When my eldest daughter was born, I congratulated myself on what an awesome mum I clearly was. She was a chilled, happy little thing. She ate everything I put in front of her and – perhaps most importantly – she slept from 7pm to 7am from just a few months old.
Obviously all the books I’d read and all the techniques I employed were perfect because I knew exactly what I was doing. That was until my son came along. He was a pretty average sleeper, requiring a whole lot more settling, and a visit or two every night for a cuddle and a drink to calm him down and settle him back to sleep.
Then when my youngest daughter came along, I realised just how much I’d been kidding myself with my first. My little one was an angry wee thing that would wake several times a night – sometimes screaming blue murder for no apparent reason. She required a massive amounts of cuddles, rocking and singing to find some peace and drift back to sleep. I eventually gave up with her and started letting her sleep in my bed, just so I could get some rest.
What I realise now is that my parenting ability had very little to do with how good a sleeper each of my children was. They were their own little people and they had their own particular way of growing and developing.
What I wish I’d known though, when my son and daughter were small and waking throughout the night, was that there is a simple trick parents can use to help children learn to sleep through.
This technique is especially effective if your child has developed a habit of waking around the same time each night, and please only use it on toddlers and older children – not on babies. Babies still need lots of attention when they’re tiny.
Here’s what you do:
Just before you go to bed (or a while before you know they usually wake up), go into your child’s room and rouse them a little bit. Don’t wake them up entirely, but hug them, kiss them, lie down with them, adjust their covers – anything to get them to stir.
What you’re trying to do is break them out of their sleep cycle. What often wakes small children is the switch between REM and deep sleep, which rouses them enough to wake up and feel disoriented.
Rousing them a little bit will send them back down into a deep sleep, and hopefully they will sleep through the night. Breaking this habit usually only takes a few days to a week, and then your child can learn to seamlessly transition from REM to deep sleep. But in the meantime, popping in for an extra cuddle before bedtime is a pretty easy fix, right?
And if you’d like some help with that, US company Lully makes a product that will wake your child for you. Claiming to end 80 per cent of night terrors, Lully’s device sits under the mattress and vibrates to rouse your child just as you would. It even learns your child’s sleep patterns so you can be sure it’s rousing them at just the right time.