Taking control of Sleep: The one parent household

Single Parent Households

After going through the experience of hiring a child sleep consultant, and then going through the process to become one, I knew that I wanted to help other single parent households.  With my husband away on business a lot, I learned through the process that once I took control of the situation I was no longer overwhelmed and fearful of my child’s sleep habits; instead, I was now in control of them.

With one parent alone in a household to care for their child, it is essential that both the parent and the child are getting adequate amounts of rest. If you do not have the option to hand your baby to the other parent and take a break, without a proper handle on the situation, emotions and behaviors can spiral out of control. Never underestimate the power of a solid schedule. A set routine is essential in order to maintain sanity.

Crashing

When a parent is home by themselves, they have to take their child with them in order to run errands, make appointments, honor commitments and so on. If a parent keeps their child up past their biological sleep wave, they often think that this will result in their child “crashing” at the following sleep period.

This is a big misconception, in fact it works the other way around. When a child misses their scheduled sleep time, their body immediately starts producing cortisol which helps to give them their “second wind.” By the time the child who skipped their nap is put to sleep for the night, they have already entered the “overtired” state which cause’s large amounts of cortisol to run through their body. This makes it ever harder for the child to fall asleep and stay asleep.

What often happens is that when parents make plans to leave the house during their child’s usual nap time, they often decide that they will put their child down for a nap when they return home. As a result, the child is now expected to nap at a time that does not coincide with their circadian rhythm. This leaves parents baffled at the fact that their child, who should be extra tired, is now throwing a fit and fighting sleep.

Forbidden Zone of Sleep

Periods of time that do not coincide with our internal clock are known as the “forbidden zone” of sleep. The forbidden zone of sleep for adults is from 6-9 pm. TV executives caught on to this notion and that is where the term “prime time” comes from. TV stations play their most popular programming during prime time due to the fact that adults are naturally awake. The same way adults have a forbidden zone, so do children. This is why there are ideal nap times for children depending on their age and an ideal bedtime in addition.

Parents are often confused when they expect their child to fall asleep quickly because they appear exhausted. A child’s sleep structure is often times counterintuitive to us as parents. This is the reason why it is imperative to educate ourselves on the facts in order to be prepared. It is just as important to parent your child at night as it is during the day. This starts with respecting their need to sleep, and giving them the opportunity to experience quality sleep and not just fixate about the quantity.

In a one parent household, whether you are a single parent, or have a spouse who works away from the home, these sleep conditions need to be learned. It is beneficial to learn them before your child is born, this way you are prepared, knowledgeable and educated on why and how babies sleep the way they do.

Once you take control of the situation, although you will have to schedule outings and activities around their sleep times, in return you will have a well-rested and happy baby. Children who are having their sleep needs met will thrive due to the fact that these proper amounts of sleep are contributing to their cognitive development. And let’s not forget the endless amounts of reasons that it is just as important for the parent to be rested as well.

Most new mothers have the luxury of having a family member close by to watch their child while they catch up on sleep, but some of us don’t. It is essential for parents to have time to ourselves, and time to get things done around the house. Also, it is important that we have time to rest and recuperate for the next day of nonstop supervision of our toddlers and infants. Protecting your child from harm is natural to us as parents; protecting your child’s need for proper sleep is just as important.

 

As Seen on “5 nuts in a nutshell” January 2014

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