This week, Certified Sleep Nanny Consultant, Jacqueline Kirk shares her experience of working with a family on extreme night wakings.
Recently I worked with a 15 month old girl who was waking for approximately 2 hours every night. Maybe slightly more or less each time, but usually a 1.5 to 2 hr wake up, ready to play!
Her parents were at a loss. The child was having a good nap every day, was settling well to sleep at bedtime but was inconsolable if left in the cot alone at night when she woke up, so she was ending up in Mum and Dad’s bed. Often, they could go back to sleep and leave her awake, but they weren’t sleeping well like that, and came to me looking for help.
Because these wake ups were so long, we had to be very careful in our approach. The response that might suit a short wake up was not going to work if the child was likely to be awake for 2 hours, and was used to jumping into Mum and Dad’s cosy bed!
We worked on daytime naps to help improve the quality of sleep at night, and we worked on responses for Mum and Dad that encouraged her to fall back asleep in her cot, but that offered plenty of cuddles and reassurance along the way. When we needed to we adjusted responses so that the plan progressed smoothly and was manageable for everyone.
Very quickly our programme managed to reduce the length of the wake ups, and quite soon, it became apparent that even if she was awake, she did want to go back to sleep because she would point at her cot from Mum and Dad’s arms and effectively ask to be put down to sleep. It did not mean that she went back to sleep straight away, but it meant that she was making the right associations between her tired feelings, sleep and her bed.
She rapidly became an A* student, and slept through on night 3 of the programme. Mum and Dad could not believe it and enjoyed their first night’s sleep in many months. A few days later she even started pointing toward her bottle, and then her bedroom, at nap times so she really caught the sleep bug and became a committed and enthusiastic sleeper!
After her first impressive sleep through, she managed every other night for about a week… a slightly odd pattern which I looked into a bit further. I realised that although she was relishing her new sleep, she was particularly sensitive to timing.
To fix this, I advised Mum how to plan for the day ahead based on her real sleep need, rather than a theoretical schedule.
This worked nicely and she quickly progressed into sleeping through every night until she was back into a good 7pm-7am pattern with only the odd exception or occasional early morning. Her parents were delighted!
So, we had an extreme start position with those long wake ups, but this programme neatly illustrates how there is no ‘one size fits all’ sleep plan for any age because :-
- Every child is different
- Every day is different and needs to be planned accordingly
- There is more than one reason why we get wake ups in the night. Those underlying triggers may be reinforcing each other, or masking each other
If you have similar sleep challenges and would like to discuss them, please click HERE to request a FREE sleep evaluation with Jacqui
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