I’ve started my own sleep research. The issue of sleep and how to help little ones go there has been an ongoing conversation with clients, colleagues, husband, friends and family for quite a while now. How do we, as parents, survive the times when our kids are struggling with this process? Why do kids struggle in the first place? Why is sleep so elusive for adults as well? All the questions with no answers that are very satisfactory.
I wish I had some good answers. Some expert I am. I’m winging it most of the time, with as much awareness as I can muster. I try to follow the baby’s cues, but since they are ever-changing, it’s a very fluid process. Hard to teach. Hard to understand. And yet, it feels very important to keep trying.
Lots of sleep research has already been done, I know. There are a plethora of books out there, I know. Honestly, I have never read any one sleep book cover to cover because every time I start, I start doubting my own intuition and abilities and no one is happy, or getting more or better sleep. I have no answers, but am continually intrigued when others say they do. I’m in awe of those that can get kids to sleep easily. I have yet to have that experience.
So, in looking at this issue, I have begun to break down my own process to see what I do to help myself fall asleep. I’ve been asking others what they do to relax before sleeping, down to the littlest detail. I’ve been thinking that this will help me in modeling for the little ones in my life how to do it. So, here’s what I do: I take a deep breath, I stretch, I roll from one side to the other, I yawn, I think, then I roll to my left side and drift off. Now, I know that falling asleep is different for babies, but how we learn to calm ourselves to fall asleep starts early, right?
You hear about this idea of self soothing, but really, what does that mean? If a baby doesn’t suck on fingers, the breast, a pacifier, and they are not being rocked, cuddled, stroked, what tools do they have to self sooth but to cry? And, even though I know the benefit of discharging overstimulation, and pent-up feelings with crying, I have never felt that a baby crying before sleep is that soothing. I just read in a sleep book that some other self-soothing techniques that a child might use are: finger or thumb-sucking, hair twirling, ear pulling, face rubbing, head banging, self-rocking, yawning, singing and restless and relaxed body movements. OK, so I don’t know about you, but I think the only ones on that list that don’t sound like they could be stressed induced self-soothing are yawning, singing and relaxed body movements. Sure, maybe our little ones can fall asleep after feeling stressed and upset and doing what they can to calm themselves down, but do we really want to teach them that way? There are many reasons that we are a nation of sleep deprived and sleep stressed individuals. I’d like to think that how we start learning about how to fall asleep consciously, easily and happily could be a positive experience. Tall order, but let’s shoot for the moon!
More later…with ideas and suggestions, I promise!