In the first part of our series on sleep, we discussed the importance of setting your little ones up for success before you even implement sleep methods. In part two, we are going to discuss the two techniques we believe will be effective and aid your children in getting optimal sleep. The first is what we like to call The Sleep Lady Shuffle and the second is called The Extinction Method. These methods are proven to work and the one you choose will be based off of what works best for your family.
The Sleep Lady Shuffle is where you are gradually shuffling out farther and farther each night until your child falls asleep on their own. Start off by sitting by the child or bed until they fall asleep. Every few days, move further away until you are not in the room for the child to fall asleep. This method is great because it is gentle, you can monitor your child, and you can soothe them if needed. The downside of this method is that your child may get upset when you sit farther away, and may try to interact with you. This method can take a long time until you see definitive results as the transition to be out of the room is gradual. Of course this depends on your child as every child handles it differently.
The Extinction method is the complete opposite of The Sleep Lady Shuffle. This method involves putting your child to bed and allowing them to fall asleep on their own without you in the room. “Full extinction” is when the parent does not return to the room and allows the child to soothe and fall asleep on their own. The Ferber method is similar to The Extinction method except the parent returns to the room to soothe child every 3 minutes, then every 5 minutes, etc. until the child falls asleep on their own. Again, you will have to decide what is best for your child. If your child can walk out of their room, you can still use this method! Just calmly walk them back to their room with minimal attention and say “Goodnight!” or “Time to sleep!” and leave them to soothe and fall asleep on their own again. This could happen countless times, but they will eventually go back to sleep! The most important thing you can do is to be consistent – keep the same tone and say the same thing each time they go back to bed. They will eventually follow suit and go to sleep. The advantage of this method is that it is a lot quicker to teach a child to fall asleep independently and you don’t run the risk of them getting distracted because you are not in the room. The disadvantage is your child being upset and the distress a parent experiences when their child is upset.
Since staying asleep is such a struggle for some kids, we have become big fans of “OK to Wake” Alarms. These little devices are neat because they do not wake up the child but they glow green if it is OK for the child to wake up. If it isn’t glowing yet, then they must stay asleep or stay in bed quietly. The parent can set it for the earliest time they can wake up. If the child leaves the room before the light turns green, then they should be walked back to their room. Some benefits to these alarms are that the parent does not need to be present for the alarm to serve as a reminder and the alarm can gradually be shifted for early risers. For instance, if your child usually wakes up at 6 am, you can shift it by 10 minutes every few days until you have it at 7 am or wherever you want it to be. The cons can be the cost associated with the alarm (retails for $25 on Amazon) or if the alarm is located in a place that the child can tamper with it.
Now that we have discussed getting your child to sleep, let’s discuss REWARDING good sleepers! Children love earning rewards for good behavior. One great reward system is implementing a sticker chart. Every night they stay in bed and are quiet, they receive a sticker on the chart. Once they reach the goal amount of stickers, they can get a new coloring book/go to McDonalds/whatever you feel will be motivating to your child. This is a great system because it gives kids an appealing, inexpensive visual representation of their hard work! That said, make sure the reward is not something the child can have access to at any point, and it is completely in the parents’ hands.
Lastly, for the parents who have implemented a method and it’s been successful and then all of a sudden your child regresses…RELAX. This is completely normal! We all have odd sleep patterns at times and all you need to do is revert back to the sleep strategies we discussed (whichever one you choose) and re-train them to fall asleep again. Consistency is key! Your child will get there and your family will develop a great routine with just a little bit of work. We know it can be tough, but there is hope! You deserve great sleep and so do your kids. We are confident that whichever method you choose for your family, amazing sleep is around the corner. We are rooting for you!
Although these tips are super helpful and will get you going in the right direction, there is SO much more that goes into helping your family get the most optimal sleep. Our Behavior Consultation team of certified and trained professionals are here to help answer your questions and give you a personalized consultation. Please call us at 510-894-4135 or visit us at www.discover-hope.com to learn more about the services we offer and to start getting more sleep today! Our team of experts are focused on helping individuals, couples, and families become healthier and happier in everyday living. Life today is more challenging than ever, but it doesn’t have to be!
[Please note that if you have tried implementing multiple behavioral strategies for sleep and you are not seeing any results and your child’s sleep continues to be unpredictable, please consult your child’s pediatrician. A sleep study may be requested in order to identify any underlying medical issues impacting your child’s ability to fall asleep.]