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Sleep Help Tips

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Some sleep help for you and your baby: When transitioning your child from co-sleeping to sleeping in their own crib you can opt for some calming strategies for your child. A good sleep consultant will tell you the crib should be a boring place for your little one at bedtime. Waves on the ocean make for great white noise. That might be heard in Victoria or Vancouver, but not too often in Calgary! Read on about sound machines and other calming strategies...

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Sleep Help & Picky Eaters

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Appropriate sleep, especially in the early stages, is influenced greatly by nutrition. For parents of toddlers, there can be nothing more frustrating than preparing a meal and placing it in front of your child, only to hear “Yuck! I’m not eating that”. Sleepdreams registered paediatric healthcare professionals are extensively trained in nutrition as it relates to sleep for infants, toddlers and children. Read the full article for lots of tips for getting food into your picky eater.

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Age Appropriate Activities for Sleep

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A Sleepdreams sleep consultant is an expert on age appropriate activity for your child to encourage optimal sleep at night and nap time. Any sleep training should encompass age appropriate activity for your infant / toddler / child. Regardless if you are in Victoria or Vancouver in summer or in Calgary, Alberta seeking activities in winter you should read this for some extra sleep help. 

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Getting Ready for the Fall Time Change

On the West Coast we’d hardly know it with all this sunshine, but the leaves are turning, the nights are cooler and the warmer clothing is starting to get unpacked into kids’ drawers. Before you know it, the end of Daylight Savings Time will be upon us. On the first Sunday in November, clocks go back an hour. Before you to bed on Saturday November 1st, turn your clocks back one hour. So on Sunday November 2nd (at 2am precisely), your clocks will read the correct time.

This next sentence is important for those of you that have early risers. On Sunday November 2nd, when your early riser wakes at 5am or 5:30am, this will now be 4am or 4:30am. Yikes!

To more gently ease into this and have a smoother transition, here are some tips. Mark them on your calendar and watch on Facebook as we’ll have some tips coming up as we approach this time change.

  1. Think about your schedule for the day including wake up times, snack and meal times, nap times and to bed times. On a regular basis this schedule shouldn’t vary much for kids, particularly the waking up time and bed time, even on weekends.

  2. The week prior to the time change, starting on Wednesday start the shift. Shift everything by 15 minutes. This includes wake up time, eating, naps and bedtime. If you’d like to go slower, start on Monday.

  3. By the time you’ve reached the weekend, your child is ideally shifted an hour forward. So if they normally woke up at 7, you’ve transitioned them to 8. This one is the most difficult shift.

  4. Once Saturday night rolls around and you head to bed at 10pm and switch your clock back an hour to 9pm, you’ll be set. Your child will be on track!

  5. Don’t be tempted to stay up an extra hour, remember the morning will come earlier on Sunday. Get your rest!

To help your baby wake a little later, try to hold off on “morning” time by soothing them and keeping them in their “night” environment until you want to wake them. When it’s time to wake up at the new time, welcome them to the new day with light and cuddles and offer them a feeding a few minutes after they wake (if that is your typical pattern of eating with them).

October is Occupational Therapy Month!

For those of you who are just getting introduced to working with an Occupational Therapist, here is some information to help you become more familiar with our background and philosophy of practice.

Occupational Therapists work with people across the lifespan, from tiny premature infants to seniors. The common thread in all our work is the concept of engagement in daily occupations and helping clients to successfully engage in daily activities that when woven together make their life safer, more enjoyable and more meaningful.

When Occupational Therapists work with people, we focus on what is important to them and then draw on our backgrounds in both biology and psychology to assess a client’s needs and design a treatment plan that allows our clients to reach goals that are important to them.

Sleep is a cornerstone in health for everyone, babies and parents included. For children, lack of sleep can affect their ability to attend and participate in their lives during their awake times. Lack of sleep can affect both cognitive and physical development. Babies can also be more irritable and able to cope with less. Often sensory processing issues are magnified. For their parents, lack of sleep can affect the same domains of cognition, motor control and emotions. We all know that our skin is just a little thinner when we have no quality sleep under our belts.

Helping babies to sleep better helps families to function better as a whole.

Working on the issues that are most important to a family is what is important to OTs.

Helping families to identify their goals and then giving them the tools and support to move toward those goals is the focus for OTs.

As OT’s, we are often involved in families’ lives when they don’t feel their best. Families reach out for help and may feel frustrated or defeated and usually feel downright exhausted. To be able to connect with families, help them to identify what their specific goals are and support them to reach their goals is what makes us thankful each and every day that we chose Occupational Therapy.

To each and every family that we’ve worked with, thank you for trusting us with your care. We feel privileged to walk your journey with you and witness the changes that are so important to you and that you work so hard to achieve.

Happy OT Month!

 

Strategies for Parents to get Better Sleep

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It’s a common phenomenon. When babies have immature or poor sleep skills, they wake a lot and need a lot of help to resettle. This means you’re also waking a lot. Once sleep stabilizes for your baby, either as an organic process or with guidance and help, often parents are still waking up frequently or have difficulty going to sleep.

This is called insomnia and its happening because your body has been trained to wake up at certain times. And, if your bed has been a place of stress and anxiety over when your baby will wake and need you next, your sleep environment may not be supporting you to get the sleep you need.

Here are seven tips to get your sleep back on track. After all, if your baby is now sleeping well, shouldn’t you be sleeping well too?

  1. Limit or cut out any caffeine (beverages and chocolate are big ones here) after noon. Caffeine’s half life is 4-6 hours so you may still be feeling the effects when it’s time for you to go to bed. If you’re opting for a warm drink before bed, ensure it’s got zero caffeine in it.

  2. Limit your screen time before bed and don’t bring screens into bed with you. It’s tempting. WE get it. But staring at your tablet or phone before dozing off can really affect your ability to get to sleep. That blue light that comes out of your device signals your body to alert, not settle.

  3. Set up your room for best sleep. If you’ve worked with us you know that we prescribe specific environmental changes for your baby to get his/her best sleep. This applies for you too. Think dark, quiet and cool. Consider covering up lights on electronics (phones, alarm clocks, etc) as this can even rouse you out of a sleepy state.

  4. Be disciplined about going to bed and getting up at the same hour. While the getting up part may not be dictated by what you’d like, if your child wakes at 6am, work it backward from there and set your to-bed time. This is in your control. It is sometimes hard to get to bed at a decent hour if you want to squeeze in a bit of “grown up” time, but it’s worth it to get your body set and into a regular rhythm of wakefulness and sleepiness.

  5. If you cannot fall asleep or wake in the night, try to get back to sleep but if this fails after about 10-15 minutes, get out of bed and do something enjoyable but a bit boring (or relaxing). Avoid screens and keep the environment dimmed and “night like”. Reading or knitting are good choices. Once you feel sleepy again, head back to bed. Staying in your bed and getting anxious about not returning or getting to sleep will not serve you well.

  6. Get active. Get outside. Activity builds your natural drive to sleep. Daylight sets you up for your wake/sleep cycle. And it’s good for your mental health too.

  7. Brain dump. If you find that you are going over to-do lists or have great ideas pop into your head as you are trying to wind down, write it out. Keep a note pad on your bedside table, write it down so you don’t worry about forgetting. Because we all know that pregnancy and baby brain don’t really go away!

Sleep well parents! The world is a much more pleasant place with a few good hours of sleep under your belt.

 

How Tired are You?

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It’s a simple truth. When babies don’t sleep, parents don’t sleep. Not only are babies over tired and have difficulty sleeping; parents can become zombie-like while racking up huge sleep debt.

When we arrive at a family’s home for our home visit (a part of our Occupational Therapy Consultation process) one of the things we talk about is how the child’s sleeping problems are affecting the family as a whole.

Most parents are stoic and re-direct the conversation to their child and the benefits their child will gain from better sleep. All true.

But the real picture here is as follows: If your baby is sleeping better, chances are you are too. If you are sleeping better, the whole world around you is easier to cope with. Your thinking is clearer, your emotions more in check, your immune system is chugging (not limping) along and you actually have energy to get out to baby groups or the park. Take sleep away and parents can get into some serious sleep related danger such as:

  • Increased risk of post partum depression

  • Increased propensity to have a motor vehicle accident

  • For parents that are at work during this phase – their work safety may be compromised. If you are someone who relies on sharp cognition or precise motor control, consider addressing sleep now.

There are normal levels of daytime sleepiness; every parent feels some level of tiredness. But when it starts to affect your ability to perform daily tasks, it’s time to take a look at your sleep. And this often means addressing your baby’s sleep so you have the opportunity to sleep, too.

Sleep well parents. For everyone’s sake, do not minimize the importance of your sleep. Your ability to safely and effectively navigate your day to day activities is important. If you are not well, you can’t do your best to look after your baby.

 

What is sensory overload and how does it affect sleep?

As Occupational Therapists, we consider many components of a child’s development when assessing their current sleep patterns and making a plan to move towards their sleep goals.

A significant piece of information about a child’s makeup is their sensory profile. This is the way in which each unique child processes the sensory information around (and inside) them. Processing is taking the sensory information in and the neurological system’s response to this information. Children can under- or over-respond to sensory information or can have an adaptive/positive response which serves them well in whatever occupation (activity) that they are engaging in.

Let’s look at an example. Nicky, a 2 week old infant has been awake for about 30 minutes. She is laying on her mom’s lap while her mom sings her “the wheels on the bus” while bouncing her along and moving her arms. Her mom is looking into her eyes. Nicky begins to avert her gaze and then starts to fuss. She’s got too much going on from a sensory perspective and her behaviours are telling us to take a step back, reduce the amount of inputs we are providing and then determine if she needs help to calm and re-focus.

Sensory overload is when a child’s thresholds have been exceeded and they are no longer able to adaptively and positively respond to sensory input. This effect can accumulate in a defined period or over the course of a day. A child who is in overload may have difficulty calming their bodies down and have very limited ability to cope with any more sensory inputs.

So, what does this have to do with sleep? In order for our children to settle into sleep, they must be able to calm their bodies. If they are in a state of sensory overload, they will likely have difficulty calming down independently and will require parent assistance and more time to settle down to sleep. They may also more have difficulty maintaining sleep.

What to do?

  1. Provide different kinds of sensory stimulation at different times during the day. For example, swinging (vestibular), fast paced songs (auditory) and new foods (taste) are all inputs that may be alerting to the nervous system. Do these kind of things after your child is well rested, during an active time of the day. Deep hugs (Proprioception), dim lighting (visual), firm massage (tactile/touch) are calming inputs that can be put in place closer to sleeping time.

  2. Watch your child’s cues for sensory overload. Children can go both ways; either escalating or shutting down. If you notice a sharp change in your child’s behaviour, step back and consider what you/the environment are asking him to process and see if the inputs need to be dialled down or if you need to infuse some calming inputs to balance the situation out.

Newborns and infants can easily become over stimulated and this can affect their ability to settle off to sleep. Understanding that the world around them can hold both the “just right” and “too much” stimulation is key to helping them regulate themselves during the day and to get quality sleep at night.

Karen Randall, BsC(OT) Registered Occupational Therapist