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Sleeping issues? Advice from an expert.

Posted by on December 14, 2011
An over-tired child is a crabby child.

Getting proper sleep when traveling is hard for all of us. Children are especially sensitive to the change in sleep environments. A sleep-deprived child usually equals a grouchy, fussy, or uncooperative child. So what do you do? Irene Gouge, Sleep Consultant & Faciliator, from Loving Lessons was kind enough to speak with me over the phone to give her advice. Here are the things she shared with me:

KNOW YOUR CHILD
Understand your child’s individual needs and personality. Is he tempermental, sensitive, or flexible? Each child in your family may be different. It is important to identify his needs so you can, when possible, arrange how and when you travel to have the best outcome for your child.

If you have a child who is particularly sensitive to his environment, it might work best to host the holiday celebrations at your house so that he can continue to get the best rest possible. This is not always an option, so here is what you can do when you DO have to leave home:

KEEP THE CHILD’S ROUTINE BUT MODIFY THE SCHEDULE
You will probably have to shift the actual times that your child is used to doing things, but keep the same routine. If your routine is dress after waking, breakfast next, mid-morning snack, nap after lunch, then stick to that pattern. Children are more agreeable when they know what to expect in the day. Keeping the basic routine will help them be flexible in the other activities throughout the day.

Plan ahead when heading out for the day. If your child is used to a mid-morning snack then bring one with you in case it’s not part of the plan for the rest of the group. If he needs a particular stuffed animal or blanket to nap, bring it with you.

Keep the bedtime ritual the same. If your child is used to the routine of bath/brush teeth/story/bed, then do that when away from home too. Repeating the pattern he is used to will help him feel comfortable.

RE-CREATE THE SLEEPING ENVIRONMENT
Do what you can to create the sleep environment your child is used to. A favorite book, pillow, or blanket will bring familiarity to an unfamiliar setting. Black sheets can be hung to darken the room for a more comfortable sleep. I bring black out curtains and clothespins to hang them.

A cozy blanket from home made this hotel stay more comfortable.

Let older children pick out a special travel pillow or blanket that is used only when you’re away from home. It helps them adapt when they feel involved in the decision making.

When you’re doing something unique to your stay away from home, (like having milk and cookies with Grandma before bed, or all the kids/family sleeping in one room together), explain that this is something special for this one trip.  Remind them that when you return home the sleep arrangements and patterns will return to normal. Returning home to your regular rules will go more smoothly when kids understand the change in rules was temporary.


ADVOCATE FOR YOUR CHILD

Sometimes family members with the best intentions stand in the way of your child getting the rest he needs. You need to advocate for your child. Everyone benefits when your child is well rested. A well rested child is always less fussy. (Or maybe I should say an over-tired child is almost always fussy.) Your family will have more quality time with the child if he is not tired. If your child normally takes naps but skips it when traveling, be sure to plan for an earlier bedtime. This is not always easy with many adult activities planned, but do what you can to allow your child to get the sleep he needs. Everyone will be happier for it.

More sleep=Happy Child!
**To learn more about Irene Gouge and the services she offers, visit http://www.irenegouge.info or “like” on Facebook at Loving Lessons Pediatric Sleep Consulting and Educational Growth Center**

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