How to put your kids to sleep and settle your family’s sleep

no seriously. I don’t think I’ve slept through the night in four years.

I am the mother of two little boys aged 2 and 4, and when they were babies they never slept through the night except for a few months.

This is causing extreme sleep deprivation for my husband and me.

Sleep deprivation is affecting every aspect of my life – including my mood, weight and marriage. My ability to function on all cylinders is not possible without copious amounts of caffeine.

It was for these reasons that I began researching CNN Wellness eight weeks ago to help my family get more sleep.

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Sleep problems common in families

Before setting out on my trip, it’s nice to know that what is happening to my family is very normal.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 25% to 50% of preschool children do not get enough sleep.
Young children not falling asleep or staying asleep can result in less sleep for their parents or caregivers. It can also lead to behavioral problems and hyperactivity in school and has been linked to childhood obesity.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that children ages 3 to 5 sleep 10 to 13 hours per day. Children between the ages of 6 and 13 need nine to 11 hours of sleep a night.
CNN Entertainment reporter Chloe Melas (far left) turned to a sleep specialist to help her family get more rest.  She is shown with her husband, Brian Mazza (second from right) and their two sons.

And when it comes to adults, you should aim for seven to nine hours.

I’m definitely not getting that much sleep – not even close.

If I’m lucky, my husband and I sleep three hours before one of our kids wakes up and walks into our bedroom. Then we go to sleep till 5 in the morning, when both the kids wake up like chickens.

I took my family’s tragic sleep experience to take on bedtime guru Dr. Mark Weisbluth, professor emeritus of clinical pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. In the last two months, I met him almost three times.

go easy on yourself

During my first interview, I was passionate about the sleep crisis in my home, but Weisbluth said I don’t blame myself.

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“Maybe you were just unlucky,” he said. “Maybe you innocently did things that allowed bad habits to develop, and we don’t want to beat ourselves up for what we’ve done in the past. But going forward, we’re always going to make kids better.” Can help with sleep.”

Hear these excuses? Teething, growth spurt, sleep regression, and/or being born a night owl. Weisbluth said to exclude any explanation I have been given about sleep problems in children.

It also includes “witching hour,” the time toward the end of the day when children become irritable that parents often blame a long day. Witching hour exists because our children are sleep deprived, Weisbluth said. “It could only be because they have fragmented night’s sleep,” he said. “If you have disrupted sleep, you don’t wake up as rested, and your body doesn’t restore as much and so you lose it in the afternoon.”

institute for children earlier bedtime

Babies need to sleep earlier and get more sleep. “If you look at the bedtime surveys when babies sleep for decades, not three years, but 10, 20, 30 years, it’s been later and later that kids are having more difficulty sleeping because His bedtime is too late,” Weisbooth said.

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All our organs require oxygen glucose energy, but only one organ needs sleep, he said and that is the brain. “So if the brain doesn’t get the food it needs, that’s going to result in either behavior or feelings or cognition.”

Over the past four years, I feel like I’ve tried ready-to-wake clocks, red night-lights, and melatonin, and even backtracked in hopes of making my kids’ bedtimes more tiring. has been pushed.

What was our sleep guru’s plan for our family?

Simple sleeping rules for little ones

Weisbluth, author of the popular book “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child,” said my 4-year-old has to follow her “sleep rules.” Honestly, it actually seemed a lot easier to do – go to bed, close your eyes, shut up, and try to sleep.

If my 4-year-old had to follow the rules, he would be rewarded the next morning with a piece of candy or a small toy. If he wakes up during the night, we have to make a silent retreat to bed that includes hugs and affection but no words. (We didn’t want to encourage her to hang out with Mom and Dad.) This also meant limiting her privileges the next day, taking away or limiting something she enjoyed (a toy, her iPad). , a certain breakfast) result in waking up as a.

Mela (far left) found that "sleep rules"  Worked for her 4 year old son with a rewards system.

At first, I was hesitant to participate in a reward system, but I was desperate for anything. My son and I made a sign of sleep rules and taped it to our bedroom door. We also increased his bedtime by half an hour.

To my surprise, it worked!

Minus a few hiccups here and there, he has slept through the night without being in our bedroom 95% of the time in the last two months.

Hallelujah!

Structure and regular support

“Sleep rules work because they encourage sleep-friendly behaviors and discourage sleep-disrupting behaviors,” Weisbluth tells me. “Typically, when sleep rules are enforced, bedtime is moved slightly earlier, so the child is in a reduced state of neural arousal. If bedtime is too late then sleep rules may not work.” can.”

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For our 2-year-old, our main issue was that he was doing body rocking, a self-soothing mechanism that involved him banging his head against his crib until he fell asleep. Weisbluth assured us it was nothing to be too worried about and encouraged us to create another structure around her nighttime routine and increase her bedtime by half an hour.

We usually put him in his crib and turn on his sound machine because when he was 1 he couldn’t sit down to read a book. But as it turns out, he’s enjoying turning on his sound machine and turning off his lights after a few books with Daddy.

Our little son is still awake at 5 a.m., but at least he’s sleeping through the night with no body shaking.

Very good.

Better Rest, One Night at a Time

Still, it is not a foolproof plan.

“There will always be exceptions due to natural life events that involve you and your children,” Weisbluth said. “It could be a common cold, a school-related event for your 4-year-old that will be disrupted. But these disruptions will be, at times, somewhat predictable. … It may be from speed bumps or nuisances.” Too much is a major obstacle to rest.”

Will all our sleep problems go away? not enough. But we are feeling more relaxed and hopeful that a longer period of sleep is on the horizon!

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