Sleep! oh yes that old chestnut… When other parents tease and say “get as much sleep as you can, as you won’t after the baby is born” they are not really teasing. They are trying to prepare you. BUT, can you be prepared? Not every baby will have the same sleep pattern, and believe it or not most babies don’t sleep all night.
Newborns spend 50% of their sleeping hours in light rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and is double the time adults spend in this phase. This stage of sleep is a time of high brain activity, when the neural pathway associations with learning are stimulated. During REM, babies are quite restless and can wake up easily.
Most new parent expectations is for their baby to sleep through the night, something almost all new parents crave. However, research has shown that it is biologically inappropriate, until their first birthday babies wake for food and emotional reasons. They are hard-wired for sensory communication, tactile, visual, and auditory, even at night!
So with a lack of sleep affecting 91% of mums there is no doubt it will and can take a toll on 3 out of 4 relationships.
Sleep Deprivation Survey
A survey* of 500 parents revealed the true impact of sleep deprivation on people’s health and well-being.
The research by Sweet Dream Babies focused on mums who have had a baby in the last 5 years. It found that a staggering 88% of Mums had experienced what they considered to be sleep difficulties with their baby. And 27% answered yes to the following question: Have your child’s sleep difficulties had a negative effect on your wish to have more children?
The survey found that lack of sleep
- had negatively affected the physical and mental well-being of 91% of Mums in the past 5 years.
- 75% said it had affected their relationship and
- 84% claimed a poorer enjoyment of day-to-day life.
Simple changes to a baby’s sleep environment and sleep routine can make a huge difference. Understanding why babies are struggling to sleep and learning how to help them, really empowers parents to make these vital changes, which ultimately improves the whole family’s quality of life.
Some of the most common sleep challenges
- were babies getting upset when their parent/s left the room (81%),
- babies needing to see or touch their parents (73%),
- or be held (58%), to be able to fall asleep,
- babies taking a long time to settle in the evening (63%)
- 88% of mums claimed that their baby woke often throughout the night but was unable to go back to sleep without being settled all over again.
- 55% said their baby could only manage very short cat-naps during the day.
The survey found that over half of mums experienced the worst of their baby’s sleep difficulties between the ages of 3-6 months (23%) and the ages of 6-12 months (30%).
At their wit’s end, 67% of respondents sought help online from other parents.
Just 11% contacted a qualified sleep consultant.
Baby & Child Sleep Consultant, Samantha Bell
I am often shocked and saddened by how little sleep my clients have been existing on for months, sometimes even years. By the time they call me, this has often already had a huge impact on their lives. One of the most upsetting issues is the negative effect that lack of sleep can have on the relationship between the parents. I have worked with a lot of wonderful couples over the years, but have sadly seen even the strongest, most loving bonds tested.
The degree to which sleep deprivation is affecting people’s lives is painfully apparent and of real concern. Mums and Dads deserve to feel like they have the energy to be the kind of parent they want to be, and to enjoy life with their children. But for many, those early months and years can become a real challenge. This is a terrible shame because I know from experience that this level of sleep deprivation can be avoided.
It goes without saying that babies and children need oodles of love, care, attention and reassurance. But, they also need to slowly learn the skill that is falling asleep. Often accidentally, a series of ‘sleep dependencies’ is created, without which the child is unable to cope. Unfortunately, this is a vicious cycle; the more times the baby is ‘helped’ to fall asleep, the more ingrained the habit becomes, and the result is often a poor night’s sleep for everybody.
Of course, young babies are not physically able to sleep for long, unbroken stretches and will come into many light phases of sleep throughout daytime naps and during the night. The baby’s ‘inner sleep system’ needs time to develop and mature, but it can certainly benefit from some guidance and gentle encouragement along the way. Long-term difficulties can arise though when a baby falls asleep in an environment (such as whilst being carried or rocked in their cot), which may not be present when they stir later. But, even very young babies are perfectly able to sleep soundly between their daytime and night-time feeds, and through their sleep cycles, if a few simple steps are followed.
Few people are even aware that sleep consultancy is a specialist field. They muddle through, thinking either that their baby just isn’t a great sleeper, or that they are doing something wrong, but don’t know where to go for help. It is sad to think that so many resign themselves to a lack of sleep being something they have no control over or, worse, that they are somehow to blame.
Although there is a lot of advice available across a myriad of online sources, much of it is based on people’s experiences with their own children. Every parent is, of course, doing their best, but some may just need that little bit of extra help to get the right information. Ideally, I would like to encourage any parent who is struggling, to seek specialist help and guidance, and receive tailor-made, effective support at what can bean incredibly difficult time.
Babies with sleep dependencies can be taught to sleep peacefully, by choosing the method that is right for each family and their baby, gently changing the circumstances and slowly creating some new, healthier sleep habits.
Two natural sleep ‘set-backs’ occur within the first 12 months of a baby’s life: The first at around 4/5 months and the second between 8 and 10 months. These often affect the quality and quantity of a baby’s sleep, leaving parents exhausted. But, gently introducing a few simple sleep training techniques can help hugely in terms of nurturing and building up healthy sleep habits, even during these slightly tricky phases.
Furthermore, this can all be achieved without ever having to use any form of ‘controlled crying’.
Emily & Ben, parents to baby Orlando – clients of Samantha Bell, February 2017
In February 2017, I had the absolute pleasure of working with parents Emily and Ben, and their son Orlando, when he was approximately 5.5 months old. Orlando had suffered with reflux from a very young age and had just weathered the 4 month sleep-regression storm! His mum and dad had poured bucket-loads of love and patience into these first few months, but were aware that Orlando had picked up some unwanted sleep habits along the way!!
Having discussed the sleep training methods beforehand, Emily and Ben chose to use my Reactive Sleep Training Technique, which meant they were right by Orlando’s side, every step of the way. We had a pretty ‘lively’ first night, to say the least, but I could not have been more proud of the whole family for really investing themselves in the process. There were noticeable improvements over the following days and it wasn’t long before Orlando was sleeping from bedtime at around 7:15pm, to 6:30am, with an occasional night-feed if he wanted it!
“I am Sam’s number one fan! Her methods are methodical and thorough, but always kind. It was such a relief when Sam arrived and showed us what to do – she has rescued our sleep!”
The Sweet Dream Babies (www.sweetdreambabies.co.uk)
*Sleep Survey was carried out during March and April 2017. 500 participants, 49% had just one child, and 40% had two.