Helen Packham, DryNites® ConfidentNites® Sleep Expert, gives us her top tips for getting a good, dry night's sleep
What’s the difference between sleep and good quality sleep?
Good quality sleep, the restorative kind, is achieved when we go into the third and fourth stages of sleep called slow wave and REM sleep. We sleep in cycles throughout the night, however it is the quality of this sleep that is crucial to feeling rested. Quality sleep is also motionless and doesn’t require a crutch – or action - to achieve. Sleep associations and broken sleep occur when a child comes out of a sleep cycle into a partial arousal, and needs help to get back to sleep. Crutches for children may include rocking, patting, feeding and driving in the car.
How can we, as sleep deprived parents, ensure that our children AND ourselves get regular ‘good nights of sleep’?
Encouraging the development of healthy circadian rhythms is a great way for parents and children to get a good night’s sleep. This involves an appropriate wake up time (after 6am) and a period of consistent wind down time including a bedtime routine at the end of the day. Each person has an optimum time to go to bed. This is usually earlier than you think. If you push through this window to get a second wind this can lead to fitful sleep and early rising.
The removal of sleep associations can also help achieve a good night’s sleep. For adults this may be using the television to get to sleep, and for children it can be anything from rocking or feeding. Gently removing them will help you and your children feel confident to fall asleep without help, and get back to sleep when waking in the night.
How do you suggest calming children down before bedtime?
A consistent bedtime routine at about the same time every night works wonders for calming kids before bedtime. Turn off all tablets and screens, dim the lights and have lots of cuddles and snuggles. A bath, story and getting changed into pyjamas is a great way to finish off the day. Having this connection time is great for calming kids down. An appropriate time for bedtime also helps to prevent them from pushing through their ‘window’, which can lead to cortisol release leaving them with a wired awake state where they find it difficult to settle.
What are your recommendations for dealing with bedwetting in the middle of the night, without drama?
There are two key words when dealing with middle of the night bed wetting. Kindness and calm. Like all developmental phases, your child will become dry at night when they are ready. Bedwetting is a perfectly normal part of growing up which affects a quarter or all four year olds, so it’s important to remind them that they haven’t done anything wrong.
Approaching the situation with compassion is the best strategy. It can feel quite scary for a child to have an accident at night, so remaining calm is key. Help your child to understand that it is ok, clean up the bed sheets with the lights dimmed, and get them changed without a fuss. To help minimise the impact of bedwetting, try using DryNites pyjamas pants. My 4 year old loves the Disney designs, and they take the pressure off staying dry.
Our kids take naps – how can parents ensure they have enough sleep, too?
Day time naps usually start to go between the third and fourth year, but in my experience, some kids still need at least a few naps a week until they reach school age and beyond.
If your three-four year old’s napping during the day is having an impact on bedtime or night sleep try doing the following:
1. Shortening the length of the nap by around 30 minutes
2. Decide on a cut off point for them to wake up in the afternoon so as not to impact on bedtime
3. Push bedtime back by 15 minutes if they really do still need a daytime nap
Allow your child to keep napping for as long as possible until it really starts to have an impact on bedtime and night sleep. When this happens, replace the nap over a period of time with quiet time each day.
Read all of the 'stop bedwetting' top tips from the experts:
Visit www.drynites.co.uk to find out more about the ConfidentNites® Guide for helpful advice on bedwetting from DryNites®.
* (Oxford Mindfulness Centre)
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