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Children's bedtimes and sleep problems: read Professor Tanya Byron's answers to your questions

(167 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 05-Apr-13 12:55:05

We're delighted that consultant clinical psychologist Prof Tanya Byron is our webchat guest on Monday evening to answer your questions about children's sleep - how much they need at different ages, how you can stop bedtimes turning into a battle, and how can you encourage your children to sleep through the night.

Tanya is leading the Bedtime Live team on Channel Four on Tuesday evenings at 8pm, trying to provide parents with techniques to get under-10s into bed by 9pm and to get teens into good sleep habits.

You've already been discussing her warnings about the effects of sleep deprivation on children's development on this thread.

So, whether your children will be soundly asleep or deploying endless delaying tactics at 9pm on Monday, do come and put your question about children's sleep to Tanya.

You can find out more here about Bedtime Live and the topics it has covered so far. The next prog (Tues 9 April, 8pm) will look at the effect of lack of sleep on first-time fathers.

Shellwedance Mon 08-Apr-13 09:37:21

Hi Tanya,

Loving the show! My DD is 6 mths in 2 weeks. She is a good self settler, albeit with a dummy. We've never really had more than 3 hour blocks of sleep. We have a proper bedtime routine and she's down at 7. In the past couple of weeks sleep has got even more erratic, she's much harder to put down, wakes at least every two hours and will only settle after 4 if we co sleep. Have been trying not to feed to sleep but it seems to be the only thing that works at the mo, even the dummy gets her really upset. Length of naps in the day seems to have no effect. Putting her down awake but sleepy at start of night so she gets herself off seems to have no effect. Even when I have refused to feed her to sleep and finally managed to settle her without boob still has no effect.

Am a lone parent so finding this very hard, any advice much appreciated!

Emsmaman Mon 08-Apr-13 10:03:55

Hello, I'm afraid I can't watch your show as I find it too painful and rather voyeuristic watching babies and toddlers in such a state!

I have a just turned 2yo and my question is how do you sleep train whilst dealing with sicknesses - my DD has colds almost permanently since starting nursery and viruses every month? We did gradual withdrawal for 2.5 weeks then DD got a bad bug which wiped her out for 3 weeks and completely undid all the work we had done, as we didn't feel we could continue when she was so poorly. So we lost even more sleep than normal during the sleep training due to more frequent and longer wakings, listened to hours on end of heartbreaking crying, and for nothing. Would you have recommended continuing the sleep training through the sickness?

Disclaimer: I am anti CC after a horrible experience where DD scratched her face up and during my check on her I found blood everywhere...

Mrneedy Mon 08-Apr-13 10:04:10

Tanya, how much would you charge for a couple of days observing my child?!!
I neeeeed you!!

mrsvilliers Mon 08-Apr-13 10:41:17

Hi there, no massive problems with my ds but also interested in nextphase's question as to how much sleep is normal. My just 2 yo will have 11 hours in total, no more, even if he goes without a nap. If they've got energy presumably OK?

bluebump Mon 08-Apr-13 12:06:26

I'd like to know if it's a massive problem if a child still sleeps in your bed when they are past the baby/toddler stage. My DS is 4.7 and he still likes to sleep in my bed more often than in his bed. We fell into co-sleeping when he outgrew his moses basket at 6 months and he is still pretty much there now. I am a single parent now so space in my bed isn't an issue.

He sleeps through the night whether he sleeps in his own bed or mine he just likes the security maybe of being with me in my bed a lot. Occassionally if he is in his own bed he will wake earlier than normal and will come to my bed and have more sleep. I recently bought him a new bed and new bedding which has meant he likes his own room a bit more than before.

People are very quick to judge me co-sleeping with him but I think generally he is a good sleeper and will mostly settle himself with a bit of reassurance in either bed. My opinion is that as long as he gets enough sleep it's not an issue but the general opinion of people I know is the opposite!

BlingLoving Mon 08-Apr-13 12:47:11

I haven't seen the programme - which is very annoying as I really really need it. I will be watching from tomorrow. In the meantime...

On the website one reason for bad sleep is anxiety. DS has never been a good sleeper but we've worked hard improve things and had got to the point where he slept well at least half the time. But I have recently gone back to work after a few months off. He is nearly 2 and seems to be finding my return very traumatic.

Both DH (who is a SAHD) and I reassure him all the time that I'm still around and we skype during the day if possible but we've had huge sleep regression since I started. He is waking in the night and not going back to sleep for hours. If we stay in the room with him he will lie down quietly, but he doesn't sleep and gets very traumatised if we leave. He also wakes crying for me personally a lot.

How do we reassure him? I'm concerned that this is undoign all the good work we've done to get him to sleep better over the last two years and I don't know at what point his legitimate fear/anxiety turns into habit.

OnwardBound Mon 08-Apr-13 13:32:05

I have a 2 year old who will only go to sleep [at night] whilst being breast fed blush

If I don't do this he performs and gets overtired and screams. I would perhaps leave him to scream for a bit but we live in a small flat and I am concerned that he will wake his four year old brother [who goes to sleep relatively easily] and also annoy our neighbours.

The 2 year old will also generally wake at some point in the night and finds it very difficult to settle himself to sleep. So he will cry and fuss, building up to a crescendo if he doesn't get his own way and comes into the double bed with me.

He is in the same room as his brother and again I can't just leave him to cry or even try to settle him in his room as he creates such a fuss and I am fearful of him waking his brothers or neighbours.

Do you have any advice for me?

whokilleddannylatimer Mon 08-Apr-13 13:39:17

Hi Tanya

I have a couple of issues with an older child.

I have a ten year old with learning difficulties, she is rather anxious and is being investigated for ASD in addition to other exsisting SN.

From being a tiny baby she always slept really well on her own but following my divorce a couple of years ago we have started to have sleep problems, her father is gradually withdrawing from her life which is making the situation worse. She sleeps very few hours.

She will lie awake till 1am despite full bedtime routine of bath/bed/story no tv/gadgets in room around 8.30pm. She does not get up she will just lie there sad . She is then up wide awake at 6am but shattered all day.

She is also having problems sleeping on her own recently and is starting to come in to my bed. The main problem is that she waits until I am asleep before coming in so I do not know she has come in until I wake up. If I stay awake waiting for her to fall asleep first she doesn't, she will just lie in her own bed awake until I do go to sleep.

Part of me thinks that due to her age she is not going to do it forever so not to worry and just buy a bigger bed!

UntamedShrew Mon 08-Apr-13 14:25:44

DD is 16m. She is a terrible sleeper!

A 'good' night means a minor disturbance before we go to bed, then sleep until 6.30.

More usually she is either up at 5.45 or up at least once around 2am, then asleep through to 6.

We've tried cutting daytime sleep to 45-60 mins. Made no difference.

Tried cutting daytime sleep all together and it was worse. She was up 3 times those nights.

I think she is getting enough sleep.. But DH and I aren't! Also the mornings when she wakes early, she wakes her brothers (4y twins) and then they are grumpy all morning.

Is there anything you'd suggest...? Other than boarding school grin

miniegg1980 Mon 08-Apr-13 15:07:06

Hi Tanya
Thank you so much for taking the time to help us.

I have an 8month old who has never slept through the night and has only managed to remain in his cot for 1 night. I am exhausted and with returning to full time work just round the corner, am getting desparate.

Since birth, he has only slept for 45mins to 2 hours in one go and much prefers sleeping upright - especially at night. He always goes to sleep in his cot fine, day or night, and only rarely cries. But will then wake screaming, arching his back, stretching his neck and kicking his legs. On picking him up, he seems to have a lot of trapped wind, but then won't go back down.

He has recently been diagnosed with silent reflux and is on lansaprazole and within the past week has moved onto formula to which we're adding colief. He still seems to be displaying the same symptoms, but were advised by the hospital that much of it is probably behavioural and should start leaving him to cry. I have a 3 year old in the room next door and really do not want to disturb his much needed sleep.

He eats three good meals a day, has 4 bottles of 4oz and sometimes when he wakes wants some milk. During the day he sleeps between 2-3 hours.

Any help and advice would be very gratefully received!

Huge, huge thanks.

fuzzpig Mon 08-Apr-13 15:17:23

Hello!

Annoyingly I typed an enormous question last night and then my phone died <fume> so here it is in a briefer form:

My DD is 5y9m, and has started getting really anxious at bedtime. She's always needed reassurance - we did gradual retreat successfully when she was a toddler.

She gets really worked up, she doesn't keep getting up but she cries and is really distressed and can't articulate why she is scared or doesn't want to sleep in her own bed sad she keeps saying she wants to sleep with me.

I know what the issue is really, there is a lot of stress at home particularly surrounding my health (I became disabled last year). We try not to let it show but I don't know how else to comfort her when all she can say about her feelings is "I don't know".

Gradual retreat type strategy isn't really possible for me (physically) this time around, so do you have any other suggestions for us please?

Thanks thanks

fuzzpig Mon 08-Apr-13 15:20:15

Forgot to say, although she generally seems quite cheerful and is happy at school, DD does seem to be a bit of a 'worrier' like me sad

jcryles Mon 08-Apr-13 16:21:03

Hi Tanya. I'm interested in the medium to long term success of sleep training. With both of my kids we've experienced attrition after initial success. With our son (3 years), it was almost a year later when he began to need one of us to sit with him when falling asleep and waking in the night again. With our daughter (11 months) the first week we try sleep training it seems to work brilliantly. Then it deteriorates until, about four weeks later, we're back where we started. We do make every effort to be consistent. My son's had the same bedtime routine since he was 5 weeks old. Does childrens' sleep change regardless of sleep training, routines etc? Many thanks.

sparklekitty Mon 08-Apr-13 16:52:41

Hi Tanya,

We have a 6mo DD. She had a bit of a traumatic birth which resulted in a sore head from a ventouse delivery. She couldn't sleep on her back for the first 4 weeks and so we started co-sleeping (which we love)

However, as a result we have gotten into the bad habit of feeding to sleep and she has never learnt to self settle. We really want to tackle this while she is still young and, hopefully, get her into her own room.

She will only occasionally nap in her cot. We have tried to make it a happy place for her. She has a good bedtime routine (bath, book, boob, bed by 7.30).

The thing we would like help with is getting her to self settle as she currently wakes anything from 3 (I's be happy with this) to 10 times a night. I've started cuddling, sshhing and patting instead of feeding to settle her and stretching night feeds out to every 3 hours but it usually ends in distress, I am not willing to try CC or CIO with her. I'm exhausted and going back to work in 6 weeks so getting anxious. Any suggestions/help would be amazing smile

WinkyWinkola Mon 08-Apr-13 16:54:01

My ds1 is nearly 8.

He can go to bed at any time (usually 7.30pm and falls asleep between 8-9pm0 but will be up between 5.15 and 5.30am regardless.

He's generally pretty bad tempered and I think this is because he's not getting enough sleep. Plus it's doing us all in as he's just not quiet when he wakes up.

I've tried rewarding him to stay in bed reading. I've tried punishing him by taking away toys for getting out of bed and making a racket.

I've left interesting books and 'quiet' toys by his bed but he still seems determined to wake everyone up by getting out of bed, banging around in the loo, raking through his Lego.

I explain to him this behaviour isn't on and he acknowledges it but the next day, it's exactly the same.

Why oh why does he sleep so little and why oh why does he not seem to recognise or remember that noise is appropriate the next day? He can tell the time - got him a big clock to help him - but he doesn't change his behaviour.

Any tips?

TheDailyWail Mon 08-Apr-13 17:18:56

Hello Tanya,

My 8 yo daughter is extremely anxious when going to bed. She is especially anxious when my husband is working late (she thinks burglars are going to break in) I've tried to reassure her that any burglar would be more scared of meeting me than my DH wink but it's not working. She also ends up sleeping in our bed too. Her lamp is on a timer and she turns all the lights on when she wakes in the night.

Any advice on how to tackle this please? Thanks.

goobledygok Mon 08-Apr-13 17:59:25

Dear Tanya,
I have a 4 yr old who has been sleeping excellently from 7pm to 6am since birth however in Feb we took away his dummy (flannel hankies which he used as dummies alongwith thumb sucking since he was 6months old) and now he finds it really difficult to sleep. He is up and about till 9pm, sleeps only in our bed and needs someone to sleep with him. Initially he also used to cry in his sleep because he misses his thumb (for some reason he does not find enough joy in his thumb with the flannels missing). What can we do to teach him to sleep by himself again.

Thanks,
Benu

Sparklingbrook Mon 08-Apr-13 18:05:58

Hello. What is your take on children being Owls or Larks? I have two boys 11, and 13 and they would seem to be Owls. I keep hearing that teenagers are programmed to want to sleep half the morning?

Thanks

Mouseface Mon 08-Apr-13 19:14:18

Hello Tanya,

Bit of background - Our DS has Complex SN and LD. He's experienced a huge amount of trauma following heart operations and post op complications, along with other very upsetting operations, each time ending with him being rushed to PICU.

He will go to sleep happily, we have a bedtime routine each night, bath, story bed, after his last tube feed, but we can't get him to stay asleep or settled and without one of us (99% of the time me because I'm his main carer) being with him. He suffers from night terrors and very vivid dreams, meaning at times, he will scream out in his sleep for 'help'.

Q - is there anything we can do to help him, we've got CAMHS on board and he is on a waiting list to see a sleep specialist, his bedroom is fairly light, a place for fun - never punishment - it's warm but not hot, and a place he'll happily go to. It's been almost 4 years now, and we've been passed from one specialist to another. I was wondering is there is something you can suggest please?

Thank you smile

DustyOwl Mon 08-Apr-13 19:38:33

Hello Tanya, my DS2 (12 months) has got into the habit of feeding to sleep. Due to being too tired to stay awake we have ended up co sleeping. He uses me as a dummy and feeds pretty much all night so my whole evening is spent with him and my husband has moved beds, I'm so tired of it to be honest! We tried gradual retreat and shhh pat at Christmas, with some success but he keeps getting poorly and he ends up back being fed.

So after my mammoth post my question is; how do I stop feeding to sleep such a feed dependent child? Where do I start without causing too much distress? (For him and me!)

Thank you

LadyMaryQuiteContrary Mon 08-Apr-13 19:49:53

Hi Tanya smile

I have a 13 year old (he's 14 tomorrow) who doesn't sleep well. He sometimes struggles to get to sleep at a reasonable hour (typical teenager) so his body clock is a mess. He's tried warm milk, a bath, exercise, study but nothing seems to work. He's currently trying to push bed time back as far as he can and it can be hard work just to get him to bed. I aim to get him into bed for 10:30/10:45 but it rarely happens (so is more like 11). Is this too late? He's turning into a lark, which doesn't mix well with school as he often wakes exhausted and he looks really tired and pale. I'd appreciate any advice.

Thank you smile

HairyMaclary Mon 08-Apr-13 20:06:29

I have a question about older children, an 8 year old and a nearly 6 year old, both boys. Both had a challenging time as babies and young children and I did get some help eventually from a sleep therapist at that point. They now sleep through the night, mostly, but are still very reliant on an adult presence when they go to sleep. Ideally me, but my husband or grandparents will do.

We've tried gradual withdrawal a number of times but without success and the nearly 6 year old is very scared at night, of everything, he is totally fearless during the day! The 8 year old has (mild - moderate) physical disabilities but no cognitive ones and we have worked through his anxieties using a workbook you recommended to someone in The Times a while ago. Still no success.

Is there anything else we can do? I'm getting increasingly frustrated with being stuck in their shared bedroom for up to 30 mins each evening.

Thank you!

FudgeyCookie Mon 08-Apr-13 20:12:53

Hi!
I was very lucky in that DD (nearly 7months), has slept through from about 5 weeks. BUT, about 3 weeks ago she started to wake up anywhere between 3 and 6am. She goes to bed normally between 7pm and 8pm (as she always has), and putting her to bed later hasn't helped. She won't go back to sleep in her cot, I've left her to try and settle herself as she isn't crying as such, more whineing, which eventually turns into crying if she is left. I've picked her up and sat with her until she went back to sleep, and placed her back in her cot but she just wakes up again. Last night, we were up at 1am,kept placing her back in the cot but she just woke up crying. I'm shattered!
What would you suggest please?

Hello Tanya

My issue is similar to LadyMaryQuiteContrary. My daughter is 16 years old and has difficulties in sleeping for a number of years.

All the tips we have ever been given have never worked, routine, bath before bed, hot milky drink, no phone/tech before bed. It is often past midnight before she is asleep and then she will wake up at some point.

I know there is research about teens needing to sleep later, but when I was a teen myself and my friends weren't like this so has it only happened in the last few years?

She is often tired during the day and it sometimes impacts on her at school.

Do you have any other tips?

Thanks

scampidoodle Mon 08-Apr-13 20:39:52

Hello,
I don't think my issue has been covered here so far so will see if you can help.
How do we get our 10 week old to settle to sleep at a reasonable bedtime? She will only settle - with 20-30 mins crying (not constant, her tired cry) if we go to bed at the same time so are in the room with her. We go to bed between 10 and 11 pm.
She will be awake by 8.30am so isn't getting a proper night's sleep and ends up sleeping most of the morning, having a couple of naps in the afternoon and then being tired and ready for bed by 7/8pm but we can't go to bed then as we have things to do! No amount of shushing, patting, stroking or anything else helps - it seems to make her worse and she ends up screaming. If we stay in the room till she's asleep she wakes soon after we leave then it all starts again.
If we keep her in the living room in the pram (all ready for bed) she might sleep for a bit but obviously sees it as a nap rather than the start of the night's sleep and will be awake after a bit wanting milk/cuddles etc.
Is there anything else we can do to help her get to sleep?
Thank you.

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