The nocturnal awakenings lead to the question of whether it is possible to teach children to sleep through the night
Sleeping all night, before becoming parents, we are convinced is an inviolable, inalienable right, in short, a natural principle, at the basis of any existence. Well no! It is not. When the children arrive, especially when they are little bundles of a few months, sleeping (well) is a chimera. Not surprisingly, one of the main concerns of new mothers is related to sleep. The sleep of children is a topic that young families have dealt with a lot and in fact, for some years now, we can rely on real specialists to turn to for theoretical advice, at a distance, but also for practical support, during the phases of falling asleep. .
A continuous sleep, without too many awakenings, is not only an advantage for children but for the whole family. The constant nocturnal awakenings of children can also affect the couple. Common in couples who have recently had children are quarrels and claims about who gets up more to look after them. Equally frequent is the separation, during the night, so that one parent sleeps with the child and the other alone. Not to mention how much all this can affect the delicate intimate sphere that the couple, after having their first child, must laboriously recover.
How to get children used to sleep all night is therefore a theme that involves not only the children but the whole family. The sleep of children (or lack of sleep) crosses the path that the same couple travels, to be happy and serene. How many times, for example, is it the couple who want to share their bed with their children, to make up for alleged feelings of guilt or to procrastinate that sense of emptiness, which can leave a child who has become more independent. Cases of children sleeping in bed with their mother or father are not rare either, to fill the gap left by a separation. In short, children's sleep is everyone's sleep.
There is a lot of literature on how to get children used to sleep well, not only because there are so many questions that parents ask themselves but also because there are different points of view and schools of thought. They follow one another, alternating the most disparate opinions, the result of very different eras and approaches to parenthood, even before the sleep of children.
Barbara Bove Angeretti, consultant for children's sleep and empathic education, is a specialist to whom parents turn to for advice on the subject. He is one of those now precious figures that, as before or as a last resort, mothers and fathers also call to be freed from a sense of frustration, caused by not being able to make their child fall asleep. Children are not all the same, just as families are not, for this reason there cannot be magic formulas, but certainly the environment in which the child lives and the habits of the family can be analyzed, to understand if there is something. able to help parents and the child himself, in the phase of bedtime.
- Sleep in children: the causes of nocturnal awakenings
- What to do when children wake up and come to our bed
- How to get babies used to sleep through the night
- Rest and nocturnal awakenings: pros and cons
Sleep in children: the causes of nocturnal awakenings
“Being able to answer questions about the sleep of children, in a nutshell, is always very difficult, because the topics are many and touch on different aspects of the relational life of a family. There are many factors that play a role in the awakenings that many parents are familiar with. First of all, it must be said that the sleep cycles of babies are different from those of adults, they last on average 20 minutes against 90 of an adult, who, however, growing up, has learned to enter the next cycle without realizing it. A newborn is not yet able to do this independently and therefore seeks contact with the mother (or caregiver) to fall asleep again. Contact means safety, protection, simply love, the mother is the safe place for the baby.
Our children are genetically programmed to wake up frequently, our species has evolved in this way, with a high demand and a high contact and this also concerns the methods of care and the composition of breast milk. Night was a time for our ancestors to be vulnerable to predators. Our society has changed a lot, but our genes haven't and babies are exactly the same as they were then. From 5/6 years onwards, the child undergoes a great evolutionary leap that mainly concerns cognitive processes, representative and mathematical skills: the brain reorganizes itself and acquires new skills on the one hand, and seeks security and emotional confirmation. on the other. Even at this age and up to the beginning of adolescence, the parent is the figure with whom to identify, whose model is understood and re-proposed, in which to seek comfort and understanding, and this can also happen during the night ".
What to do when children wake up and come to our bed
Many mothers and fathers fight, not even so metaphorically, every night, trying to regain a small piece of sheet or a few square meters of memory foam. Children who, waking up, run into their parents' bed, there are them at all ages and, beyond the little space that remains for all family members, the Capoeira movements that we are forced to make between one child and another , one wonders whether or not it is right to welcome children into one's own bed.
"A child who wakes up at night to go to his parents' bed" explains the child sleep consultant "is not a spoiled or capricious child, he is a child who asks for closeness, contact and it would be appropriate to accept this request because a satisfied need does not reappear. That said, if this causes other family members discomfort or discomfort, a solution should be sought. There may be different situations and approaches, but a solution to which you should not give in is to let the baby cry. If we are talking about children over the age of 3 and the awakenings were very frequent, the cause must be sought, which could be a difficult period, a particular change, a relationship difficulty, all this may require special attention ".
What if the child wakes up in the middle of the night or at dawn, without having any intention of going back to sleep?
"If, on the other hand, the child wakes up and asks to do something else (play, eat, etc.) or fails to go back to sleep even in the presence of the parent within a few minutes, then there is something in the sleep habits that should be reorganized".
How to get babies used to sleep through the night
All of us parents ask ourselves the million dollar question: how to get babies used to sleep through the night? It is clear that, in order to get children to sleep for an adequate number of hours, it is necessary to have a regular life, not subject them to stress, and obviously avoid too long afternoon naps. But, beyond all this, is it really possible to teach children to sleep through the night, without any awakening complicating our well-deserved Rem phase? Here is what Barbara Bove Angeretti thinks:
“Sleep is not a behavior. Sleep is a state of consciousness. Thinking of accustoming a child to sleep all night is like thinking of having to accustom him to being awake during the day…. It does not make sense. In recent years, certain techniques have become famous that should "teach" sleep to children and "promote" autonomy: extinction, controlled crying, the chair method, etc. These methods derive from behaviorist studies of the 70s and 80s, and then taken up and re-proposed in some childcare books, which aimed precisely at modifying behavior. But if sleep is not a behavior, using these techniques, what can children be taught? The autonomy, the independence that we would like to promote, also in relation to sleep, are great virtues that must be conquered in the right time. And it is precisely the total dependence on the caregiver during the first years of life that lays the foundations for their future discovery ”.
Rest and nocturnal awakenings: pros and cons
Finally, we all know that a good night's refreshment helps us in everyday life. But do the same rules apply to children as adults?
Angeretti concludes by telling us that “The pros of a continuous rest in children and young people are immediately evident to anyone, being the same as those of an adult. Sleep deprivation can lead to serious consequences and, when it occurs, it must be properly addressed. But we must never forget that children sleep a different number of hours depending on the age group. If we are talking about children over 6 years of age, it is advisable that they can remarry according to their specific needs, which generally range from 9 to 12 hours. When we talk about children under 6, however, it is useful to keep in mind that the sleep cycles are different and some awakening at night does not affect the quality of sleep in a manner comparable to that of an adult ".
The ancients said mens sana in corpore sano, where the healthy body is also a body to be given the right rest. And if for us parents this rest seems to be put to the test, in the first years of the child's life, it is not that things get better afterwards. A wise and highly experienced midwife, during a preparatory course, said: "From now on, forget about sleeping all night. At first you will not sleep because of the feedings, then because of the anxieties about the babies' breaths, subsequently because of their awakening, and later, when your children have grown up, because they do not return home at the appointed time ". As evidence of the fact, we could say, that not only for children the principles of sleep varying according to age apply, but also for us adults, when we become parents!
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