Strong willed? Clever? Curious? Nosey? Determined? Demanding? Can you relate to any of these?
I often hear parents describe their children using a whole range of words but the things I hear parents describing most are the words just above. It is hard to imagine that temperament can have an influence on a child's sleep but it really does and it can be quite difficult! I have first hand experience of an 'alert' child with my little boy. In my profession we describe alert children as having the hardest time shutting down. As a parent, our little ones are perfect in every way and they are individual and unique, if you are a parent of an alert child you may have noticed you have your hands full quite early on, like me!
Recognising an Alert Child
Alert children take all of their surroundings in; they become engaged in any form of stimulation in their close environment. For us, my son would take AGES to feed because any little sound, movement or small detail in his close proximity would distract him from his feed. Alert children can have quite a temper too, crying excessively, particularly when they are tired - they often want things there and then. Some alert children reach milestones sooner too; sitting around four months and crawling as early as six months. Milestones can be very exciting for all babies and for alert ones in particular they can become quite obsessive about practising their new skills - you may find at the wrong times of day!
One thing that I can't stress enough; these types of children thrive on routine. As they come to learn structure of the day they are assured by what is coming next and are more likely to 'relax' a little as they are accustomed. I use the term relax lightly! Alert children have the hardest time shutting down, they are drawn to any form of distraction and they can appear to have energy for hours on end...Don't be fooled!
Alert Children and Sleep Struggles
Alert children and poor sleep go hand in hand. They often struggle to switch off and their sleepy cues are often missed by parents as they boast energy. They appear energetic because their hormone cortisol has kicked in and they are actually past it. Cortisol is like a form of adrenaline and for as long as they keep going cortisol will keep them going. I often hear parents describe their child as 'having a second wind' this is because they are reaching a stage of exhaustion and you'll most likely have tantrums and emotions rising. Their night time sleep can be a little less than 12 hours on average and they can be easily stimulated by light coming through, particularly during the summer months.
All of us transition through deep and light stages of sleep, the lighter sleep comes early in the morning and this is when you are likely to see your alert little one rising - they are super sensitive to senses - sound, light and movements. This often results in some early waking and you may find some tantrums as actually, they are still tired but struggling to go back to sleep.
Tips to Help Alert Children Sleep
The good news is you can help your little one sleep even if they are super, super alert. It helps in the first instant that you have the understanding that they have difficulty in winding down, unlike other babies who may be much more laid back and easy-going. Alert children need routine, consistency and often a little more help in learning to fall asleep.
Give your little one some quiet time before naps and bedtime. Offering them plenty of time to wind down. I find taking my son out for a walk in his pram prior to a nap or bedtime routine is often a good way for him to sit still and chill out.
Don't be disheartened if you find your child won't take naps in their pram or car. This is common and I have first hand experience of this. In the earliest days I would spend hours walking around in any form of weather trying to get him to fall asleep and if he did (on the rarest occasion) he would wake as soon as I slowed down or the pram stopped!
Make your child's sleep space as stimulant free as possible; mobiles, lights and teddies or toys in view will likely hinder your efforts of helping them to sleep as they will become engaged in their surroundings. Keep things bland and boring at naps and bedtime to help them to begin to relax for sleep.
Blackout blinds are highly recommended and if you live on a busy street use white noise to drown out noise that they may find distracting.
If you find your child will only nap in their cot, the sooner you accept this the better. It can be tough planning your day around sleep but it is important that they get the required amount of sleep in 24 hours for their age. I do this with my son and although it is tough it is well worth it in the long run as he is happier for it.
Be aware of catching your child's sleepy times at the right time, if they go past it they are likely to find it harder again to switch off and take a restorative sleep.
Lastly, don't compare your child to someone else's just because their child will sleep anywhere. Your child is unique and they need that extra help to fall asleep.
Laura, Babbaboo Sleep.
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