Hello! Could you please tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
I’m Lucy Shrimpton, founder of The Sleep Nanny® where we help sleep deprived families get sleep back on track for a healthier and happier life! I wrote the book, The Sleep Nanny System and created Sleep Nanny Academy where I train and certify sleep consultants so they can provide our services to more and more families around the world.
What are the most commons problems that you see?
We see a lot of exhausted parents with little ones who struggle to settle at bedtime or wake multiple times in the night. We also see a lot of parents being woken for the day at 4.30/5.00a.m with no way of getting their little ones back to sleep. Nap challenges are also a big one with many babies not sleeping longer than 30 minutes at a time. All of these challenge can be overcome.
What are your top tips for parents to encourage children to sleep through the night?
- Consistent bedtime routine – the cue and rhythm helps them to settle more easily
- Avoid over tiredness – it’s the root of all sleep problems!
- Be utterly consistent in how you respond to wakings (no one-offs)!
What are the big no no’s?
- Intermittent reinforcement – Basically this means being inconsistent. For example, you cannot disallow a child to come into your bed and then cave in at 5a.m – It’s allowed or it’s not allowed – Clear rules.
- Screens within an hour before bedtime.
- White light or blue light in the bedroom – Be careful of light projectors that are supposed to be calming. They encourage keeping eyes open rather than closing eyes.
- Going to bed too late. A consistent bedtime of between 6-8p.m will suit most 0-8 year olds.
In what ways can diet have an effect on a childs sleep pattern?
Just like in adults, eating too much too close to sleep time can cause dicomfort or indigestion which may disrupt sleep. Too much sugar and caffeine can cause a temporary surge of alertness that will hinder sleep. Foods containing high levels of Tryptophan such as bananas, green leafy vegetables, eggs, dairy combined with some fibre filled carbohydrates are the best combination to promote healthy sleepiness.
How long does it take to change a childs sleep habits?
That’s the golden question and it’s different in every case. I’ve seen little one’s transformed in just one night and I’ve seen other take months. It is largely down to establishing the ideal plan for the individual and the caregiver’s ability to implement it consistently.
Habits generally take 21 days to form but we’re not always dealing with habits when it comes to resolving sleep challenges.
If your toddler is waking early, should they go to bed later?
NO!!! Earlier is the answer. The number one reason for early waking is over-tiredness. I always look for where the over tiredness is coming from…Are they getting enough daytime sleep at the right intervals without being awake for too long in one stretch? Is bedtime early enough and consistent?
When a child is early rising due to over-tiredness, a period of early nights is usually an essential part of the plan.
At what age should a child drop their midday nap?
Most little ones need a nap or some quiet time in the middle of the day until they are around three and a half to four years old. The really alert temperaments will appear to not need (want) this but they actually need it more and for longer than their easier going peers.
Some little ones are okay without a nap from around the third birthday if they are consistently sleeping through 12+ hours at night.
Are some children just prone to sleeping less than others?
Hmm, yes BUT that doesn’t mean they cannot sleep the ideal amount for their age/development stage. Don’t tell yourself your child just doesn’t need as much sleep as most and let yourself off the hook! No parent needs to settle for waking before 6a.m once we’re past the new baby stage and night feeds.
What would you say to a parent who hasn’t slept for years and is at their wits end?
Get some help! There is really no need to suffer and you are jeopardising yours and your family’s health, well-being, safety and happiness by soldiering on. It’s not good for you. Make the decision to turn things around before the effects take a bigger toll!