Having been blessed with four children in 33 months sleep soon became a distant memory.
A historical luxury that we always took for granted soon became a rare commodity. In the early days when all four children were in nappies there was not much we as parents could do but to be organised, try and stick to routines and feed the babies well and hope that they would sleep through.
What we soon learned is that you are only as good as your lowest common denominator when it comes to a good night’s sleep.
Meaning that if we were lucky enough to have three good sleepers, all it took was one child to wake up in the night for us to have a bad night’s sleep and a difficult day ahead.
Nobody is great the next day on a bad night’s sleep. I have a distinct lack of sense of humour, I have a heightened sensitivity to noise and my patience goes out the window. Not ideal when your raison d’etre when you have children is to nurture and care for them in a gentle, kind and happy manner.
More importantly for growing and happy children is their own sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, babies, young children and teens need excessively more sleep than adults to support their rapid mental and physical development. We had read about these important sleep facts when the children were young and were privy to tables like the one below. We realised that we needed to come up with a plan to help us all get back to sleep.
I think we read every book and blog on this subject that there is available, anywhere.
Black out rooms, night lights, routine with a bed time song, wind-down time, warm milk, no milk, sleep trainers (who we swiftly asked to leave when neither my wife nor I could stomach the “cry it out” approach), temperature control, bed-time snacks, cosiest of beds, a soft toy sleep friend, bananas, massage, massage with magnesium, more iron, less screen time.
Seldom was there a solution but when you are desperate you can’t sit back and do nothing.
After a particularly bad patch at breakfast one morning we were all running on empty and I told the children about the “Sleep Fairy”.
A very shy fairy that only visits houses where everyone in the house is asleep – including all children and parents. Everyone must remain in bed for the entire night for the Sleep Fairy to visit.
When she visits she places a tiny little “treasure” below their beds and as a reward. She does this for four nights only. After the fourth night she whispers a promise in the children’s ears that she now trusts them to sleep through.
She will continue to visit every night but the only proof of her having visited is the sleep she leaves in the corner of their eyes.
We put the plan into action and for four nights the children slept through, and every morning under their beds were little trinkets – stickers, crayons, card games – from the Sleep Fairy.
We had great excitement each morning when the children discovered their little gifts. We achieved more than a good night’s sleep for everyone, we also experienced the jubilation and excitement of a visit from a fairy which got all the positive endorphins going and set-up our whole family for a happy and exciting start to the day.
Sometimes after a holiday away or when routines have been disrupted there will be one of our children who will think it a good idea to wake up in the night and pay us a visit.
Once this happens more than a couple of times we roll-out the Sleep Fairy tale again and within four days our family is back on track. Rested, sane and happy.
The method behind the madness
We had heard that young children form sleep habits in three consecutive efforts. Get them to sleep through for three nights in a row and your battle would likely be won. We chose four nights for our Sleep Fairy throwing in an extra one just for good measure.
The Sleep Fairy worked for us and has worked for some of those friends that we have shared this with. I thought that by writing and illustrating a book about our sleep solution that we would be able to share with others what essentially has saved us from total insanity at the hands of sleep deprivation.
- Have You Seen The Sleep Fairy? by T.K.R (published by Clink Street Publishing 30th January 2018 RRP £7.99 paperback and RRP £3.99 ebook) is available to purchase from online retailers including amazon.co.uk and to order from all good bookstores.