BY HANNAH CLAPHAM (GUEST WRITER)
LOCKDOWN SLEEP TIPS
As a sleep coach I have seen a significant rise in sleep problems for little people with each lockdown that comes around. January 2021 seems to be a crisis point for a lot of families in terms of sleep and it’s no mystery why. Home schooling. Lack of extended family and close friends around. Working from home whilst juggling childcare. Nurseries closing. Quarantining due to illness or exposure to Covid. Here are some of my lockdown sleep tips.
Parents are burnt out and worried about money, work and wellbeing. Routines have gone out the window for lots of us. Loved ones may be poorly or vulnerable right now. And none of us saw this coming, or thought it would go on this long.
So first of all, give yourself a break. I read something by parenting guru Sarah Ockwell-Smith recently that said she didn’t use the phrase self-care – it has become too much of another chore or thing on the to-do list. Instead she talks about self-kindness. That doesn’t mean lighting a scented candle or wearing a facemask in the bath, it’s not about posting an inspirational quote on Instagram or going anywhere specific. It’s about treating yourself with kindness throughout your day regardless of what you’re doing. This really resonated with me and is something I am trying to practise even when I’m in the midst of the most tedious of parenting tasks.
Sleep matters. We know this and yet even before the pandemic the whole world has been in the grips of a massive sleep deprivation epidemic. Whether you’re a parent or not, even if your little one is sleeping soundly through the night, the odds are you are not getting enough sleep and this needs to change.
So what can we do?
If you have a baby or toddler the following things have been proved to improve sleep quality and duration:
- Lots of exposure to daylight, especially in the afternoon. If you can’t leave the house due to shielding, open those windows!
- Have a loose daily rhythm which means you wake, sleep and eat meals at roughly the same times each day. For babies not yet on solids, milk feeds don’t need to be on a schedule – in fact it’s recommended that you should always feed responsively whether on bottle or boob. Milk schedules won’t help sleep, in fact they can make night-time sleep even worse if the baby isn’t getting enough calories during the day!
- It doesn’t matter where your baby sleeps – pram, crib, sling or in your arms – the important thing is that they are napping regularly at age-appropriate intervals.
- If you’re not getting out and about a lot at the moment, rough play and silly time with your kids is good for everyone’s mental and physical health. Exercise is really important for sleep but if you can’t bring yourself to do a full workout right now, wrestling a small person is just as good for getting your heartrate up and endorphins going.
- Extra cuddles, shared baths and skin-to-skin will help your baby feel calm and secure in these troubled times, and will be a delicious boost of oxytocin for knackered parents. Littlies can’t regulate their own emotions (that is a skill that we fully develop by about the age of 25!) so instead they process their emotions by co-regulating with their caregivers.
- Make some tweaks to where your baby sleeps – is their sleep space dark enough? Could consistent white noise help soothe them and block out background sounds? Don’t make the room too hot either, babies like to sleep in cooler spaces.
- If bedtime has become a bit crazy with a hyperactive little person, try some rough play to get rid of their energy, followed by a clear marker that wind-down time has started. This could be going to their bedroom where it’s calm and dimly lit. The end of bath-time might signify that calm time has started. You could even play soothing music. The key thing is to draw a line and make it clear that bedtime has begun. Stay calm and make this part of your day all about bonding and closeness. Activities like sitting together and reading a flap book or playing with a toy that is particularly tactile helps focus busy brains. Toys like stacking blocks or an activity like threading pipe cleaner through a colander can work wonders when they are combined with a cuddle.
And finally, some sleep tips for you:
- Switch off your phone after about 9pm. I know, I know, we all love a good scroll and it’s the only time of day you can use your phone without feeling guilty or being distracted. But that blue light is going to make sleep harder for you. So try cutting back and keeping your eyes phone-free for about an hour or ideally two before you go to sleep.
- Have a cut off point for news and social media. Boundaries can feel weird to implement but oh so good once they are in place.
- Make sure you’re getting enough iron, magnesium and vitamin D – supplements can help if cooking is a bit of a nightmare right now.
- Breathe. Unclench your jaw. Lower those shoulders. Keep being kind to yourself. Notice where you are holding that tension in your body and stretch it out.
- Rant. Talk. Record yourself a voice note if there isn’t anyone appropriate to chat to right now. Get it out of your head onto paper or WhatsApp or anywhere that isn’t your own overloaded brain.
- I’m not saying go teetotal if that’s not your vibe, but be mindful of whether that wine or gin in the evening is helping or hindering your overall mood. Could you cut back or have a few nights off? The difference to sleep after a week or two booze-free can be astounding!
- Keep a gratitude list on your phone. Even if that list is just ‘biscuits and Bridgerton’ that’s fine, appreciation for the big stuff can come later.
- All of the sleep tips for little people work for big people too – daylight, routine, exercise, cuddles, winding down, reading books – they are oldies but goodies!
I hope you found this post useful & that you enjoyed Hannah’s lockdown sleep tips!
YOU CAN FIND HANNAH ON;
INSTAGRAM : LITTLE NEST SLEEP
WEBSITE: LITTLE NEST