A little burning behind your eyes. An over-reliance of caffeine. A mid-morning crash followed by another, stronger one in the mid-afternoon. Black marks like tea-bags underneath your once blue-now-red eyes. A general cloak of weariness which you wear as you pass from your house to the park, to the shops, to your friends’ houses and back again.
Yes, you must be experiencing one of the joys of new parenting known as sleep deprivation.
And boy, can it take its toll.
But there are some things you can try and integrate into the sleeping patterns of your child which can help you get more of that vital shuteye you need to ensure that your energy reserves are always tip-top. Dr Phil, as ever, is a good man to turn to.
The equation is not a complicated one: the more sleep your child gets, the more you do : everybody’s happier.
In this piece, I’m going to take for granted that by now you know the blindingly obvious things that you can do; like keep to a strict routine, avoiding caffeine like the plague, keep a relaxing bath time in there, get them into their PJs early and turning the lights off while you read the Gruffalo for the gazillionth time or something similar. You know all that already.
No, these are other tips you may not have thought about before but are also certainly worth bearing in mind.
This does not need to be a full candle and incense burning session with mats and the like. Instead, there are certain stretching exercises that you can do with your little gymnasts which can help relax the body and prepare it for sleep. You can try mini-exercises like the shoulder roll, sitting on your hands, the shrug, as well as some visualisation – have little guys lie back, shut their eyes and imagine they are on a beach somewhere. It can work wonders!
Of course there is a double benefit involved here which is all for you – a bit of stretching will help you remove a little stress residue too. You can combine these stretches, just as you would do in yoga group, with some breathing exercises
Bed as a Magic Carpet Ride
A magic carpet ride is just one example but the key thing is to turn the space around the bed and the toddler’s bed itself into something where they want to spend time. Of course the excitement levels should be carefully tempered (you don’t want them getting too carried away at the crucial moment); the key thing is to make the environment a warm and embracing one while still with enough colour and glimmer to elicit a little eke of thrill.
Darkness as Friend, not Foe
For kids to sleep through, or as much as is possible, the power of the black-out blind should not be underestimated. You’ll be grateful in those summer hours when the sun peaks its head through so early and starts your day a good few hours earlier than you would like to.
It’s all too easy for kids to lapse into early fears of the dark such a common trope as it is in children’s stories. But, counteract that early on and present darkness as a friend – a Mr Sandman-style figure.
Stay away from the H20
A good couple of hours before bedtime is due, it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on what is getting drunk. Too much liquid in a little body does not a restful night make.
Any sweet drinks are also a no-no as they contain certain sugars which are likely to bother their little bladders and they will be up and down like a yo-yo.
Tell them what you’re going to do.
The final sleepy-time trick is one you may think illogical but it works. If you make sure you re-iterate what is going to happen in the next half an hour in stages as you go through your routine, you build an expectation of that routine as you go along.
This means you tell them how many stories or chapters you are going to read them and count them down, building the expectation of a shut-down and a finish as you go. When you reach that final lights out stage there is no surprise on your child’s part as subconsciously they have been building it towards it themselves. Hopefully these tips will help you and yours get the good night’s kip you deserve.
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