Every parent knows how frustrating it is when your
little one doesn't sleep properly. This article will help with
common sleep related problems.
Helpful Tips For Overcoming Sleep
Problems For Your Baby And You
by: Daphne Nancholas
Did you know that newborn babies need 21 hours sleep a day and
children from six months to two years of age need at least 12 hours
sleep? Sleep deprivation can cause problems for everyone in the
family: fractious babies during the day, exhausted mothers and an
anxious, stressful atmosphere.
Sleep starvation is a huge problem for today’s parents. A survey
of 2,000 new parents and 2,000 people aged 55 to 65 was carried out
by Mother and Baby and Yours magazines.
It found today's parents try all kinds of things to get their
babies to sleep through the night, including taking the infant into
their own bed. In contrast, parents in the 1960s and 1970s tended to
say their babies had slept peacefully in their own cots.
New mothers of young babies reported that, on average, they only
have three and a half hours sleep a night, compared to five hours
which the older generation said they used to get.
Two thirds of those surveyed said this "sleep starvation" left
them feeling bad-tempered, with the same proportion reporting
irritation with their partner. Other problems included being
tearful, forgetful, depressed, more accident prone or clumsy, unable
to function properly, and irritable with their baby.
So what’s different?
In the 60s and 70s roles tended to be more clear-cut. Fathers
went to work and earned the money, mothers stayed at home and
brought up the family.
Mothers today often feel they are expected to bring up the family
and earn money doing something interesting. This situation can
create anxiety: family members can often be living miles away from
each other, so there’s very little support for the parents.
30-40 years ago you probably had relatives living nearby who
could help with babysitting and be there to offer advice – generally
to calm the situation. I saw a lot of young families while running a
homeopathic clinic in Bristol. They rarely had family support
nearby. Here in Cornwall it is noticeable that there is more family
support, possibly because this is primarily a rural area, strong in
Anxiety breeds anxiety. If you’re feeling tense and anxious the
chances are that your baby will pick up on this and react in a
similar way, so you get caught in a vicious circle. When other
family members come home they pick up on it too.
Obviously when you’re getting up several times a night to
breast-feed you’re going to feel very tired, but there is a great
difference between being tired and tense and tired and relaxed.
The chances are that if you have periods of time when you can
relax then your quality of sleep will improve. Your baby will pick
up on this and learn to relax as well and your baby’s quality of
sleep will improve because of this.
Sometimes a baby can be irritable simply because he or she hasn’t
had enough sleep. When a young baby isn’t sleeping at all well it
can affect the whole family. Obviously with new born babies
disruption is expected but when the problem persists, sometimes for
years, the results can be devastating.
Benefits of good sleep
While your baby is sleeping his or her cells are being
regenerated, so the quality and amount of sleep is very important in
the development of your infant.
Often over-stimulated babies calm themselves by looking away,
yawning or sucking on their lips – this self-relaxation increases
their parasympathetic activity and reduces sympathetic nervous
In plain English the parasympathetic nervous system chills us out
and the sympathetic nervous system stresses us out.
The two systems work side by side to create a flow in the system.
However, for example, through lack of sleep, this balance gets
thrown out and your baby is more stressed out then muscles tense up
and blood vessels are constricted.
In this culture, with all its inherent pressures, people's
Sympathetic systems very often stay on guard, unable to give in to
the softer, more gentle flows of the Parasympathetic system.
If we’re used to being tense we might not even think it a problem
if our baby is also tense – and, as with adults, a chronic state of
tension leads to stress related symptoms and illness.
What can help?
Learning to relax for a start. There are many forms of
relaxation. Yoga, meditation, tai chi, pilates – these are just a
few choices. There may be classes nearby or you could watch a video
at home to learn the right moves.
During pregnancy, especially the final trimester, there can be
anxiety about the impending birth. Regular listening to relaxing
music to help create a relaxed state during pregnancy can actually
help during the birth itself. By the time your baby is born, your
body will have learned to relax even more deeply to the music, as a
Mothers-to-be are encouraged to play music to their unborn babies
because research has shown babies can respond and be soothed by soft
music both before and after birth. According to Dr. Thomas Verny,
author or 'The Secret Life of the Unborn Child' your baby can kick
in time to music from 25 weeks. The right musical stimulation can
enhance development, encourage sucking and promote weight gain in
newborn babies as well as help them to be relaxed and calm.
A relaxing day
Imagine the difference you could make to your life by getting
into the habit of relaxing through activities like yoga, meditation
or listening to calming music every day – especially if you set a
regular time. It’s worth it.
If you and your baby are more relaxed then
sleep is going to be a lot easier. If your baby is spending his or
time in a relaxed
and calm state during the later part of the day or around the time
you would like him or her to start dropping off, it can only help.
We’re the same – if we’ve just been dancing away at a party we’re
hardly likely to be in the mood to sleep straight afterwards – we’d
be buzzing - so why should babies be any different?
About The Author
Daphne Nancholas is a registered homeopath and for the past 10
years has specialised in the female cycle, including pregnancy,
birth and babies.
Her book, Taking Off, a handbook for newly qualified homeopathic
practitioners was published in 2003. Her website is: www.daphnehomeopath.co.uk.
Daphne and her partner Graham Smith have written a relaxation CD
especially for mother and baby - the website is: www.calmtime.co.uk.
Calmtime helps during pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and anytime
your baby is restless, irritable and/or has sleep problems. Helps
all the family relax.