A-Z guide for a good night's sleep continued...
N. Night terrors
These usually affect pre-school children. The child will suddenly wake up, often with a startled expression or scream. This lasts a few minutes and will rarely be remembered by your little one. Proper nightmares are a more vivid product of their imagination and take place later at night, peaking from the age of three until six.
As tempting as it can be to try keeping your baby awake during the day in an attempt to help them to sleep better at night, this approach rarely works. An overtired baby is more likely to cry or fuss, which inevitably stresses everyone out.
It's vital to look after yourselves too. So, eat healthily, try to share the night shifts fairly and find moments to
be kind to one another, and ways to indulge each other, however small – you'll all feel the benefit.
Q. Quiet time
Even before you embark on their proper bedtime routine, it's an idea to start winding them down: lower the lighting and aim to speak more softly. And if your tot wants a little snack, avoid anything too sugary or highly processed.
Whatever your child's bedtime routine – bath, stories, milk, chilled tunes etc – aim to get the whole process wrapped up within 30-45 minutes. Creating little rituals adds structure to the end of your little one's day. Try a few drops of lavender oil sprinkled nearby – they'll soon start to associate the smell with bedtime.
S. Sleep Training
We know controlled crying has its fans but, as Eileen Hayes says, 'If young children are left to cry for too long, their stress levels rise in measurable ways, and we now know there are long-term health consequences'. Gradual retreat adopts a softer approach that involves fewer tears. See Millpond's Teach Your Child to Sleep (£9.99, mill-pond.co.uk).
Even a quick overnight trip can upset a baby's bedtime routine. So, try and stick to the familiar as much as possible while you are away. 'We often take our toddler's pillow with us so he feels at home', says
one experienced mum.
U. Undiagnosed ailments
If nothing else seems to be working, make sure the reason your child's sleep is patchy isn't due to a simple ailment that hasn't been picked up. Some parents find their child's sleep problems are the result of something as simple as reflux that hasn't been diagnosed.
Value your instincts. There are few absolutes about how your family should sleep. If you love to cosy up in one bed while the kids are young, then do so. You can cause a lot of stress at bedtime by pressurising yourself to meet some fictitious norm. Remember, they aren't little for long.
W. Wetting the bed
Most but not all children gain nocturnal bladder control between the ages of three and four. Despite popular perception, this is a mechanical rather than a psychological issue. Ensure your child has a pee before bed and get them to drink more in the early part of the day rather than restricting it in the evening.
It can be easy to lose your sense of humour when you're sleep deprived, but Go the F*** to Sleep, by Adam Mansbach (£9.99, amazon.co.uk), a hilarious parody of the parental storytime ritual, should put a smile on your face. The audiobook, narrated by Samuel L Jackson, is even funnier. But don't read this book to your child!
Having babies, lovely as they are, will have a big impact on your own sleep. Survival ideas include
to eat little but often, drink plenty of water, and to grab bursts of exercise, even if it's just a quick walk. See NHS Choices fatigue-fighting tips at nhs.uk/livewell/tiredness-and-fatigue.
Aside from some humans, most primates routinely sleep with their young. Actually, so have we for most of our two million years of evolution – and around the world,
a lot of folks still do.