by Catalina Lau – baby sleep consultant for Glow Dreaming
If you’re a mama, sleep is likely very important to you and everyone living under your roof. No doubt, you’ll want as much of it as you can squeeze in – and preferably not broken, either! Who has time for that?
From night feeds to night terrors, as mamas there will most certainly be times when we are back and forth from our precious pillows during the night. But no-one wants to get up anymore than necessary (or at all! But whom are we kidding?).
However, night terrors affect five in every 100 children between the ages of 18 months to six years old. So to help you maximise your shut-eye and hopefully say goodbye to the terrors (the sleep condition, not your kids), let’s look at things a little more closely and talk through some tips to reduce night terrors.
As opposed to nightmares, night terrors are forgotten by the child because they occur during the transitional period between deep non-REM sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. They are caused by over-arousal of the central nervous system.
An episode can last anywhere from a few minutes to almost an hour, and when it’s over your child may abruptly fall back to sleep with no memory of the incident. The disruption this causes for the child may lead to further stress, which is a catalyst for continual night terrors.
Top tips to help break the cycle
1 // Routine
Regardless of age, regular schedules and bedtime rituals help us get the sleep we need and give us the ability to function at peak levels.
2 // Consistency
Setting a regular bedtime and wake time will align expectations for both you and your child and allows you to plan the bedtime routine.
3 // Timing
Putting a toddler to bed when they’re overtired is a challenge (We’ve all been there AND don’t want to EVER again. Am I right, mama?). Initiating their bedtime routine before seeing signs of tiredness will allow you a longer, slower process that will help your child wind down naturally. This gives you the opportunity to read, cuddle and relax together in a way that doesn’t feel forced or rushed.
4 // Narrate the evening
Pre-bedtime, it can be helpful to find a gentle way to remind your child about their upcoming routine. This time to process and prepare for sleep removes any chance for surprises or unexpected feelings of anxiety. Tell them what will be coming up soon, what steps you’re going to take and what they will experience. Side bar: Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could talk you through each day like this, mama?
5 // Empower
Encourage children to select their pyjamas, toys they want to sleep with and stories they’d like to read before hitting the sheets, which will get them mentally prepared for bed.
6 // Breathe
Teach your child simple breathing techniques, which will help calm them down. Make this exercise fun and interactive by asking them to place their hands on their belly and imagine blowing up a balloon and then deflating it as they exhale.
7 // Lighting
Introduce a night light to the bedroom that uses technology such as sound and light to help children understand sleep times. Glow Dreaming is now coming to the rescue of many a mama. Because who doesn’t want as much sleep as possible? We’d even settle for extra five minutes!
8 // Cuddles and questions
Lastly, open up the conversation to questions and ask them what they are excited about doing tomorrow. Close the chat with a kiss and cuddle.