Sleep has *always* been a challenge for our family, and time changes have become dreaded dates looming on the calendar.
This is a time when our already challenging sleep issues will be magnified to a degree that makes me want to move to the EU, or at least Saskatchewan, where time changes aren’t a thing.
And let’s face it: even without a time change or sleep disturbances, just parenting a child who has normal sleep behaviors for their developmental stage is utterly exhausting much of the time.
What IS normal? You might be asking…
Well, current research says it’s normal for babies to NOT sleep through the night for at least the first year of their lives. And some kiddos take longer.
Young children have a natural circadian rhythm that leads to going to bed early and waking up early. But, there are certainly variations within the norm.
As children grow, it is normal for them to have bad dreams that wake them up. It’s also normal for them to need reassurance and closeness in order to go back to sleep.
And it’s normal for kids not to want to go to sleep at night and to try many different ways to push back bedtime.
Now, don’t get me wrong. None of these things are easy. In fact, they can be exhausting and exasperating! And losing sleep is really hard even when it falls within the range of normal.
I will never minimize the experience of the exhausted parent who has no idea when they will again get a full night’s sleep. The struggle is real. Everything is harder when we aren’t sleeping.
But, never fear. The tips I’m sharing will help you through normal sleep struggles too. (And, if you are an adult who struggles with sleep yourself, they will even help you!)
But, the sleep struggles some of us face are not within the range of normal.
From night wakings to never (never, ever, never) sleeping past 7am… and actually nearly always waking between 5 and 6am no matter how late our kiddos fell asleep, or how many times they woke during the night, or how long they stayed awake each time… solid sleep is something some of us treasure more than most things. And this is because it has been so very rare for so very long.
And because I am among those who treasure sleep so much, I’ve come up with some tips and tricks over the years to help make it happen more frequently.
What follows is an extensive list of all the things we have tried over the years, with varying success. Also included in an “ideal” bedtime routine incorporating the things that have worked best for us.
Whether you have a child with a disability, or one who is just struggling to sleep, it’s my hope that some of these things will help you and your child get the sleep you need.
Sleep Tip #1: Essential Oil
We’ve tried various blends over the years and have found that if nothing else, it sure smells great!
Our best success has been using a roller and applying it to the bottoms of feet, wrists, and behind the ears.
A diffuser is good too, but they can make noise, which can bother those with auditory sensitivities and can also wake kids up if they shut off in the middle of the night.
Our least successful essential oil experience was spraying pillow cases with lavender mist or washing sheets with lavender detergent. Both ways, the aroma seemed to dissipate quickly. And I’ve found that lavender alone isn’t as effective as a blend designed for sleep.
This one is a “sometimes” thing for us. We use it when kids are really wound up and need to calm down before bed. It’s not a nightly thing, which may actually make it more effective because it’s a natural form of melatonin.
A company called Genexa makes Sleepology… chamomile in tablet form that was really a game changer for us. With the melatonin giving nightmares, we were looking for something else and stumbled across these little gems.
After taking them for a few months, it was like my son’s body adjusted to the routine of sleeping all night. And even though he has stopped taking them, our night wakings have decreased significantly.
I know nothing about the science behind these lamps, or whether our air quality is improved by them, but I do know that the soft, warm glow is soothing. It is the first thing we turn on in the morning and the last thing we turn off at night.