What happens when parents realize that their children have a sleep problem? It’s not unusual to hear conversations about sleep take place on playgrounds as parents stand around and chat. At some point, through the fog of sleeplessness, it must become apparent that not all families face the same challenges.
I recently spoke with the parents of a new student in my class. As part of our “getting to know you” process the teachers ask the parents a few probing questions to gain a better sense of the child’s home life and daily routines. I asked about Katie’s sleep patterns, and her mom let out a huge sigh of frustration. “She’s a TERRIBLE sleeper! She won’t stay in her own bed; she can’t fall asleep on her own and she never stays asleep for more than a couple of hours at a time! We’ve tried everything and the doctor doesn’t even know how to help us. He just shrugs and says, do your best. If you have ANY advice for us, we’d be grateful!”
Clearly this mom has been sleep deprived herself for a number of years and is at her wits’ end. But where does she turn? Who can really give her help? The doctor seemed to feel that this was out of his league. A counselor? A parent coach? A teacher?
There must be sleep experts out there somewhere, but most of us lack the resources to link up with them. Are there sleep “consultants” for parents to turn to? If not, there should be!
At times I let my imagination run away with me, and I’ve been thinking about what a sleep consultant might say and what kinds of questions they might ask of a family who is seeking help.
1. Tell me about the bedtime routine at your house.
2. What time does your child typically fall asleep, how often does she wake up and what time does she wake up for the day?
3. How does your child fall asleep? Does she require a toy, the presence of a person, a light etc?
4. What happens when your child wakes up?
5. Where do you sleep and what your typical sleep patterns?
6. What are your memories of bedtime and sleeping as a child?
7. Are your evenings fairly similar from night to night or is every evening different?
8. What do you feel is the biggest issue or problem regarding your child’s sleep habits?
Based on the hypothetical responses I make up in my head, I go on to solve all the sleep issues and send them on their merry way. . .
But seriously, if you had sleep issues in your family, what professional help would you seek out? Where would you begin? What kinds of issues do you face?