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

(168 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.

TheSecondComing Sun 07-Apr-13 11:08:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

CouthySaysEatChoccyEggs Sun 07-Apr-13 11:42:36

I have a 2.2yo that has been dxd with hyperactivity 'with a high probability of ADHD'. He has never slept for more than 4 hours in one go. NEVER. He is also being assessed for Autism next month, and has a severe speech delay, only has about 10 single words. He can't express his needs or wants to me.

He doesn't cry, is in his own bed (though we have no choice but to share a room, which also has the tumble dryer in, as well as other things that have nowhere else to live, like my craft drawers).

I had to take him out of his cot at a very young age as he would climb to the top of it, and throw himself over the top. It wasn't safe, so he has had a toddler bed since then.

He wakes for 'milk' (neocate active, a amino acid based hypoallergenic milk replacement) once in the night - but he is on a very restricted diet due to multiple severe allergies, and his dietician says that he still needs this.

That I can cope with, as all I have to do is pour it from the flask and give it to him.

Problem is that his 'night' where he only wakes once is from 1am to 5am usually. Sometimes if he's extra tired, he will sleep from 9pm to 11pm, then be up for two hours, then go back to sleep at 1/2am.

And then he's awake for the day. He's not crying, he's just active. Running around, pulling things out of drawers, climbing UP the bookshelf (and I do mean up, right to the top), jumping on his bed, spinning in circles while saying 'eeeeeeeeeeee'...

If I put him back in bed, he just waits until I have lay down again, and then gets up. He never cries when I put him back in bed, he just gets up.

I can do pick up put back 100+ times and he STILL won't stay in bed.

I can only carry that on for two days as it is a huge strain on me because I'm disabled myself, and have no support. (I have arthritis and epilepsy)

Is there anything I can try other than medication (HV has suggested melatonin) that can help? I don't want to go to medication unless I've tried everything else I can think of.

It's not so much an issue of him crying or anything, as him just not needing much sleep. How do I get him to adjust his sleep pattern? I would rather he slept from 2am - 6am. I struggle to get up at 5am!

He still has a nap in the day, but it is only around 30-45 mins. And I CAN'T stop that or keep him awake, because the minute I go to cook dinner, he drops off for it. I might have been keeping him awake since lunchtime, but then he goes at dinner, so I've given up on trying to keep him awake because then he has his nap too late and falls asleep even later.

PeneloPeePitstop Sun 07-Apr-13 12:29:20

Again, child with ADHD and severe Autism.

The issue isn't going to sleep, he exhausts himself by 7pm as he is never still but then he's up for the day at 3-4am and as there are safety issues we have to be up with him, which is miserable.

We've tried keeping him up later, he still wakes 3-4 am but is mega grumpy. Paed says that as the issue isn't actually falling asleep then melatonin won't help us.

Any ideas?

nextphase Sun 07-Apr-13 13:06:19


Won't be able to make the chat due to time differences, and bedtime live is on record awaiting my return..

Sorry if this has already been covered, but do all kids really need the same amount of sleep? Or should we be quoting a range for each age?

DS1 never has got to his recommended hours sleep per day - but were on hols at the moment, and its very clear his shortened nights aren't currently enough, as he has taken to sleeping in the day - so I guess his 10 hrs per night at 3 (nearly 4), and no naps is right for him. Would you suggest he needs more? If so, how to get it??? He goes to bed 7.30 ish, falls asleep by 8 on his own, and wakes naturally around 6am - before anyone else in the house is up, so it is natural waking. How to extend this?

DS2 naturally sleeps longer at night, and still has a daytime nap, so probably get more like 13 hrs at just turned 2.

HotheadPaisan Sun 07-Apr-13 15:10:19

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

motherofvikings Sun 07-Apr-13 15:25:51

Can I just say a big thank you thanks to Dr Tanya! smile
I watched bedtime live the first week and was inspired to sleep train my almost 2yo dd. she had been cuddled to sleep since day 1 and was taking an hour to cuddle as put to bed each night! After seeing the case studies on tv I bit the bullet.
I was expecting lots of screaming doing rapid return but she did brilliantly and by day 3 she stopped being upset at all and settled herself! grin as an added bonus she also seems to have stopped waking at 5.30am which is excellent! smile

My question is are fathers scientifically proven to be less tuned into the cries of their children at night? Or is it just my DH that can snore through a force 10 scream? hmm

UnderwaterBasketWeaving Sun 07-Apr-13 16:09:04


I haven't seen bedtime live yet, so apologies if this has been covered.

We have what are probably very standard issues. DS has just turned 2. He's been in a toddler bed for a while, and all was going well, until he learned to open doors a few weeks ago.

We now have two problems:
1. Getting him to sleep: we do a routine of bath/pjs/stories/warm milk/bedtime, but he'll spend 2+ hours getting out of bed (we've now put a stairgate on his door to keep him out of the other room/off the stairs) and getting all his toys out, etc.

I can understand why. But he seems so tired, but won't stay in bed long enough to fall asleep. I used to be able to sit on his bed and rub his back and he'd drop off after half an hour, but he now just gets up/kicks me/climbs on me etc. Any suggestions of what we can do? I need evening time to work (FT teacher).

2. I think he's developed night terrors. We're having several episodes of crying in the night where if I lift him for a cuddle, he gets worse, but can take half an hour of rubbing his back to soothe him. The last few nights I've also found him crying out of bed, apparently sleep walking.

Presumably this is a stage which will pass? But is there anything we can do?

He's otherwise well and has no other issues.

Thank you!

UnderwaterBasketWeaving Sun 07-Apr-13 16:10:45

Oh, I should add we've done some rapid return, but I barely make it to his door before he's running behind me, always laughing thinking its a terrific game. Should we persist?

MrTumblesBavarianFanbase Sun 07-Apr-13 18:14:10

I would also like to read the answer to UnderwaterBasketWeaving 's question - my youngest (he will be 2 in a couple of weeks) is very similar, although he was even worse when in a cot (hysterical screaming when put in, whereas at least he will get into his bed happily). He wakes frequently through the night too and gets out of bed howling, although I don't know if its night terrors - again he has always done it. We co-sleep sometimes and his sleep is very restless and he constantly seems to be checking I am there (even in his sleep he fiddles with my face and wakes fully if I try to turn my back).

I have seen 2 paediatricians and one suggested sedation (I don't know if this would have been melatonin as I said no instinctively). We have also tried a few homoeopathic options which had no effect either way. The second paediatrician said he just needs me more than most children - I guess this is a bit like separation anxiety, although he doesn't have any conditions as far as I am aware. He is developing well and both paediatricians confirmed this - good vocabulary and physical skills.

I mostly am resigned to waiting for him to grow out of it. I have 2 older children who sleep well. Any ideas?

LaVitaBellissima Sun 07-Apr-13 18:26:03

I have twins aged 2.5 they are still in cotbeds, and after watching the 1st episode of bedtime live, I think they will be staying in them (with lids) until they go to school grin

What is your best advice for the transisition of cot to bed, and in particular to twins?

HandbagCrab Sun 07-Apr-13 18:27:22

I've not seen bedtime live so apologies if this has been covered.

Ds is 16/17 months and hasn't slept through. We do bedtime at 7 most of the time. He can fall asleep straight after milk or two hours after depending on how he feels. Either me or dh have to stay with him until he gets into deep sleep otherwise he starts screaming. He will wake up and start screaming if you leave before he falls into deep sleep. Shh, pat works sometimes.

At least once per night he wakes up screaming for milk (sometimes 3 or more times). He does lots of things during the day and eats as much as I or nursery can cram into him. He naps for around 1-2 hours in the day but there's no set time. At nursery he is always the last to sleep at nap time.

I'd love a night's sleep without waking for myself! I wake up every time he screams even when dh sorts ds out and I find it very stressful. is there some magical technique me and dh have missed?

Cheers smile

Smorgs Sun 07-Apr-13 18:33:07

I live abroad so haven't seen Bedtime Live so apologies if this has already been covered.

My nearly 6-month-old son still wakes up frequently during the night and after two weeks of sleeping for about 10 hours during the night when he was 11/12 weeks old, he has not slept through since. We have a bedtime routine of bath at 7pm, feed, lullaby and he is put down in the Moses basket awake to drift off by himself. He does an initial stretch of about 4/5 hours but then wakes every 2 hours until about 7am when he is up for the day. I feed him back to sleep every time he wakes and he is usually quick to settle back to sleep (he is breast fed). He naps usually for 40 minutes every three hours during the day, although recently this has changed and he is having one longer nap of about 2 hours in either the morning or afternoon.

I am struggling to think; 1. whether we did anything to stop him sleeping through after 12 weeks and how we change that 2. whether I should avoid feeding him back to sleep at night (I have tried this a few times but he screams and screams and I don't have the energy to battle and it feels a bit wrong as he feeds well and is already on the small side. He is 6kg and 67cm but only gained 100g last month. Was born at 2.99kg) 3. when to move him into his own cot in his own room? Should I wait until he is sleeping better or move him now and start to show a bit of tough love when he wakes up? 4. If this continues, I am thinking of resorting to controlled crying, even though it feels wrong, as I am so, so tired. When is the best age to do this?

Or am I just over-thinking this and shouldn't expect too much from a 6-month-old baby?!

littlestressy Sun 07-Apr-13 18:48:21

My son is almost 16 months old and we have had some success with sleep training. He goes into his cot awake after bath, milk and story and settles himself.

Our problem is early waking, he wakes anytime from 5.00, crying and unable to settle back to sleep. He won't go back to sleep if we go in and ssh him (which usually works in the night). I normally bring him into bed with me to try and doze a little, 8 times out of 10 he will have a breastfeed and stay awake, then need an early nap because he's so tired. Any suggestions for getting him to 6.00 or even later?! His bedtime is normally 6.30-7.00

Haribolicious Sun 07-Apr-13 19:25:47

I have a nearly 3 yr old who has severe eczema all over his body which developed soon after being born.....but mainly it's his arms and legs. For the past 6 months now it is really affecting his sleeping and will easily get into bed but the itchiness drives him crazy so we have to lie with him rubbing his legs/arms until he falls asleep (which can be up to an hour) and then he will wake after 4 hours (he has slept through a handful of times). He sleeps wearing scratchsleeves otherwise we'd have a bloodbath on our hands so thank goodness I found them! He is well moisturised before bed and we have tried giving him a dose of piriton at bedtime but I am conscious of not using it on a regular basis (it didn't seem to ease the itching anyway).

After some sleep training, he will now mainly go to sleep on his own but I know he is still itchy and can hear him rubbing/scratching through his 'sleeves' and he gets so frustrated with it. Also, we can't seem to break the waking after 4 hours cycle. I'm sure he gets overtired as once he wakes in the night, it can take 2-3hrs for him to fall asleep again sad

I would love some advice/help please! Bedtime is usually around 7/730 - he is greased up and then into bed with a story - I have tried to discuss with the GP but with no real solutions, I feel like I just have to persevere and hope he grows out of the eczema. He does have good periods but the itchyness is always there and it really affects his (and my!) quality and amount of sleep sad Is it worth doing more sleep training? I feel so mean leaving him so frustrated with the itching.

Tinkerisdead Sun 07-Apr-13 19:26:26

My dd is 4 and historically has been a terrible sleeper. In a nutshell she had colic, fed to sleep, then held to sleep, then waking through the night and jumping into our bed by stealth. After watching house of tiny tearaways (amazing prog by the way) i used rapid return and a fixed bedtime routine. That brings us up to now, dd goes to bed at 7pm with the same routine milk, story, teeth, wee! And always wakes between 5.30-6.00. In addition to her early wakings she has night terrors/sleep walking that frighten me witless as its like a primal screaming zombie in my childs bed.

Is it possible she has a "sleep disorder" and i'm worried that 5.30 wakings are going to leave her shattered in sept? Can i do anymore? It feels like we've cracked it as shes sleeping through but the screaming terrors are terrifying for me and i'm worried at the impact of her consistent early wakings.

(We have a groclock, she'll wake still but stay in her room and we've tried earlier/later bedtimes but she'll still be up by 6. I love bedtime live by the way my heart goes out to every parent sat exhausted by their childs bed!)

puttbles Sun 07-Apr-13 19:42:36

Sleep training update: bad night last night, Toby went down fine, no sick, but was up 5x in the night, each time crying for me. Today hence been an hr behind as we woke up shattered an hour late so out of the routine. Nap time he went down excellently but only slept 35 mins and only napped a short bit in pram later on so have put him to be at 7:20 tonight instead of 8.

He's off his food today but despite not having solids, was just sick when being put down. Cleaned him up, put him back down, stayed with him a little longer to reassure him and walked away, still awake, but no crying at all, asleep within the first 5 mins- fabulous, but the sinic in me is still thinking it won't be a great night and is still wondering why we're bothering when cosleeping meant an easy life! Was hoping controlled crying would sort out sleep length, reduce amount of wakes and help naps, feeling a little disappointed to say the least. Any words of wisdom? The self settling is the only thing I can see has improved.

JaffaSnaffle Sun 07-Apr-13 20:03:48

My DD2 is 5 months old. Her sleep pattern has deteriorated considerably over the last month. This started when we went away for a weekend, and has never recovered. She often wakes 5-10 mins after she goes to sleep, and then every 2-3 hrs in the night. If I'm lucky she might manage a 5hr stretch.
She now rolls onto her front in the night and gets stuck. She has a cough that sometimes wakes her. She has wind, and dirty nappies in the night so nappy changes wake her.
She is breastfed to sleep. If I try to settle her in the cot, she cries, and becomes very agitated. I feel she is very young for any serious sleep training, but I am exhausted, and cannot see it improving in the short term. What would you recommend?

LBsBongers Sun 07-Apr-13 20:58:17

Hello there, loving the show, especially the twins! None of my children seem to be sleepers, DS1 slept through at 18months, DD1 at 2 years (both fine now after gradual retreat, watering down bottles, lots of shushing etc).

So here I am with DD2 who is only 5months but we are desperate to do something differently as she showing all the signs of being just as poor a sleeper, waking frequently throughout night. Am trying not to breastfeed her to sleep initially but she gets very upset if you put her down awake,pick up put down results in her conking out from the upset, so effectively putting her down already asleep. She is always BF or rocked back to sleep by me or DH if she wakes from that point on, longest stretch of sleep is 2-3 hours.

What can I do at this young age to promote longer stretches of sleep?

Thanks for your help

MoreSnowPlease Sun 07-Apr-13 21:08:52

Hi Tanya, thanks for taking the time to answer questions! I will try to keep this short.

My son is 9 months old an has never slept more than 2 hours, it is very rare that he sleeps longer than 40 mins/1 hour. I cannot hear him cry at all without doing whatever it takes to stop the crying. He sleeps in bed with me and breastfeeds to sleep. He can self settle, I have taught him to do so for naps in buggy by taking him out and comforting every time he cried. He had severe feeding problems hen younger and still can't feed very well.

I just really feel like there is a medical issue rather than behavioural, but when I spoke to GP she took his temperature and declared there was nothing medically wrong, said, cut his naps short. This made him grumpy, then he got sick and it made night sleep worse hmm

I would like to know what I should be insisting the GP looks for as she doesn't seem capable of thinking about what else may be causing the problem apart from a high temperature!

MoreSnowPlease Sun 07-Apr-13 21:12:38

Also...light hearted question...where do you find the perfect babies for your show who take ages to get really worked up/don't get worked up much at all?! My son will get to the point of not breathing after crying for about 2 minutes, with or without me there! So what do you do when none of your sleep training methods would be suitable?

TallGiraffe Sun 07-Apr-13 22:00:16

Posting in advance in case I am dealing with this problem tomorrow night.

DS is 6 months and it seems he is taking after me in being a rubbish sleeper. After much effort we have reduced the night wakings down from 15 per night to 3/4 which is a big improvement (albeit still not ideal). My main question is how to deal with him when he wakes and shows no signs of tiredness and refuses to go back to sleep. Typically this happens at 11pm but can be as early as 9 or as late as midnight (he goes to sleep at 7ish). I don't speak to him, play or do anything stimulating, but 2 hours in a darkened room trying to get him back off is getting tough (especially as I know I have 1 or 2 more wakings to deal with later in the night). If I put him down he is bright red and screaming in about 2 seconds.

McGilly Mon 08-Apr-13 02:00:48

Ok I have one rubbish sleeper. But he is very healthy and so am I, so after reading some of the other posts I am going to salute them and leave DrTanya to deal with real problems! Good luck and sympathy to you all.

QueenoftheHolly Mon 08-Apr-13 07:46:50

Hi Tanya,
My question is probably different to most.
My little boy (now 4 months) has always been very 'good' at sleeping & in the first 10 weeks I was told by various sources including health visitor & hospital midwives that I should wake him to feed every 4 hours which I did. I was told this was to prevent dehydration & to ensure he got enough calories every day, which I thought made sense.

I heard jake humphries say triumphantly that his new born girl had slept for 7 hours solid & you did not say anything to suggest that he should have woken her so I'm now confused. Did I do the right thing? What is the medical advice? He has started sleeping through again now & I have a permanent fear that be isn't getting enough food, its hard to shake the urge to wake him! He's mainly breastfed & isn't a 'big' baby.

Sorry if this is an odd thing to ask about.

nellyjelly Mon 08-Apr-13 08:29:45

Never mind bedtimes. What about early rising! my DS gets up from 5 every day. Too early for me. Any ideas?

Have tried a later bed time and cutting out nap to no avail. He is 2.5.


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