BY HEATHER COLLINS
Putting a child to sleep is easier said than done. It’s a struggle that affects many parents with infants and toddlers. Joleen Dilk Salyn, a certified child sleep consultant and founder of Baby Sleep 101, (Manitoba’s only Family Sleep Institute’s Certified Baby and Child Sleep Consulting service), has dedicated herself to helping parents over come this problem.
“Sleep is a fundamental building block for good health, just like healthy eating habits. We have two types of sleep REM and Non-Rem. In the Non-REM sleep, we cycle through various stages. In our deepest and most restorative stages (stage 3 and 4), our immune system is repaired and new tissue is regenerated and damaged ones are repaired. Simply put, we need quality sleep to be at our best and to be healthy. All sleep is not equal and fragmented, broken and short sleep isn’t as healthy as long stretches, especially at night.”
Salyn, who struggled her own daughter’s relentless sleep issues, has first hand experience on how frustrating and stressful the issues can be.
“My daughter had multiple sleep issues and it became so bad that my husband and I felt we couldn’t have any more kids. We were that stressed out and sleep deprived. That was a wake up call and I reached out for help. After we solved her issues, I became so passionate about helping other parents so they didn’t have to go through what we did. It came naturally to me, having a teaching background, to want to teach other parents. I became a certified sleep consultant and have helped parents across the country in the past two years.
After discovering ways to overcome the issues, she has come up with several helpful hints for parents.
“Start with a consistent bedtime routine. Depending on the age, it could include diaper change, potty, teeth, songs, books, etc. By having a similar routine before every nap and bedtime, it helps a child wind down for the sleep period. The routine becomes a cue that it’s time to sleep and they will go down much easier. Another great tip is to keep bedtime early, especially if your child is overtired and sleep deprived. Most children under five need a bedtime ranging from 5:30p.m. – 7:30p.m. Bring bedtime up earlier for one-two weeks and you’ll start to see some changes”
Salyn says that it is a myth that children outgrow sleep problems and often the issue transfers and becomes one later on. She explains what parents need to know about sleep to help train children to get the most of their nights:
“While sleep is a biological function, falling asleep unassisted is a learnt skill. If a child never learns this critical skill, it will affect their sleep patterns on an on-going basis. It is easier to help a baby or toddler learn this skill, then waiting until the child is in preschool or elementary school. You can be right beside your child through the whole process, but in the end, they need to learn how to do it for themselves and practice this skill over and over again consistently.”
Salyn Breaks its Down
1. IMPLEMENT AND MAINTAIN A REGULAR ROUTINE
Often the holidays throw our children’s sleep off track, but once you’re home and settled, it’s important to have a consistent routine established. Babies, toddlers and children alike thrive on a consistency. They appreciate knowing what’s coming next and when they do, negative behavior such as bedtime resistance and tantrums are
2. WATCH FOR SUBTLE SLEEPY CUES
One of the best tools parents have is to recognize when their children are just starting to become tired. Often, parents mistakenly wait until their child is yawning profusely before they put them down to sleep, but by that time, they are already passing from being drowsy to over tired. When children are overtired, they don’t nap as well and are more likely to wake at night. Instead of waiting to see yawns, parents should watch for much subtler cues such as quieting down, staring into space, turning away from toys or people and becoming less vocal or active.
3. KEEP BEDTIME EARLY
Early bedtimes are a great way to help children stay well rested. It doesn’t matter if you have an infant, toddler or school-aged child; early bedtimes benefit all. Children five and younger should be asleep between 6-8pm, but if they’re overtired, bedtime should be at least 30 minutes earlier for 4-5 days.
4. GET RID OF SLEEP PROPS
If a baby needs a soother to be replaced or an older child needs a glass of water each night, then they are sleep prop dependent. Since falling asleep unassisted is a learnt skill, parents need to remove the prop so their child can learn to fall asleep without mom and dad’s help each time.
5. BE CONSISTENT
When parents are ready to make changes to their child’s sleep habits, they should follow the above tips and do so consistently. Poor sleep habits aren’t created overnight; likewise parents shouldn’t expect to see improvements until after several days of a new routine.
For more information visit www.babysleep101.com