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Family Bedtime: The Oldest Sleep ‘Trick’ in the Books

“When do your kids go to bed?”, I get asked frequently.

“Well, usually, we all just go to bed together, around 8 or 9 o’clock.”

This conversation usually raises some eyebrows! But, ever since my oldest was a baby, my family has slept in the same room. My kids have never had to go to sleep on their own. I bet you’re wondering if my husband and I are human… Ha! Yes, well sort of (what’s normal anyway?). We are busy with work and things we like to do.

If one of us has work to do at night, we take turns being the one to go to sleep with the kids. Occasionally, we both find ourselves awake after the kids have gone to sleep. But, at least a few days a week, the whole family crashes in bed, at the same time, in one big sleepy heap, on our two mattresses on the floor that are smooshed together.

And it’s awesome.

I’ve never had to chase my kids back to their beds because they sleep IN my bed. It’s actually so easy, I honestly can’t understand the fuss over bed time that our society has created.

The idea of having to chase kids back to their bedrooms, or reassure them in the middle of the night that they can be brave enough to sleep in their own room… sounds like a lot of work!

Family bedtime is so easy. Little kids won’t want to stay up if their parents are asleep and the whole house is dark. Believe me, if you announce you’re going to sleep, most kids will follow you. Little kids want to be with their parents at night, it’s really natural. It’s dark. It’s scary. I don’t like being in a dark room alone… why would a child?

Family bed time means my husband and I get more sleep because we go to sleep at the same time as the kids. The times when we do put the kids to bed and then stay up for a little living room ‘date’, are fun and all, but it can be such an effort! To have to peel ourselves up from that sweet cloud of children’s sleep, is no easy feat. When we do stay up late, we end up staying up way too late and wake up the next morning feeling pooped!

Kids go to sleep faster when the whole family goes to sleep at the same time. It doesn’t take long for kids to drift off when everyone is falling to sleep at the same time. But, if I’m sitting there waiting for them to fall to sleep, it can take AGES for the kids to fall to sleep! Kids feel the energy of you doing the agonising ‘wait‘ for them to fall to sleep! The longer it takes for them to drift off, the more resentful the parents get. The more resentful we get, the more our kids pick up on our vibes and it then it takes them even longer to fall to sleep!

Family bed time creates this beautiful sleepy energy that takes over everyone. I love the feeling when I know that this is the end of the day. Nothing else to do. I sleep next to my 2 year old son, he’s so warm and cuddly and I can feel when he drifts off and then it’s my body’s cue to do the same. Ahhh…

I’ve read a lot of parenting books, and almost all of them have dedicated entire chapters to bedtime strategies (actually, some books are ENTIRELY about sleep). How to get kids to go to their beds, go to sleep and stay there until a reasonable time in the morning…

Elaborate bedtime routines, sticker charts, bribes, systematic ignoring of crying… you name it. One particular popular parenting book I read, which I don’t even want to mention the name, suggests that it’s ok if your 4 year old child cries for 1-2 hours at night alone in their bed, as long as they’re physically ‘ok’ because you can just make up for it by positive parenting during the day. *facepalm*. The book gives the reader the message that under no circumstances should let your child into your bed, otherwise, God knows WHAT bad habits might form! (forgetting that children have been sleeping next to their parents since the beginning of time).

I sigh… as I snuggle close to my babes, I feel sad… What an effort it must be to follow the advice in those books!

And, for mornings, once a kid is awake, there’s not much else you can do about that. We get up too, but remember, if we went to bed early, it doesn’t matter as much. If your child is waking up really early and won’t sleep without you glued to their side, there are some things you can do, and I can save that for a later post!

Time goes really slow for a child, so if they’re sitting there at night or in the morning, waiting to be allowed to get up out of bed, even if it’s only half an hour, that half an hour can feel like an eternity for them!

Family bed time and family beds are so beautiful and easy. At the time of writing this, I have three kids, 8 1/2, 6 and 2. My 2 year old sleeps next to the 8 year old. I know that sometimes the little guy rolls into her. I asked her, “Does it bother you when he bumps into you at night?” She said, “No way! I love him, even if he bumps into me, I just wake up for a second and go back to sleep, because he’s sooooo cute!” We found an arrangement that makes everyone happy

Despite the fear that bed sharing will inhibit your child’s ability to be independent, some people (like me) would argue the opposite. That when a child feels safe and secure both day AND night, they will become every more confident and have less to worry about. For us, family bed time has been so easy. Yes, they are some of logistics to figure out, like, how do you and your husband ever have sex (well, we have three kids, so don’t be silly and look at India, they roomshare and they have a population of 1 billion people), and what happens if one wakes up crying, pee in the bed, etc. These are all real legitimate concerns and I think the answer is different for every family. And sometimes, one parent really cannot put up with room sharing, so then you have to accomodate for that in order to save your relationship. But, guaranteed, after a little trial and error, everyone finds some sort of system that works where needs for connection at night can be met.

Some nights (and these nights are rare), yes, we are all up because somebody got sick or there was a problem or something. But, 99.9% of the time, it’s beautiful cuddles. My kids feel safe and secure knowing that if they wake up at night for anything at all, somebody will be right there to help. And, I actually sleep better, knowing that everyone is safe and next to me! And, best of all… it’s all very VERY easy.

Disclaimer: If you’re going to bedshare with an infant, please make sure you read proper co-sleeping guidelines. Never sleep with your child if you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Young babies should sleep on a firm surface, away from any cracks, blankets or pillows or anything that could obstruct their airway.

Kids Don’t ‘Fight’ Sleep: Here’s What’s Happening

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Sorry if the title irritated you. Because we’ve all experienced kids ‘fighting‘ sleep and we ‘know‘ they’re fighting it, right?? And, OMG, is it annoying!! But, are they really fighting it, or is there something else going on?

My oldest daughter would have been dumped in the category of one who ‘fights sleep‘. Honestly, from the day she was born, those beady little eyes would pop open and STAY open for way longer than I thought was humanly (or newbornly) possible. She’s 8 years old and she still has the tendency to want to know what’s going on at every moment of the day. She would rather walk around with her eyes hanging out of her head than admit she’s tired. Aren’t a lot of kids this way? But… when she gets like that I know there’s something going on.

Sleep is a natural phenomena and it can should happen easily, without any tricks or training.

There are a few things that a child needs in order to easily drift off to sleep. Sometimes, our modern life does not lend itself to good sleeping. By trying to make our kids independent and through overstimulating, etc. our kid’s sleep can suffer. Read the rest of this entry

And Mama, How is YOUR Sleep Going?

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Most articles are about getting the CHILD to sleep. Getting kids to have a peaceful night’s sleep is important (and I’ll talk a little about that), but I haven’t found much emphasis on if the PARENT has good sleeping habits. I’ve had enough disturbed sleep over the past 7 years of parent hood and what I found is that I was the one who actually had to discipline MYSELF to make sure I was getting enough sleep. I had to break a lot of bad habits and drop unrealistic expectations because I just wasn’t getting the sleep I needed. I also learned to look for signals of unmet needs in my children when they weren’t sleeping well. When we sleep better, our parenting is better. Our decision making is better. Even if our babies and children do wake up a little here and there, when the mother (or father) gets a good night sleep, the whole show runs a lot smoother.

If your child is disrupting your sleep…

Staying Connected to Your Children At Night
Babies and young children want to feel safe at night. Their need for comfort and closeness does not end when the lights go out. Some possible reasons for children having trouble falling and staying to sleep is simply the fear of being alone. If your child wants to share your bed, or your room, it’s ok to let them. It’s not weird or unusual for kids to want to be near you. My 7 year old still likes for me to lay down with her while she falls to sleep and usually we all go to bed at the same time. We have a family bed, with me, my husband, a 7, a 5 year old and a 10 month old baby, all in the same big bed. Family beds and family bedrooms are the way many families around the world spend the night.

With a baby especially, bed and/or room sharing is ideal because you don’t have to wake up and walk to your baby to pick him up. So, you both get less disturbed at night. They’re right next to you. Of course, if you bed share, be sure to make sure that it feels right for you and that you’re doing it safely. I know that I sleep way better when my babies and children are right next to me. I would actually have anxiety if my babies weren’t near me! If the opposite is true for you, and having your child near you at night makes you anxious, perhaps, if your partner is a light enough sleeper, they can sleep near your child. There are lots of room sharing/bed sharing options.

Baby Wakes Up All Night/Restless Sleep

A little night waking is completely normal, but if your baby is waking up all night long and is having restless sleeps, it’s often the sign of an accumulation of stress and overstimulation. Babies and children have an inborn mechanism to relieve that stress and they do it through raging and crying. If your baby or child is allowed and able to cry and rage freely and is supported to do so in the presence of a loving carer, they will often sleep much much better.

A baby that uses a control pattern to fall back to sleep, the breast, a dummy/pacifer/thumb sucking, often represses these emotions and wakes up more frequently. If your baby is not in the room, you may not even know that he or she is waking. But, if you’re the cosleeping, breastfeeding type, you will definitely know! I wrote a blog post here on breastfeeding cosleeping babies that wake all night and there is also a book called ‘The Aware Baby” by Aletha Solter, and she addresses control patterns and how they affect your child’s sleep. Also, young babies almost never eliminate in a deep sleep. Young babies stir to pee and are bothered by a wet nappies (even a wet disposable can annoy them). If you notice that they’re wet, you can do a nappy change in the dark, or I even take my babies to the toilet at night, which sounds a little crazy, but it’s actually easier than you think. Here’s a blog post on how to do elimination communication.

And for the parents…

Be in Bed NO LATER than 10pm
Going to bed early is the biggest thing of all. I actually aim between 8:30 and 9. They say that the hours of sleep you get before midnight are worth twice as much as the hours after midnight. By 10, that means actually be in bed by 10, not start heading to bed at 10! If you follow ayurveda, the science of life, they say it’s ideal to fall asleep before 10pm. The hours between 10pm-2am are when the body is making repairs. If you’re not asleep during that time, your body is not recovering well enough.

Also, what happens after 10pm, if you’re awake, is that you start to wake back up! Then, 10 turns into 11 and 11 turns into 12 and before you know it, you’re going to bed at midnight. Compound that if your baby or child wakes up a lot or they wake up early, then you’re screwed. I wrote a more in depth article on when it’s important to fall asleep before 10, you can read here. I don’t always go to bed by 10, but on the days I don’t, the next day, there’s hell to pay and I’m a miserable grump!

If you feel like you’re missing out on quiet time with your partner by doing this, maybe only stay up late once a week? Sometimes my husband and I wake up early, before the kids, and have some quiet time or do something, like meditate together or take turns going surfing. If we stay up late to get peace and quiet, we just end up sleeping until the kids wake up and then I feel like I spend the whole day chasing my tail.

Be Careful Who You Complain To!
If you complain about lack of sleep to the wrong people, they’ll probably start telling you things that are not necessary and even counter productive in the long run. They might tell you to stop doing the intuitive things that you’re doing. You might end up trying cry it out, or giving solids before the baby is ready, or forming some short term solution for sleep, that contributes to a long term problem of broken connection and later behaviour problems.

Avoid  Screens Before Bed
This seems like an obvious one, but really hard to follow! Just a reminder… as what you’re viewing on the screen has the potential make the mind very active and make it harder to settle. You might have weird dreams as the consciousness tries to process what you’ve just looked at before you fell to sleep. Avoid leaving your phone in your room at night, so that you’ll be able to resist looking at it, should you wake up.

Busy Mind, Can’t Sleep?
If you know a meditation technique, before bed can be a good time to do it! You can’t calm the mind with the mind, you need something else. A really awesome technique is called alternate nostril breathing. Here’s the link on how to do it. You can just sit up in bed any time and do it for a few minutes if you’re having trouble going to sleep.

Another Trick For ‘Can’t fall back to sleep’.
I learned this last year on a meditation course and it really works. So, if your mind is really busy, it means you have too much prana (energy) in the head. So, if you put your awareness on your feet and on the EXHALATION of your breath, then you help to move all the energy back down. You’ll notice that your mind wanders a lot, but just keep brining back to your breath and your feet and you’ll hopefully be asleep in no time.

Avoid Naps
Unless you’re really depleted or you’re in the days of post partum, avoid taking day sleeps. Having a day sleep will make you want to go to bed later and then might make it harder for you to fall back to sleep if you wake up at night. Also, taking a day sleep, according to ayurveda, can make things in your body, like your digestion, run a big more sluggish than usual. So, better to avoid it unless you’re really zonked. It is important to rest while your kids sleep. So their rest time can be a good time for you to do something rejuvenating, like have a cup of tea, do some yoga and meditation or even stare a a wall if it’s been one of *those* days. Hopping on the phone to check social media is fine, but I noticed I often feel that my ‘rest quota‘ is unfulfilled when I do that too much during the kid’s sleep time.

Anyway, these are things that I’ve found have worked for making sure the parent has enough rest! It’s so important for us and for our families to be well rested. So, nighty night, sleep tight!

 

 

This Kid is Taking FOREVER to Fall Asleep! Eight Reasons Why.

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Not tired

It sounds too simple to be true, but in order for sleep to take over, the child actually needs to be tired. Read on.

Putting to bed too early.

Some kids just have their natural sleep time. When my first was a baby, if I tried to get her to bed before 8pm, it never, ever worked. She’s six years old and I still don’t bother trying before 8pm, even when she’s exhausted. Anything after 10pm (which is pretty late for a child) and you have to be careful because the child can actually become more wide awake. The same rule applies for adults, try to go to bed before 10 and it’s easier to fall asleep. Read the rest of this entry

Why I Would Worry if My Baby Slept Through the Night

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When my older daughter was about three months old, my grandmother told me over the phone that all of her babies, at that age, were sleeping 12 hours through the night… TWELVE HOURS?! OMG! Margo was barely sleeping longer than three hour blocks, how the hell was she supposed to sleep for twelve hours straight?! And, if she did sleep through the night at that age, I think my boobs would have exploded!

Warmth, Security and Co-Sleeping
We co-sleep in our house. My 4 year old has a toddler bed right next to ours and our nearly 2 year old sleeps right in the middle of us. They never have to wake up and climb into our beds, because they’re already IN our bed. When my girls were babies, they had this sort of warmth/body radar. If they stirred and there wasn’t a warm body that they could roll around and smoosh up to, they would almost always wake up in distress. And, it’s for good reason! Babies have only been sleeping away from their parents, in separate rooms for the past hundred or so years. Before that, babies would only have slept right in their mother’s armpit, lest the wolves got to them or something. Night time is dark and scary. Having a trusted carer there, (at least in the same room), gives a strong sense of security and trust. Like, “Yes, I’m here. If you need anything, I’ll help you.” Trust that inevitably carries on for the rest of a child’s life!

Easy Access to Nutrition
Young babies need to feed several times throughout the night. Whether you’re breastfeeding or not, having your baby right next to you allows you to respond to their needs very quickly, before they become distraught. I mean, even if they don’t have a huge feed, they might be thirsty and need a little sip. Um, hello, I get up in the middle of the night for sip of water! I wouldn’t expect a baby, whose digestive tract is way shorter than an adults, to make it through the night without a little something to eat or drink!

Babies need to pee and poo!
Before I had my first, I remember watching a video that distinctly told you NOT to change a baby’s nappy if they were asleep! Even if they had done a poo, that you should leave it for the morning, unless they had a really bad rash.

Call me crazy, and I know it’s not for everyone, but I’ve been taking my babies to the toilet at night since they were born. They’ve never sat in their own waste at night. Taking a baby to the loo is called ‘elimination communication’. I also used cloth nappies, so if I did miss something… wet meant wet! Even disposables never worked to mask the dampness because my girls were so used to being dry. So… when I hear that a baby has been sleeping 10 or 12 hours through the night, my first though is, “OMG! Yeah, they were sleeping through the night in their own pee and poo!

Babies Breath and Heart Rate
It’s been proven that babies who co-sleep have less overall apnea (periods when they stop breathing) and also their heart rate does not drop as low [1]. Since a baby’s lungs and circulatory system are still developing, it’s actually not good if they go into such a deep sleep for a long time!

My Own Peace of Mind
Despite everything I’ve just said, it all comes down to how I would feel if I didn’t see or hear from my baby for 10 or 12 hours. It just wouldn’t seem right. It’s so unfortunate that these tiny little people, who are still adjusting to their world and are very dependent for every need, are expected to be out of sight and out of mind for so many hours in a row. Babies are not ‘some thing‘ that should be put off in another part of the house. They are members of the family and their needs should be responded to promptly. Sure, some babies sleep ‘well‘ at night. Mine certainly did for the most part. But, they really didn’t ‘sleep through‘ the night until they were about 20-22 months. And, for some kids sleeping through the night comes earlier or later or really never at all! It’s actually a myth that people should sleep 8 hours through the night in the first place! The eight hour ‘sleep‘ only came around during the industrial revolution with the 8 hour work day. 

So, when people tell me that their young babies sleep through the night. I raise my eyebrows and say, “Really?! That’s strange!

If your baby is waking up excessively, like more than 3 or 4 times a night, you might want to read this one I wrote 🙂

*Note- In the title, I’m mostly referring to babies sleeping through the night alone in another room*

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[1] McKenna, Thomas. ‘Why Babies Should Never Sleep Alone: A Review of the Co-Sleeping Controversy in Relation to SIDS, Bedsharing and Breastfeeding’. Pediatric Respiratory Reviews (2005) 6 134-152

Why I Would Never EVER Let My Babies Cry It Out

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I can’t believe I’m writing ANOTHER post on sleep training. But, every time I hear someone talk about how *great* sleep training is, or Ferberizing, or cry it out, or whatever, I just can’t help it. One day, my dream is that people will sit around, scratching their heads, wondering why on earth anyone would ever leave a young baby in another room alone to cry. Read the rest of this entry

Tired and Touched Out With Your Kids? Twelve Ways to Bring Back the Love

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Energy reserves start to plummet into oblivion and the room starts to spin.  The demands from my kids get louder and more persistent… I look at the time… “SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP ME!!!”, I scream in my head!  I know all of the things I ‘should’ be doing, to be a caring, attentive and loving parent… but it’s just not happening.  My body is there, but in my mind, I want to be crashed out in bed with the covers pulled over my head…  Do you know the feeling?! Read the rest of this entry

Train a Dog, But Don’t Train Your Baby to Sleep!

Do I look like a dog?

Do I look like a dog?

I was fuming. Yes, me. Yogi, surfy, zen-mama Kate, was exhausted. I had a throbbing headache, my house was a mess and my 14 month old was up for two hours in the middle of the night.   Read the rest of this entry

Do You Follow the Golden Rule When Your Kids Take a Nap?

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Sweetness is...

Sweetness is…

I sometimes call myself the ‘Nap Nazi’.  Getting my kids down for a mid-day sleep at the same time is sort of my priority and I confess, I don’t like it when it doesn’t happen.  My girls are 3 1/2 and 12 months, and since the little one was born, I’ve been pretty diligent at getting them to nap at the same time.  Now, I am fully into gentle parenting, I would never do ‘Cry It Out‘ (or chuck ’em in the crib as some would say).  We cosleep, babywear, do EC (elimination communication), tandem breastfeed (you see where I’m going with this).  But I have to say, I am pretty stubborn when it comes to making sure that everyone gets some rest or ‘time out‘ and at the same time.  Since it’s just me at home with them all day (everyday) without the help of a village or extended family (curse you industrial revolution), I feel like it’s all the more reason that I consciously make an effort to get my kids to sleep at the same time so that I can rest too!  I think most mothers would agree that it’s really nice to have that time of peace… although, I know that many times the ‘peacefulness’ doesn’t always happen for various reasons… Read the rest of this entry

Keeping Young Children and Babies on a Schedule (With Lots of Room For Spontaneity)

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Days like these, when routine goes out the window!

Days like these, when routine goes out the window!

We were just getting into the car to go home at 2:45 pm and Margo (almost 3  1/2) was starting to get delirious.  You know, speaking tongues and crying over everything… end of the world things like  wanting mommy to buckle her into the carseat instead of daddy, etc.  By the time we got home and inside, it was about 3:00pm, she cried some more about not wanting to take a nap, or that she didn’t have to pee before she went to bed (even though she did), etc.  We all got into bed (queen size, can you say squish), Art rubbed Margo’s back for about 2 minutes, and probably by 3:03pm, she was out like a light. Read the rest of this entry