not a recipe for a well rested Mum on arguably the most hectic day of the year.
Leading UK sleep expert Karen Bramall attests that uninterrupted sleep, is the most restful, healthy kind of sleep for infants and adults. Sleep that is broken with night wakes leads to daytime tiredness, a decrease in mental flexibility and attention, as well as considerable impairments of mood.
The juggling act of keeping the turkey for 12 moist, the potatoes crispy, making sure the glasses are filled and guests out of the kitchen (a fine art on the best of days!) can become a nightmare for a parent who has been up for the day at 5am and already been woken several times in the night before that ‘joyous’ moment! Add a grisly overtired toddler into the mix and the magic of Christmas starts to lose its shine somewhat.
So how can you prevent this and get your child to drift off to sleep happily at bedtime and not wake until a respectable hour, even on Christmas Day?! Well Karen says she wishes she could tell you where to buy that magical dust that she tells her children the big red man sprinkles on them before he comes down the chimney, sadly she can’t. What she says she can tell you is that every child is capable of sleeping soundly for 10-12 hours a night and waking well-rested, attentive and cheerful, they simply need to learn how.
Karen runs the largest group of certified sleep consultants in the UK and has worked with thousands of families all over the world to solve their children’s sleep issues with her gentle caring methods, for over a decade. She is a huge fan of the Magic Blackout Blind , which she recommends to her clients.
Karen says “The best environment for us all to sleep in is darkness, and I’m talking developing photos dark! It helps to supress the hormones cortisol and adrenalin and encourages melatonin, the sleepy one to be released. Our Circadian Rhythm (or body clock) is set by daylight, a reason I always tell families I work with to keep the bedroom very dark at night. With the light mornings that we have for many months in this country its essential to make sure you have a good black out blind, and no gaps where light can sneak in around the edges. We can turn over, when it’s light outside, and see the clock at 5am and realise than we have more time before the alarm goes off, but your baby certainly can’t and when they see daylight will quite reasonably think that morning is here.”
Karen goes on to say “What I love about Magic Blackout Blind is how easy it is to us and how well it covers the whole window. I remember struggling daily with ill-fitting Velcro attached plastic blackout sheeting in my daughters’ room when she was a baby, as the fitted blackout blind that we had just didn’t block the light sufficiently. I love how well Magic Blackout blind covers the window, and how easy it is to remove from the windows in the day, and to very quickly replace for bedtime when it’s still light. It’s also brilliant for taking on holiday when you never know quite what kind of curtains you are going to get in a hotel room. These features make it the perfect choice for all of the Baby Sleep The Night certified team of consultants to recommend to parents”
Karen’s top tips for sleep can be downloaded from www.babysleepthenight.com and will tell you the fundamental rules you need to know to get you on the right track. For many people with a child that wakes every night implementing them is a daunting task in itself and if you find yourself in that situation then possibly the best present you can give yourself this Christmas is to ask for help, something many parents are afraid to do.
The poll revealed that a third of exhausted parents lie about their children’s sleeping habits because they want to be seen as perfect parents. A further 61.7% have lied about how well they are coping with sleep deprivation with parents reporting incidents such as starting kitchen fires by putting sterilising equipment on the hob because they were overtired, while others said they had collapsed and been hospitalised. If you find yourself in this position then you really are not alone and your child not sleeping is certainly not a reflection on how good a parent you are!
Sleep is a complex issue, any parent knows there’s no manual to the toughest and most rewarding job in the world so do not beat yourself up thinking you’re failing if your child doesn’t sleep well, you’re not alone and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
If you find yourself staying away from home this Christmas with your child, then look at my top tips for travelling with baby:
1. Don’t over schedule yourself – late nights will only make sleep harder for your overtired child. Stick to routines and bedtime as much as possible.
2. Make sure you bring your child’s sleeping toy/blanket and their unwashed sheets from home so that the smell is familiar.
3. Don’t share a bed with your child even for a few nights, you could find yourself having to teach them to sleep independently all over again when you get home.
4. If a separate room is unavailable then try to make some sort of private space for your baby to sleep, anywhere that you can build a partition so that if she has a night waking she is not excited to see you and thinking its playtime!
5. It is very normal for children to test the boundaries around sleep when they are somewhere new, this may mean that your baby cries for some time at bedtime or has a night waking or two. The best way to deal with this is not to do much different than if you were at home, go in and offer a little reassurance every 5 minutes or so, but other than that don’t bend - even to the pressure of your well meaning in-laws standing outside the door repeatedly asking if you’re sure the baby is ok!