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PP0413_SLEEP_Toddle

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PP0413_SLEEP_Toddle

  1. 1. › A s many parents know, even the smallest of tots can have big ideas on when they choose to snooze! While you dream of quiet nights and consistent sleep patterns, mummy’s little soldier has turned the bedroom into a battlefield with his war cries. Your line of attack? Keep calm and stash some top tips in your arsenal as our army of experts bring you sweet sleep salvation. Toddler sorted! sleep sleep special sleep special sleep special sleep special sleep special sleep special sleep special sleep special PicturesGettyImages,iStockphoto TEARS BEFORE BEDTIME The problem When it’s time for bed, the nightly meltdown begins. Why it’s happening Your tot is starting to develop a love of life, taking the first wobbly steps to independence and testing the boundaries set before him. “What toddler wants to leave ‘the party’ and go to bed?” says Helen Stevens, a registered nurse, midwife and consultant for Safe Sleep Space. When these social developments are mixed with tiredness, it’s natural for tantrums to bubble to the surface. “Children have less control over their emotions when they become tired. For some children a ‘meltdown’ means they are overtired,” explains Associate Professor Karen Waters, from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. What to do Give nightly meltdowns a slow puncture with two tools: timing and consistency. “If tiredness is linked to tantrums, the first step is to find out how much sleep your child needs and when he’s happy to go to sleep,” Karen advises. It may sound simple, but if your tot’s bedtime is a little out of sync with his sleep cycle, overtiredness can take control. In this case, you’ll benefit from an earlier bedtime. Next, establish a regular pre-bed routine. “Children thrive on consistency and predictability,” confirms certified Sleep Sense consultant Rachel Jenner, founding director of Asleep and Dreaming. “A child will often pick the same book to read over and over again, because he likes the security of knowing what’s coming next.”Try a bath, pyjamas on, a breastfeed or drink, a story or song, then into bed awake – all in no longer than 45 minutes – and repeat each night, she suggests. Does your day fire up before sunrise and end in a hot flurry of snot and tears? ERIN SMITH enlists expert help to put your toddler’s sleep struggles to bed
  2. 2. sleep special sleep special sleep special sleep special sleep special sleep special sleep special sleep special “A child’s sleep needs change as he gets older. And it’s the naps that generally need to do the changing, rather than bedtime” “Your tot’s room shouldn’t be too stimulating. Keep it dark in the morning and free from gadgets and TVs” SNOOZING SLIP-UPS The problem Daytime naps are getting a little wonky. Why it’s happening Rest assured you’re experiencing a natural phenomenon! As your tot grows, his nap time can be something of a moving target. “A child’s sleep needs change as he gets older,” Rachel explains. “And it’s the naps that generally need to do the changing, rather than bedtime.”When your little one’s ready to alter his daily nod-off schedule, to make the transition from three naps to two, or two naps to one, for example, he may start to protest and take longer to fall asleep at the regular times. Daytime sleeps may also become much shorter in duration. What to do Your first job is to do nothing! “Give it two weeks before making any changes to be sure the problems aren’t caused by your child going through any developmental milestones,” Rachel says. While you’re waiting, why not take a moment to think through your pre-nap prep? Is your tyke ready for sleep when it’s due, or has his routine left him unlikely to power down? “It helps to have a quality early lunch around 11am with plenty of time to digest food before sleeping,” Caroline advises. “Having an hour away from technology helps brains to wind down and be receptive to sleep as well.” If crooked sleep times still persist, it’s time to go ahead and make the change, confirms Rachel. “But remember, it may take a couple of weeks for your child’s body to adjust to the new sleep times.” And if you still experience problems? Don’t worry. “A toddler with no rest is not a happy camper by evening,” Helen says. “But toddlers don’t need to be sound asleep, they can benefit from some simple quiet time too.” And that’s what we call a victory for all parents! THE DAWN CHORUS The problem Your tot wakes during the night and calls out, cries or won’t stay put. Why it’s happening It can be useful to consider a few questions for this one. “Does your child have parental assistance to get off to sleep at the beginning of the night? Does he fall asleep and get carried to bed? Is he anxious or fearful?” asks Dr Heussler. These insights can be valuable, because night-time behaviour often relates back to the circumstances when your child first went to sleep. “If you’re always there as he goes off to sleep and do not leave until he is asleep, then each time he wakes up he can want the same ‘cue’ in order to go back to sleep,” Karen says. What to do It can be a good idea to take a few moments before you intervene; littlies naturally wake during the night and many learn to quickly self-soothe themselves back to The Land of Nod, meaning more Zs for the whole family. “If your child continues to fuss or cries for more than a few minutes, you’ll probably want to go in and offer some comfort,” Rachel says. But at this age, “it’s important to let your child do the work of falling back to sleep”. If you stay in the room until your tyke is fast asleep, he may come to depend on your presence as a cue for sleep time. However, the best time to work on this is when he’s going to bed for the first time that night, when your wee one can establish his own set of sleep cues, Karen notes. During the night, take control and take action. “Show your child what you want him to do. Be repetitive, clear and calm,” advises Caroline. THE EARLY WORM The problem Your toddler has a habit of being a too-early riser. Why it’s happening There’s some science to your tot’s waking time. “Toddlers have a full and healthy production of hormones that govern sleep cycles, one of which is melatonin,” Helen explains. “Overnight the levels of melatonin drop, which sees the body starting to prepare for waking any time after about 4am. Not actually waking, just warming and preparing to wake.” It may be possible, then, that your little one wakes early simply because he’s banked enough sleep, in which case adjusting bedtimes or your own wake-up time may be useful. Others tots, though, wake before they’re fully recharged, stay awake for an hour or so, then take a nap. What to do “In this situation, it’s important to look for things that stop your child from going back to sleep – nightmares, for example – or something that encourages him to stay quietly awake – maybe he can go into your bed or is allowed to watch television,” says Karen. Pay particular attention to the sleep environment, too. Your tot’s room shouldn’t be too stimulating. Keep it dark in the morning (“Blackout blinds can be a good investment,” says Rachel), without too many toys and free from electronic gadgets and TVs. “Gradually extending the wake-up time can work well,” Caroline has found. “Set the clock to 5:30am, then 5:45am, then 6am. This makes it achievable and the child builds some sense of achievement.” Even if he’s not asleep, Rachel adds, encouraging your tot to stay in a darkened room until the alarm sounds can help reset his clock. NIGHT FRIGHTS The problem Scary dreams and night-time fears are proving problematic. Why it’s happening Fear can be another common sleep foe for our own little monsters. “Toddlers have active imaginations and they take on new events and information, which can be played out in the form of sleep disturbances at night,” Helen says.The peak incidence is between three and six years, when youngsters are discovering they can be hurt or harmed, adds Karen.Toddlers often fear strangers, separation and strange places; preschool children can be afraid of being alone, the dark, imaginary creatures or being hurt; and school-age children may worry about social situations, supernatural phenomenon or natural disasters, she warns. Most children grow out of their fears by about the age of six. What to do First, don’t underestimate the spooking power of the grown-up news or films you watch at home. “Children can often struggle interpreting reality from make-believe until they reach four to six years of age,” says Dr Helen Heussler, a developmental paediatrician. For this reason, you may want to keep an eye on what your littlie lays his eyes on. If nightmares still arise,work to empower your child instead of compounding his fear with serious night- time discussion. “Sometimes a physical object helps,”says sleep consultant Caroline Radford, from Caroline’s Angels. “I once used a battery-free torch for a client’s very nervous son.The torch became his lightsabre and we practised at bedtime. We said, ‘Any time you see anything scary in your room you can zap it out with your lightsabre!’” Depending on the child, though, having a tool such as a ‘monsters-be-gone spray’ or doing a monster check may only confirm that there is something to be afraid of. Identifying the source of your littlie’s fear (“That spooky sound is just the blinds moving, see?” or, “The scary shadow is just the tree, see?”) and showing that you are unafraid are also important approaches.

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