For those of you who have read my material in other formats you would be aware that I attempt to achieve a full night’s sleep by something like 12 weeks of age and then maintain that until school age. It is something which happens for my patients on a regular basis.
Last week I was at a seminar where a panel of six experts addressed about 300 nurses. All of us had many years of experience with children in different formats. Two of us work with large numbers of children in a truly clinical sense and both achieve something like 12 hrs sleep at night for large numbers of children.
One of the speakers was an experienced psychologist well known for her well regarded work on childhood sleep and behaviour.
7pm to 7am is NOT a myth!
She spoke after me and her first slide and her first line read: “7pm to 7am is a myth”.
This is the second time that I have been to a talk she’s given and where this was the first point made to the audience.
This raised a number of questions for me.
- Why would you put this up as your first statement?
- Why not ask the two speakers at the talk how we do it?
- How on earth can you work with children and not be aware that the overwhelming majority of children function better on 12 hours sleep?
Putting this statement up as a first part of a talk on sleep before any other information is giving a message. It is defining what can or, in this case, what can’t be achieved.
Let me restate that I routinely achieve a 12 hour sleep for babies overnight.
Something which I find quite worrying in Australia at the current time is the large amount of sleep disruption in our community. On average a woman with a newborn child will lose 800-1000 hours of sleep in the first 12 months. The average baby in the first few months is crying 90 minutes to four hours per day. These are horrendous amounts of tiredness and distress. It is beyond debate that there are major problems. The current dominant paradigms of care are failing our young families.
While I strongly and confidently state that these problems do not need to occur; for the majority of health care professionals working with families this is their experience and observation. Because it is so common they then define this as normality. People across the world are normalising maternal and infant stress, distress, tiredness and exhaustion as normal.
For me this is inappropriate. It is like saying for example. One million people live in a poor city with a badly contaminated water supply. The infant mortality is 25% by age five. We could argue that because it is occurring so often it is normal for 25% of babies to die by age five. None of us would accept that analysis BUT it is the experience of millions of families across the globe today. The frequency of poor sleep in Australia does not in any way make poor sleep, infant fatigue or maternal exhaustion normal.
To be aware that a child needs about 12 hrs sleep per night to function well is very easy. Look at the quality of their waking. When a child wakes, say, 30-45-60 minutes early they awaken poorly. They fade quickly and function during the day in a less than optimum way. Once they achieve a full night’s sleep, usually about 12 hours, they awaken happy, content, interactive, patient and with a good appetite. The differences are clear, obvious and predictable. Mothers know this but large numbers of the caring professions don’t know.
So what is my conclusion?
As an average expectation for babies between 12 weeks of age and up to five years of age a full night’s sleep is about 12 hours and the large majority of children can achieve that given appropriate guidance
Dr Brian Symon
The Babysleep Doctor