Podcast Episode 42. Do you need more sleep because your child needs more sleep? Maybe this weeks guest can help.Vicki Dawson is the CEO of The Children’s Sleep Charity and helped write the Children and Young People’s Sleep Manifesto presented to the UK government, which argued among other things for quality sleep support to be available for all families and for sleep to be recognised as a vital component of mental health.

Vicki was once a sleep deprived mum who struggled to get enough sleep at night and had no time to take a nap during the day. She realised how little help there is for people suffering from sleep deprivation or sleep issues with children. So Vicki decided to take things into her own hands and launched The Children’s Sleep Charity in 2012.

Vicki explains the process of helping a parent who comes to the charity for advice. They usually discover the charity via social media or by word of mouth. The first step is to talk to a sleep practitioner who helps to identify the causes. Vicki stresses how key it is to understand the triggers causing the sleep issues before thinking about what strategies might work.

Vicki discusses also how important is to find strategies that work for individual families and fits their parenting style and their schedule. As she says when people are sleep deprived, it’s often difficult to have the capacity to make massive changes. So it’s essential to come up with a plan that works for each individual family.

Vicki shared some of the things she has learnt about helping children develop a more structured sleep pattern. Vicki suggested that parents consider the time their child naturally falls asleep and use that time as a starting point. So, if your child falls asleep at 11 pm, put them to bed at 11 pm. Then, gradually move the bedtime to a more appropriate time to help strengthen and readjust your child’s natural body clock. Also, try and make sure that you wake up your child at the same time every morning (including weekends!). Developing this habit will help to strengthen their body clock, resulting in a more structured sleep routine.

Vicki emphasised the importance of investigating the hour before bedtime in close detail and offers some practical ideas for that pre-bedtime routine. These include encouraging children to eat foods that induce sleep, using relaxing and therapeutic play activities like lego, drawing and play dough to help promote a sense of calm, using a warm bath to foster relaxation and the obvious one getting rid of ALL screens.

As Vicki says many parents feel like others are judging them when they talk about their child’s sleep issues as well as offering unhelpful comments to make them feel like bad parents. The Children’s Sleep Charity provides the support sleep-deprived parents need without judgment.