Meet Daisy – Sleep Advice for Children
Daisy goes to bed between 6.30pm and 9.30pm, and generally takes over an hour to fall asleep. She cries out for her parents and tries to come downstairs to see them. She has quite long naps throughout the day, some of which are at inappropriate times, like 4pm-5pm. She does not feel secure enough to drop off to sleep herself, and constantly calls for her parents. Daisy’s parents feel it is an ongoing battle, and they are desperate to get their evenings back. The situation causes tension in the family home, as they get snappy with each other due to tiredness.
Daisy’s parents should check her mattress and ensure it is comfortable. There should be no springs poking through and no big dips. When Daisy lies down, her spine, shoulders and hips should be supported properly.
Daisy’s room could also be rearranged to make it more suitable for sleep. Daisy’s parents should lie down with her in her room and see things from her perspective: is it untidy? Is it scary? Is it simply too stimulating? In order to make her room better for sleeping, toys should always be tidied away, dressing gowns removed from the back of the door, and photos of the family added to make her feel more at ease. If any of her furniture, particularly her bed, also functions as a play area or toy, such as a princess bed, this should be reconsidered, as it could be too stimulating. Finally, Daisy should be given a cuddly toy for her to sleep with, and told that she must take care of it for Mummy and Daddy, who will collect it again in the morning.
Another big factor is light and temperature levels. Daisy’s room should benefit from blackout blinds and the temperature should be kept between 16-18 degrees Celsius.
Daisy’s sleep routine should not start until an hour before she currently goes to sleep: the ‘Golden Hour’. An hour before bedtime, she should do calming activities, such as colouring or a jigsaw, and have a snack rich in tryptophan and carbohydrate, like cereal and milk or peanut butter on granary toast. Half an hour before bedtime, Daisy should have a bath, and then go straight to her bedroom for a book or to talk. Daisy’s parents could then use massage to relax her, and say a mantra like “It’s night time, go to sleep”, before giving her a kiss. They should then stay beside her and repeat the mantra if Daisy tries to engage with them.
Each night, her parents should monitor how easily Daisy falls asleep after her routine. When it gets to the stage that she drifts off quickly, they should begin to move further and further towards the door after her goodnight kiss. Eventually, Daisy will feel secure enough to fall asleep without help.
Daisy’s parents are encouraged to do less energetic playing during the Golden Hour before bed. Light levels should also be reduced, and soothing sounds introduced, to create a relaxing sleep environment.
With Daisy we want to build a healthy sleep programme that helps her and her parents sleep better, as well as reducing stress levels in the house. For a child’s sleep routine, they should feel independent but secure. We won’t put her to bed before she is ready. At this stage it is 9.30pm, but we will work towards a bedtime of 7.30pm, moving the routine back gradually every few days.
8.30pm – The Golden Hour: Begin the wind down routine. In this time there should be no boisterous play or exposure to technology. Daisy could have a small snack, and then a bath or shower approximately 30-40 minutes before bed. She should not go back downstairs.
9.30pm – Bedtime: Put Daisy to bed with mum or dad next to her. Reassure her that she is safe and secure. If she has particular worries, such as monsters in the room, reassure her. Use your bedtime mantra and try not to make eye contact, remaining present but neutral. When Daisy falls asleep, wait 10 minutes and then leave the room, allowing her time to drop into the sleep cycle. If Daisy cries, the parent should soothe her and start the process again.
7.30am – Wake Up: Daisy should be woken up gently, and have breakfast within an hour of waking. At three years old, Daisy shouldn’t require naps if she’s sleeping properly. However, during the programme, we encourage her to have one nap a day. This should not last more than 40 minutes, taking place either before or after lunch. She should not be napping after 3pm. As night time sleep improves, Daisy’s naps should be removed.
As with all sleep programmes, things may get worse before they get better. Daisy’s parents should be patient and consistent.
A handy guide to naps:
Most children under the age of 1 take two naps a day — usually one in the morning and another in the afternoon.
Between 12 and 24 months, most toddlers drop the morning nap but still need a one- to two-hour afternoon snooze.
By 2 to 3 years old, most toddlers need just a one-hour afternoon nap, and by 3 to 4 years of age, they will drop the afternoon siesta altogether.