Sleep Challenges and Sleep Deprivation Advice from a Developmental Psychologist
In the first interview with Developmental Psychologist and Sleep Consultant, Sinem Canbolat, The Maternity Circle asked all about how the build relationships with play. Now we find out how to gently help your little one to sleep, and the challenges faced even by a sleep consultant.
7. Shall we talk about sleep as well? What are your top tips for new parents who are sleep deprived?
Canbolat: New parents are sleep deprived, not because babies are out of their normal, but because it is not easy to look after a baby if you do not live in a cooperative commune in which the mother finds enough support for her post-partum period. In the first 3-4 months, irregular sleep is a baby’s reality. However, this does not have to go on like that. You can help your baby to sleep better. I do not mean or suggest any sleep training methods, because I do not believe in training a baby for her sleep. I think we are really at the beginning of understanding babies and we will leave all these training things behind, sometime soon. If you know that babies have difficulty in falling asleep because of their “anxiety”, then you can give up the sleep training idea too, and try to understand her anxiety and how to help her with that anxiety.
8. You have developed a SUPPORTED SLEEP SKILLS DEVELOPMENT method which helps the baby to sleep on his own. How would you describe this method?
Canbolat: This method is not a type of sleep training method. It is based on the idea of secure attachment between baby and mother. We can say that, with this method, parents never leave their baby to cry alone without any support. They watch and listen to their babies, and support their baby with what she needs, and give opportunities to develop her self-soothing tools. When I work with families, I analyse deeply the whole life of the baby and give intense support during the applications. Babies can start using their self-soothing tools after 3-4 months of age. So, the sleep skills development can be supported from that age.
9. Can you incorporate play into a bedtime routine? If so, how have you successfully done this in your household?
Canbolat: You can incorporate play into a bedtime routine. However, because bedtime routine is for soothing, the play should be a quiet and calming one. We do not need any adrenaline as it causes your baby to have difficulty in falling asleep.
At home, our bedtime routine changed over time according to my kids’ development and needs, but we always pay attention to have enough time to hug them and read to them. Although in infancy babies like consistent routines very much, in childhood, making little changes can satisfy kids more. For example, when we have enough time before bed, we do candle nights without any electricity; only candles and fairy tales. This motivates them for doing their preparations before bed more effectively. But I can say that, saying good-bye to caregivers and having some calm time together are the essentials of bedtime routines.
10. Are there any specific toys that can be suggested to help create relaxing play, which in turn aid towards sleep?
Yes, parents! Parents are the first and most important toys that babies ever have. One of the reasons that babies have difficulty in falling asleep is that they cannot leave their caregivers in that world, and so cannot pass to the sleep world. So, skin-to-skin play and having time together before bedtime might calm them. Other things like looking at baby friendly books or cards together, including a lovely going to sleep routine (if she has one) can also be relaxing, if they are not too stimulating.
11. What was/is your biggest sleep challenge as a parent?
Canbolat: Yes, I had challenges, too. Even if you have the information, this does not mean that you won’t have any challenges. It is how you face these challenges: act, wait and accept! I think the most difficult time was when I had my second baby. My little girl was under 2 years, and it was too much for her to have someone that she should share me with. My son was a newborn, and of course he did not have any sleep rhythms. In addition to that, my daughter started to have nightmares because of her anxiety about having a brother. The nights were very challenging for me, because on one hand there was a newborn awakening several times a night, and on the other hand, there was a 2-year-old child who was awakening and could not return to sleep for 3-4 hours. I was really depressed and could not find any supporter for these nights. My husband was not with us, and no one was around at all. I accepted this period as it was and did my best (but it was not the best and most perfect). When I felt some peace about what was happening, I could help my daughter about her anxiety and these nights came to an end.
12. At your most sleep deprived moment, what was the funniest/most embarrassing thing to happen to you?
Canbolat: I have one that recently happened. My son woke up and came with his toy and said that he wanted to play with me. I was very sleepy, as I went to sleep very late the night before because of some work I had to do. I did not want to refuse, and sat next to him to watch what he was doing. I was not aware that my eyelids had closed. Suddenly, he held open one of my eyelids with his little fingers to make me watch his play and said, “Look at me mom!” I could not wake up for a while even while he was still holding my eyelid open. But he was insisting and continued to hold it while he was playing with his other hand! Sweet egocentric 5 years old children really want to be seen!