We were aware from Little Man’s profile and report that he has sleep anxiety. We learnt it could often be hours in bed until he fell asleep. He would would have multiple night terrors and periods of very poor quality sleep waking at irregular intervals too. Nobody knew why but whilst in care he had the support of professionals to support him and his foster carers. Nearly a year after coming home and his quality of sleep remains poor. Let us be clear that this isn’t poor sleep that children often have at a young age - this is far beyond that.
We have tried different ways in which to support his anxieties whilst also seeking medical professionals input and assessment. This has not been easy at all, as you will later read.
Poor sleep, as we all know, has a huge impact on daily life. Moods, attitudes, growth, learning abilities, appetite, socialising, - the list is endless. Therefore it is really important to investigate these whilst we can at this young age in an attempt to alleviate the anxieties which affect his sleep so he can get a better nights sleep.
About 6 months after Little Man came home and once he had settled, we raised our sleep concerns with the Local Authority who were supportive of seeking professional assistance to establish the cause and find strategies to help improve the quality of sleep. It was always considered normal for his quality of sleep to be poor. We found it particularly difficult watching him at night as he manoeuvred up and down, side to side and all around his bed most of the night. We wanted to know what was going on inside for him to sleep this way. It’s hard to imagine how he must feel after such poor sleep, especially as he gets older. We’re getting to the point where he shouldn’t be napping as he’ll be venturing to school in a few months but sometimes he needs a nap to take the edge of the tiredness or if he’s had a rough night. It has certainly been hard to handle at times. Especially with our sleep being affected too.
We first sought help last Autumn and despite multiple referrals made, we found that we were getting nowhere. We were told many times ‘referral rejected’ but we were never given a definitive reason why. We wondered what had to be on his record for him to be seen, surely knowing this little boy struggled to sleep and being aware of his background. Apparently not. Nobody seemed to know where to signpost us next. One professional even said this is why people give up, because it is often hard to be seen. Some parents just may accept the difficulties and move on.
This all changed following a meeting with an ENT specialist for an unrelated matter. They found out where to refer us and backed us for a sleep study to analyse his sleep. Whilst the referrals have taken time to come through, we now have appointments lined up, with one being for a sleep study! We’re hopeful these will help give us the answers we are so desperately looking for and to help us understand and improve the his sleep. We know this will take time, but it’s a start.
We have found our own way and also had additional support from the NHS to ensure we were doing all we could to help him get a good nights sleep. Here is what we do for anyone looking for guidance on sleep;
Introduce ‘quiet time’ an hour before bed
Find something that calms them
During quiet time find something that is soothing or calming for them. This could be reading books, a jigsaw (which we are told are great for pre-bedtime), children’s yoga or even some light breathing exercises. These again have helped Little Man to start winding down from his often manic days.
Guidance recommends that no fluids should be given approximately 2 hours before bedtime, but of course this will differ from child to child. However there are foods and drinks that may help to provide natural melatonin - the good stuff that helps kick in sleep. These are found in bananas which we often give to Little Man and of course a small drink of warm milk.
To help continue the calming and soothing downtime before bed, we run a warm bath for Little Man. We find some calming music on Spotify (usually spa music) and he has a bath for 5/10 minutes. We refrain from giving too many toys as this may only want him to play and increase energy levels. We speak very softly and also don’t switch on the main bathroom light. The entire upstarts is darkened and we have a portable dimmable light to provide some calming light. It all seems to help him towards the downward slope to sleepyville.
Come bedtime there should be no distractions, look around for anything which may appear to be in their eye-line and for them to perhaps see shadows in the night. We’ve made sure (after a while) to cover up any lights to help the room be as dark as possible. The best way to do this is to lay in the room at night and see what you can see.
We read to Little Man for 15 minutes, he will often keep his eyes open for periods of time but we calmly say to him and reassure him that it is safe for him to fall asleep. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. However if he isn’t asleep we wish him goodnight and walk out of his room. It is for him to fall asleep, although this could be hours in some cases.
Some nights he can be awake for hours, other nights he falls asleep within minutes. We will not try and intervene if we can hear him, however if needed we will go back into his room and ensure he understands it is now time for sleep.
Do reach out to seek support if needed. During the first few months of him coming home we expected his sleep to regress, however once he settled it was clear sleep was still going to be troublesome for him. If you’re in a similar situation - reach out to the Local Authority and mention it in all of your meetings with them. Also raise it with your GP - it has taken us more than 6 post from the first chat with our GP to get to the point where we have been accepted for a sleep study. Persist. Persist. Persist.
We’ll keep you posted as to how things go with the studies!