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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.

zareda Tue 16-Jul-13 19:44:39

Hi! I would be very grateful for some advise...
My 15/16 month old is going through a tough patch with sleeping day & night.
The recent problem coincides with us staying at my parents place in Spain. We are to be here & with her other grandparents all summer but so far, she is hysterical every time I put her in her cot AND every time I walk away from her, even briefly, day or night.
I have kept her routine the same with all her familiar soft toys etc, the only difference is I can't block the light out in her room or it will get way too hot.
Today I didn't persevere with trying to get her down for her nap (having failed miserably yesterday), so she cried herself to sleep a bit sooner this evening, but no doubt she will wake in the night & we will have another episode of trying to get her back to sleep with milk or having her in bed with me (so not to wake everyone else up).
For over a week now, she has been keeping the whole house awake and stressing everyone out (MY mother was in tears yesterday!), and being pregnant, I could do with some respite but most of all, I would love to get my happy little girl back!
Thanks for any help you can offer.

mayajan Wed 10-Apr-13 12:20:11

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

emmalt10 Tue 09-Apr-13 13:58:57

Our toddlers do sound similar! Mine's asleep in the car at the moment too, because I think he still needs the sleep. And if I don't make sure he sleeps now, he'll sleep at 5.00, just for a nap...
Mine definitely had/has mild intolerances to wheat and dairy, which I try to avoid at bedtime. There are also certain foods that are sleep-inducing, and it might be worth looking at giving them at tea/supper time - milk, turkey, tuna, almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanut butter, cottage cheese, hard cheese, yoghurt, soymilk, tofu, soybeans, eggs, bananas and avocados.
The other thing I did, that has really, really helped...wait for it, it'll sound a little off the wall...was to create a photobook of him from birth, growing up to present. I took photos of his entire bedtime routine, and wrote a little story to accompany it, including at the end 'and then you will go to bed, and sleep all night long in your lovely cosy bed'. I put in photos of him and everyone else in the family asleep in bed, and wrote the same caption next to each picture. He absolutely loves it and makes me read it over and over again. I think it works as a sort of hypnosis, and makes sure he knows what I expect of him at night.

Thanks emma like your toddler, mine refuses to form an attachment to a comforter- I had a specifically chosen one in his cot from day 1 but he always ignored it/ chucked it out once he could. The music box to hold is an idea - we have one he likes (playmobile, his big sister's) but the music is much too lively. Will look up slumber bear.

He is trying to drop his daytime nap but that results in him falling asleep at 5pm but viwing it as a nap even if I put him to bed, and waking full of energy an hour later. I usually resort to doing the lunch time Kindergarten run via a scenic route now so he'll fall asleep then, but he's never been one for long naps and rarely sleeps more than an hour wherever he naps. I know theoretically he could be overtired but a) I have no idea how to make him sleep longer and b) he doesn't seem remotely so unless he skips the midday sleep. (I am in the car now with him napping, outside my older son's kindergarten! ). I hesitate to try a later bedtime as we need to leave the house before 8amI on a weekday (currently all the children go upstairs between 7pm and 7.30 latest ). I guess it probably is worth trying, but 1the thing at a time I think!

I have also wondered if a mild food intolerance could be at the root of his poor sleep, but have no evidence for that and am probably clutching at straws! Thinking of trying cutting back on wheat or dairy but have reservations about too much unfermented soya as a substitute for dairy so still dithering - last resort territory I think!

emmalt10 Tue 09-Apr-13 10:49:22

Also, if he's taking hours to settle, he's either overtired and needs to go to bed earlier and have a good nap in the day, or not tired enough, and might settle better if you start bedtime a bit later.

emmalt10 Tue 09-Apr-13 10:47:19

Hi MrTumbles, Oooh that sounds hard - I empathise totally - you need your evenings back! I found a really lovely cd on Amazon called Lullaby. It's a lady singing, but she has a really soothing voice, and my little one loves it. Be careful when you put it on though, as he now associates it with milk rather than sleep! I use a normal cheap cd player, and have put it under my rocking chair. He does fiddle with it, but no harm has come to it...yet...
When he goes to bed, I've been trying (without much success) to give him a comforter. I've been his comforter until now - again, nothing wrong with that, it means he's attached and secure which is building really good independence during the day. But it is harder for mum. He seemed to like a dog for a while, but isn't really that bothered. At the moment he likes Slumber Bear, BECAUSE, the bear has a music box that he can take out and press buttons on. It has heartbeat, waves, music and can record your voice (which he likes). At the moment, he is lying in bed holding the box and pressing buttons until he falls asleep. I'm lying on my bed on the floor (I might as well be comfortable), but at least he's not feeding or needing to touch me. At the moment anyway. It would be good if you could find somthing like that, that he would be happy to hold instead of your hand, then you could use gradual withdrawal. Good luck :-)

emma I am going to copy you -by my very nearly 2 year old takes hours (literally) to fall asleep, in his bed with me holding his hand. I night weaned at 11 months and finally broke the cuddle to sleep cycle when I moved him out of his hated cot, but I cannot break the need to hold my hand - its been 6 months now. I planned gradual retreat but if I don't hold his hand he gets out of bed, and can keep doing so for hours. On the advice of a paediatrician I changed his sleeping arrangements, so he now has his own room instead of sharing with his brother, but his sleep is now even worse!

I think he needs me there to fall asleep including when he half wakes as everyone does multiple times a night -and he wakes 4 - 8 times a night and each waking is progressively harder to resettle him from.

What do you play music on? He's broken a cd player in the past, and he's a climber so there's nowhere high up in his room to put it for safety reasons. Also what music works for you? Thanks for the tips smile

emmalt10 Tue 09-Apr-13 08:46:46

Hi, I just want to add that feeding your baby to sleep is the most normal, natural and healthy thing to do. It is a wonderful feeling for mother and child, and is a wonderful bonding tool. I did it with all my children, and for nearly two years with the last one (he's two tomorrow).
When you are ready to have your nights back, there are gentle ways to teach them, but they take longer. I decided to give myself three months to get him sleeping through the night. It took two and a half, with minimal distress for us both.
The first thing I did was to break the feed to sleep association by breaking the seal when sucking slowed, then rocking, stroking etc to sleep (these are easier to break than the feeding). When he got distressed I fed him again, but once again took him off as soon as sucking slowed. He did keep trying to hold fast, but was tired, so eventually understood that it was time to stop and go to sleep.
Then I changed around his bedtime routine, so that stories came after milk, and I put soothing music on as a sleep association. I also got my husband involved with putting him to bed following my routine.
I'm currently on a mattress on his floor as he's not quite ready for me not to be there if he wakes, but I have had a week of full nights sleep, and two and a half months ago he woke 5-6 times!
Try The Baby Book by the Sears or the no-cry sleep solution by Elizabeth Pantley.
Hope this is helpful. You're not alone! I do like Prof Byron's advice generally speaking, I just wouldn't go quite so fast with my child - one size doesn't fit all!

Timetoask Tue 09-Apr-13 05:30:17

Could we please have a webchat about sleep problems with children with special needs?
There seem to be plenty of us on the same boat. I am shattered after 8 years of this despite being very good with sleep routines etc.
I am dying a slow death with ds's early wakes and no one has been able to help.

CouthySaysEatChoccyEggs Tue 09-Apr-13 01:10:14

And possibly fixing my own body clock that works on a sleep pattern of 2am-10am.

I've been the same since a baby though, and nothing has solved that one...

I can get up at 7am ok, 6 at a stretch, but 5am kills me!

CouthySaysEatChoccyEggs Tue 09-Apr-13 00:56:41

Thank you for the answer. So it seems that melatonin may well be the answer.

HotheadPaisan Mon 08-Apr-13 22:39:25

I can catnap anywhere, good job! Also good at just daydreaming in the early hours if I've inadvertently snoozed earlier and just can't sleep.

It does get better, and we've had it pretty bad. I often get some time in the evenings now to potter about on the internet and so on.

Porridge before he was waking for hunger at 9 months. Even though sleep experts would have you believe they don't get hungry after the magical 6 month mark hmm

hothead would love to sleep when tired but have insomniac traits and tend to stay awake when tired confused

Ironically for the first time EVER DS has been asleep since 8pm and stirred many times but not needed feeding back off to sleep which he usually needs every 40 mins. I think it's because I fed him por

LBsBongers Mon 08-Apr-13 22:30:38

Yes but what about the baby rage

HotheadPaisan Mon 08-Apr-13 22:26:29

Oh, and I have never felt sleep-deprived, I honestly just go to bed when I'm tired and don't when I'm not. They'll be past all this soon enough.

HotheadPaisan Mon 08-Apr-13 22:24:42

We had that every 50 mins thing, only lasted a few weeks/ months but my memory might be hazy. Ironically DS2 has been far more difficult than DS1 with regards to sleep and he's NT (as far as we know). He was the one with colic and reflux so on, DS1 was passive and easy as a baby, and then wasn't smile

Agree there should be more info out there about developmental phases and so on, you need to at least wait for a settled period in order to try some of these things, and that's probably when you are least likely to want to rock the boat.

I liked the emphasis on doing what is right for the whole family, and not doing anything if that's ok too.

Well said hothead it's nice that Tanya says she doesn't prescribe one size fits all to be fair, the show does have different techniques but for now, I'm with you on this, I would rather wake every 40 minutes and suffer sleep deprivation if it means DS is securely attached...may change my mind if I have a second baby!

Well when my daughter was younger I did 2 things that apparently you shouldn't, a bit of controlled crying and lifting onto the loo when we went to bed. But it worked for us!

Just now the problem with the typical teen issue that there just doesn't seem to be an answer to. I will continue to watch the show for any teeny tiny tips!

Thanks for taking the time to come to us today!

JaffaSnaffle Mon 08-Apr-13 22:13:29

Thank you Tanya

HotheadPaisan Mon 08-Apr-13 22:13:12

I agree about expectations in the West around children and sleep, if co-sleeping and nighttime parenting aren't an issue, or rather you can cope with them or can't face the alternatives then I'd just carry on with what you're doing. I have gone to bed early for years in order to cope with the problems we've had (I WOHM FT) but it's not for everyone.

I do think that if it takes longer than the 7-10 days for a toddler/ child to settle you'll be lucky if one lot of sleep training sorts it. I've known people go through hell for months on end trying to implement these and other techniques only to give up and accept co-sleeping or something different to what they had in mind. Some kids just have higher needs than others.

WantOurRoomBack Mon 08-Apr-13 22:10:58

Thank you Tanya. Lots of food for thought.

Thank you!

LeSquish, cuddle your baby or rock. He could be teething or the reflyx flaring up again (my two both had it). There's also a developmental leap around 6 months. Perhaps try putting him on his tummy if he can roll now. It'll pass and he'll self settle again - something is wrong which is why he isn't doing it now.

bertiebotts see Tanyas answer to my question previously, which was basically the same as yours.

Very glad to hear your LO did the feeding then rolling away thing, mine is starting to do this so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he will learn when he's ready too!

Thanks Tanya, good luck with the show :-)

SarahMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 08-Apr-13 22:09:12

Thanks everyone for a great, and informative, chat. We're waving Tanya off now for some well-deserved wine - for those of you whose questions Tanya didn't get a chance to respond to (and those whose questions she did!) you can catch her on Bedtime Live on Channel 4 tomorrow. smile

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