The lockdown period was favourable to many parents as it provided an opportunity to establish sleep practices without the stresses of commuting, school runs and daycare.

However, for many, the routine derived from work, school and daycare were the very foundation of their sleep routine and now their sleep is in free fall and bedtime for your little ones may be taking ages.

Some parents report anywhere from 1-3 hours of heroic efforts to help their child get to sleep, and even then, they may still wake frequently overnight.

As the circadian rhythm plays such an important role in encouraging high sleep tendencies – small changes in either direction can have both a positive and a negative impact.  The negative aspects may be represented by sleep resistance at bedtime and for daytime sleep too.

Getting back on track

First of all, find how much sleep does your baby or child need- for their age and stage- become informed- night time need and day time sleep amounts of naps throughout the day. Although I will encourage you to find how what you might aim for, I won’t encourage you to become fixated on this-just to have an idea of what you might be hoping for, and within that understanding that all children are different.

Establish a regular wake time

Create a landmark wake time, no earlier than 6 am and no later than 7.30 am.  Even if your child is awake before this time, it may be important to treat any wake before 6 am as night time using my stay and support approach.

Always start the day with a feed- but try to do this outside of the bedroom context.  It seems to help if you get up and go straight downstairs rather than playing or feeding in your bed, especially if you are hoping to weaken a bed-sharing dynamic.

Expose your child to bright and/or natural light to really press start on the day.

Outside Activity

We have experienced a most unusual time where we have been starved of social stimulation and interaction. Feed that diet now in a socially distanced appropriate way and also ensure that we provide for age-relevant exercise and plenty of outdoor activity- much easier to do now that the weather is generally fine, but even on the days that it isn’t- always get out- it is great for sleep and for the parental mood.

Limit the screen use

Avoid screens as much as possible and especially 1-2 hours before bedtime- don’t be fooled that it is relaxing your child, as it may well recharge their batteries and prolong the bedtime process, adding to the resistance to sleep.  Discover other ways to help relax and engage with your child to ensure that the waking part of the brain is not stimulated, compromising bedtime and impacting the overall quality of their sleep.

Avoid the overtired cycle at bedtime

Examine the wake period before bedtime-ideally observing the suggested nap gap dynamic of

3-4 hours at age 8-18m and 4-5 hours 18-m to 3 years.  If your child is no longer napping than bedtime of 7-8 pm, can generally be helpful, and starting this early can help you to capture their natural sleep wave and avoid a second wind.

Foster a relaxing bedtime process

Figure out ways to relax your child’s body and mind- have a bedtime routine in the bedroom that you want them to sleep in- discover ways to connect and encourage a deep feeling of wellbeing and feeling loved before the sleep separation.  Song time, storytime, cuddles and low impact play all can help promote preparation for separation and sleep.

Avoid Mixed Messages

Be predictable with your loving responses as you help your child to achieve sleep with greater ease- be patient as it takes time for this to emerge. Using the feeding and sleeping balances together with my approach all outlined in both of my books will help you further move towards better, more rested sleep for your family.

Lucy Wolfe is a sleep consultant, Author of The Baby Sleep Solution and All about The Baby Sleep Solution, creator of ‘Sleep Through’ a natural Body and Bed Sleep Spray and Relaxing Rub, and mum of four children. She runs a private sleep consulting practice where she provides knowledge, expertise and valuable support to families across the country. See www.sleepmatters.ie t: 087 2683584 or e: lucy@sleepmatters.ie