Each year Christina Gantcher comes to Twin Parks Montessori Schools and talks about sleep coaching our children to enable them to become great sleepers. Christina helps families get a good night’s sleep. Sleeping is a learned skill. The ability to fall asleep and get back to sleep is taught by children’s caregivers.
We all have sleep cycles that are of two types: Non-REM and REM. We don’t actually sleep through the night. WE have periods of deep, restorative sleep (non-REM) and light sleep. As adults we can usually put ourselves back to sleep. Children, however, have to learn how to put themselves back to sleep.
One parent told me that her 14 month old goes to bed at 5:45 PM and wakes around 6:00 AM. That is fantastic! This child yearns for sleep and gives cues he is ready. His parents know his sensitive time to fall asleep and they are not prolonging his awake time so that he would get a second wind.
A second wind occurs when the body secretes cortisol and then the body has to process it through the systems to feel sleepy again. This second wind is often the cause of parents inability to have a consistent bedtime routine for their child. They miss the sensitive period for children to fall asleep on their own.
Another interesting thing I learned from reading Christina’s blog was that putting children to sleep by rocking them and then laying them down in their beds is often disconcerting to children. This may cause a child to wake up later and wonder how he got into bed. He may look for the “thing” that put him to sleep in the first place. Not falling asleep independently makes it hard to fall back asleep without adult help.
What about adults and sleep?
I often hear that colleagues are not sleeping well. They have a lot on their minds. I often wake early in the morning and find that I am thinking about an issue at work or a family member. How do we soothe ourselves back to sleep? There are several health problems that can cause insomnia such as pain, sleep apnea or acid reflux. These are issues to consult with a doctor, however what about those of us who awaken because we are worried or thinking too much?
According to the Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorder Center:
• Stop watching the clock.
• Try relaxing your body to fall asleep again – from toes to forehead, make it tense and then relax.
• If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed. Go to another room and do something uninteresting. You don’t want to associate your bedroom with not sleeping well. Try the couch!
• Find an uninteresting activity – boring reading, relaxing music set on a timer, then get back to sleep.
The right combination of pillow, comfortable bedding, air flow and quiet or white noise machine already waiting for you takes some organization. Make sure it is not too bright. Also, it is very important to stop working and using technology an hour before bedtime; instead read a book. Do not watch television or play electronic devices while lying in bed.
When images of work or a stressful situation comes into your thoughts, think of a relaxing, favorite place you have visited. Think of every detail of the moment of being there. Keep this happy, peaceful place in your mind and soon you will find yourself drifting off to slee. . . Sweet dreams!
We are all happier and healthier with good sleep.