How to spot a child sleep difficulty

Every child is unique and may thrive on less or more sleep than another child so how do you spot a sleep challenge?

1. Does your child’s behaviour appear more agitated when the bedtime routine starts e.g. do they start to delay bedtime and make excuses stating they want to play, eat, drink get more toys out etc.

2. Is your child frequently waking in the night crying for you when they have outgrown night feeds?

3. Do you regularly have to sit or lie by the bed/cot until your baby is asleep?

4. Do you regularly take your child to bed with you as you have given up going into their room numerous times with no result?

5. Do you struggle getting your child to sleep at nap times?

6. Is your child’s eating or behaviour becoming a challenge?

7. Does your child have no mealtime or bedtime routine whatsoever and they are over 6 months old?

8. Are you finding that your evening is spent going backwards and forwards to your child’s room as they will not settle?

9. Is your child’s behaviour affecting your mood/ energy levels and you dread bedtime?

10. Are you struggling with understanding what is normal sleep and feeding behaviour for your child’s age?

All these sleep challenges may be related to common child anxieties, a change of environment or simply loosing that natural sleep skill they once had. Developmental milestones can trigger sleep disturbances at certain ages e.g. when gross motor skills start to develop. Some children feel lost when it’s time to sleep in their own bed after sleeping for so long with their parent’s, as this environment appears alien and lonely.

Parents often worry that their child’s  sleep difficulties will not be solved. My sleep solutions  are 100% effective when followed throughily. I aim to promote only solutions that are age appropriate, gentle, healthy and sustainable for the parent to ensure long term effectiveness.


Monsters In The Dark!

Parent’s frequently complain that their toddler will not sleep claiming that there are monsters in the room or that they are simply just scared.

This is a common fear for toddlers and children at school as their developing imagination can not comprehend what is real and what is fiction.

Children are not able to respond to simple words of reassurance as this mehod is difficult to comprehend. Play is the best activity to build a picture with your toddler that the monster is not real.

1. Draw the monster together or scary character  and make him appear funny e.g. funny hat, clothes etc and laugh at him.

2. Tell a story to your child about the monster who had no friends. Everyone thought the monster was scary but in fact he was very shy and always cried due to having no friends. Then discuss how your child came along and they because good friends. You can also use pretend play to act out this scenario as this action is easier for toddlers to comprehend.

3. At bedtime chat about what happened in the day and at nursery or school and alleviate any worries. If your child is still worried about dreaming monsters talk about how half our head is the silly head that makes up pictures that are not real. Ensure the bedtime books consist of happy and calm stories.

4. Invest in a good night light that is a dim red colour. Red lights trigger the production of melatonin the sleep hormone.

5. Ensure that bedtime is not too late e.g. 10-12hrs of sleep is adequate for this age group with a bedtime around 7-8pm.

From ‘Fungus The Bogey Man’ by Raymond Briggs.





Early Morning Waking

I always ask parent’s at my developmental  review clinics how the sleep is going for their child? The answer frequently is that their child is waking early between 5am-6am, especially around the age of 18-2yrs.

It is common around this age to wake early and there are a number of reasons why this happens. For some children 6am may be their normal wake up time if they have had around 10-12hrs sleep with an afternoon nap at 2yrs.  For some children it may be they are not having enough sleep as early waking is a sign of over tiredness. If this sounds familiar, I would advise to reassess your child’s sleep hours with the number of naps and length. Is your child spending more than 20 minutes to settle down at night and at nap times? How many hours of overall sleep does your child recieve in 24hrs?

For the well rested child who needs less sleep;

• Consider re-examining the day time naps eg shortening or eliminating them.

• Ensure the last nap does not continue after 3pm.

• Provide a later dinner time around 6pm

• Put him/her to bed later eg around 8pm.

For the over tired child perform the opposite to the above; lengthen naps, aim for dinner around 5pm and bedtime around 7pm. Ensure that the early morning light is blocked out well by blackout blinds. If you hear your child talking/playing in the cot try and leave him/her to see if they are able to fall back to sleep.

If you decide to take your child to bed with you your child’s wake up clock will be alerted to this regular routine. Sending frequent messages to your child that this is still night time, may need to be repeated many times before they understand. Star charts/rewards can also help during this difficult time. Be alert to your child’s tiredness cues eg rubbing their eyes/nose, irritability and flitting from one activity to another.

For full sleep support please email or phone me



Dad’s in trouble and needs Dream Sleepers!

Every day I am speaking to families that are struggling with their baby’s sleep. Parents concerns vary, but most relate to their baby needing Mum or Dad to sleep in the bed or next to cot.  Another common sleep concern is when parents are co-sleeping and they now feel it’s time for their baby to sleep in their own bed. Children also cry out frequently  in the night wanting you to settle them.

This problem can worsten over time, as your baby will becomes accustomed to this normal routine.

Many parents ask why their child can’t  sleep without them?  There are many answers to this question but the common theme to these sleep challenges are children’s need for reassurance. As a child health professional (studying children’s emotional health) I have the skills and knowledge to make  positive long term differences to your child’s sleep patterns.

Good news! I can make the changes to enable your child sleep well and feel secure.  The constant waking for you can be changed in a few days using gentle and holistic solutions.

This clip is a typical parent’s sleep nightmare! Please do not suffer anymore.

Sleepy foods for toddlers

Toddlers are on the go continously so it is important that they are able to unwind and rest without difficulties at bedtime. Quality sleep is crucial in this age group to allow the body to grow and develop healthily. Toddlers should be receiving around 12-14 hours of sleep in a 24hour period but often this is not achieved due to reasons stated in my next blog.

At bedtime it is essential to increase the serratonin levels in the brain which is found in trytophan enriched foods. Foods that contain trytophan are foods such as turkey, chicken, beans,eggs,nuts
bananas, milk, fish and cheese.

Carbohydrates are also great foods for boasting serotonin levels and increasing tryptophin absorbtion.

Calcium and Magnesium

Foods that are rich in calcium and magnesium are also beneficial for improving sleep. These minerals help calm the nervous system and can help toddlers fall and stay asleep. Calcium can be found in oranges, almonds, sesame seeds, dairy,leafy greens, oranges, and sardines. Magnesium can be found in seeds, nuts, and green vegetables. Warm milk before bed is always recommended as it contains both calcium and tryptophan.

Bedtime anxiety in older children

Is your child too worried to sleep? Twenty to thirty percent of school-aged children struggle to get to sleep and stay asleep all night, and anxiety is a common culprit. When kids don’t sleep, parents don’t sleep, and your whole household becomes an overtired and irritable. Here are 10 ways to end the worries and help everyone sleep better.

For some children , the major cause for worry is the fear that they won’t be able to sleep. Some kids even start worrying about sleep hours before bedtime. Or they wake up in the middle of the night and start worrying that they won’t be able to fall back asleep– and so they don’t. Yes, it’s irrational thinking, but trying to talk reason into your child usually doesn’t work in this situation. Instead, break the worry cycle and help your child learn to fall asleep. It’s a skill that will last a lifetime.

Top tips

Sit on your child’s bed, have a cuddle  and talk about whatever is on their mind. Set limits– when you say it’s time to go, it’s time to go. Don’t give into whining about “don’t leave” or “sleep with me all night.” Tell your child in advance that you want to spend some special time with them but that you can’t stay too long.  Listen rather than talk as just letting your child to all the talking  will allow your child to solve their own worries. Every once in a while you get a chance to give them the wise words they need to hear, and you’ll be their hero.
Allow your child to self-regulate his or her bedtime: A parent’s role is to put your child to bed– not to make them go to sleep. Keep wake-up time consistent with an alarm clock. If a child can’t sleep, allow him or her to read in bed. Keep the room lights dim or off. If your child needs a reading light, buy a clip-on LED reading light.
No screens before bed: Avoid all digital devices for at least 1-2 hours before bed.  The blue light emitted from screens can inhibit the body’s natural melatonin release.

Teach your child to give their worries away to their teddies or dolls. Children can tell the dolls their worries and then put the dolls under their pillow.
Routine, routine, routine: Remember that toddler bedtime routine of bath, brushing teeth, story, etc? Your school age child still needs a bedtime routine. Find what works for your family and stick to it.
A bedtime story can refocus your child’s mind in a positive, imaginary world, and help them forget their worries. Reading out loud to children has been shown to improve vocabulary and be beneficial to development, and bedtime is a perfect time to read to kids. Find a book your whole family will enjoy and find a time to read together.

Avoid caffeine and energy drinks, and beware of hidden stimulants in chocolate and second-hand smoke.

Getting up in the night to use the bathroom is a common sleep disturbance. It seems simple, but your child might just need a reminder not to drink anything after dinner (except while brushing teeth), and to use the toilet before bed If your child suffers from bedwetting.

Toddler Sleep Challenges

Every sleep challenge can be connected to a baby’s mental and physical development at that particular age.  At  around 16-18 months older babies experience some developmental milestones that may unfortunately, negatively impact their sleep.

Separation anxiety is still an issue for toddlers which can start around 15 months.  Some babies’ begin experiencing separation anxiety around 7 or 8 months, and for most babies, the anxiety is strongest from 10-18 months and 2-3 years sometimes beyond. This can lead to disrupted sleep including naps in the day as your baby does not want to be away from you during all sleep times.
At around toddler age  and onwards, children are craving independence. Children at this age are learning to feed themselves with a spoon, drink from a cup, build with blocks, and even take off some articles of clothing. This growing independence can create a strong wilful toddler who feels that he must try and gain control of everything that he wants.

All sleep challenges are difficult and exhausting, but at around 18 months sleep difficulties can be one of hardest child challenges as your child may be trying to push boundaries and gain independence. This is all part of the learning process and it’s important to give clear boundaries.

This may be easier said then done when you are sleep deprived and your toddler is also heading towards ‘terrible twos’. This cycle of separation anxiety and sleep deprivation from both parent and child will ultimately result in a cross and irritable child which may result in them also not eating or becoming very fussy with food.

Toddler Sleep challenge Tips;

Consistency, boundary setting, reassurance and nurturing all help towards supporting your child to sleep.
Toddlers need regular naps in the day and it’s important to watch for tiredness cues so you can act straight away.
Explain at sleep times where you are going and that you are always around for them. Securing their emotional needs is paramount and can be communicated as part of the sleep support.
If you plan is to obtain sleep support, ensure that your child is healthy and not in the middle of any major change in their lives eg. A house move, the arrival of a new sibling or a new nursery etc.  It is advisable to wait for your child to be in a familiar environment before attempting any new sleep schedule.
Dream Sleepers sleep support will cater for your child’s emotional health and well being. This will help in the effectivness and sustainability of the sleep support so that your child feels secure at bedtime and through the night.


A natural sleep sedation in breast milk

Dream Sleepers brings you the latest facts: A Natural sleep sedation for babies in breast milk.

Cholecystokinine (CCK) is a gastrointestinal hormone which signals sedation and a feeling of well-being in mother and baby.

When a baby suckles at the breast it releases the CCK hormone in both mother and baby which induces a sleepy feeling. The infants CCK level peaks twice after suckling.

The first peak level of this hormone, occurs immediately after the feed (induced by suckling).
About 10 minutes after your baby has finished suckling, the levels drop again causing your baby to wake. This provides an opportunity to offer your baby more milk on the orginial or second breast.

The second peak level occurs 30-60 minutes after a feed.

Waiting 30 minutes after feeding for the second time, before laying your baby down, takes advantage of the second CCK peak to help your baby stay asleep.

Weaning made easy

Mess, Mess Mess!! This is what some parents repeatedly report to me on the discussion of baby led weaning.

Many parents find baby led weaning frustrating, often reporting that most foods end up on the floor rather in the mouth. Parents worry that their baby may loose weight or lack nutrients.

Everyday I help and solve complex weaning difficulties in babies and children.
Have a look at this clip with some tips.

I can help you create a stress free Christmas lunch with your baby and now is the best time to start my healthy solutions to baby led weaning.
Regards Michelle

Winter clock change and managing sleep

It’s that time again where the clocks go back one hour next week. Many parents struggle with their child waking at the wrong time and becoming tired.  This adjustment can take time until their body clock adjusts to the winter clock. Here are some tips help your child prior to these time changes.

• Ideally start making changes 2 weeks before the clock changes. If you make these changes BEFORE the time alteration you will create a natural sleep calibration in your child’s body clock.

•  Move meal times, nap times and bedtimes fifteen minutes later than usual every 3/4 days for 2 weeks.

• If your making the changes a week before the clock change, start moving the bedtimes and meal times later by half an hour that week.

It may take at least a week for your child to adjust to the later bedtime. Consistancy is the key so try and keep to the same routine daily. At bedtime create a quiet and dark environment so they are aware that this is now sleep time.