Did you know, that most of us parents have to make a conscious effort to teach our children how to get to sleep? ‘Self soothing’ doesn’t happen as naturally as we would like to think or hope!
A lot of us find ourselves, rocking, feeding, bouncing, patting, swinging, driving our babies to sleep. Which I suppose would be fine if we were guaranteed they would sleep soundly the whole night through, but they don’t! Let me tell you why not..
The sleep science bit, put simply…all us human beings, large and small, transition through sleep cycles, these cycles are, REM and non REM. Each cycle has stages. In a normal sleep pattern, we would transition through all the stages and come to the end of a cycle, it is at this point we have a ‘partial awakening’. From the age of 2years old through to adulthood, these arousals tend to be every 3-4 hours. The cycle length is shorter in little ones under the age of 2 years and therefore the awakenings are more frequent.
As adults, we don’t tend to remember these arousal periods, this is when we might turn over in bed or rearrange the pillow under our head, but have no memory of it in the morning. For a child who has been rocked, fed, bounced to sleep, the scenario is quite a bit different. They experience a partial arousal and realise a couple of things:
- ‘this isn’t where I was before I went to sleep and where is Mummy or Daddy?!’, which causes an anxiety reaction.
- they can only get back to sleep using a sleep crutch ie. The breast, the parent, the motion and so on.
We all know what happens next, ‘all hell breaks loose’ and you are back to bouncing, rocking, feeding, swinging. Sound familiar?
‘Self soothing’ is key. Putting your baby/child down drowsy but awake. Using a scale of 1, being wide awake and 10 being fast asleep , we are talking about a 5. They need to be awake enough not only to know where they are when going to sleep but also alert enough to learn the art of getting themselves off to sleep by self soothing. This way your child will be able to happily, fall asleep alone in their cot and stay asleep all night long