Saturday 13 August 2011

Getting more sleep with a sleep training clock

I am obsessed with sleep. Every morning I count the hours of sleep I have had, and feel pretty good if it's more than six.

Harry has never been a good sleeper. The early mornings (4.30am at one point!) started when he was about 4 months old. We've been woken for months at a time by him rolling on to his tummy and getting stuck, standing up in the cot and not being able to get back down, nightmares, many months of nights with two hours of continuous screaming, two months of waking up at 9.30pm on the dot every single night.  

The early mornings were the worst. We put him to bed earlier, we put him to bed later. We gave him more naps during the day and we reduced his daytime sleep. Some evenings he had a big dinner, some evenings a small dinner. We got up with him at 5am, we left him screaming until 6am. We went in as soon as he woke up and told him to go back to sleep, we ignored him as soon as he woke up and left him until 6am. We even tried going in to rouse him an hour before he normally woke up to see if that settled him back into a deeper sleep. Nothing worked, and fed up of hysterical morning screaming we learned to put up with getting up earlier.

At two and a half we had settled down to one wake up per night, settling quickly with a drink, and a morning start of around 5.20am. He was starting to drop his daytime nap and was getting so grumpy during the day due to lack of sleep that it just wasn't any fun at all for any of us. And with a new baby in the house, we were getting a bit desperate.

And then, one night in the early hours while I was up feeding the baby, Ram found the Gro-Clock Sleep Trainer (affiliate link) on special offer and so we thought we'd give it a go. We didn't really expect it to work. 

To our utter astonishment, a little over a month later, we now have a toddler that mostly sleeps through the night without waking - and more importantly 9 times out of 10 is staying in bed until the sun comes up, sometimes even later! 

So if you have this problem with your toddler, no matter how stubborn you think they are, I would absolutely recommend one of the many types of clock that are available. Here are some tips based on our experience:
  • Wait until your child is old enough to understand the concept. Harry was two and a half. They need to have the vocabulary and communication skills to understand about the sun, the stars, staying in bed and so on. 
  • We gave Harry the clock in its box and told him that it was a present for him, a "special clock". He quickly referred to it as his "morning clock". We let him unpack it and explore it.
  • The Gro-Clock has a demo mode, so we set it up during the day and practiced lying down when the stars were out, and getting up with a "Hooray, the sun has come up!
  • We started off setting the clock for a time before he usually woke up, in our case about 5.10am. Then after a few days we did a bigger jump to about 5.45am.
  • We continued moving the wake up time on the clock forward very gradually, by only about 5 minutes a week. It's still set to 6.15am. We're just not sure how much to push our luck!
  • The Gro-Clock comes with a little bedtime story book which reinforces how important it is to "stay in bed until the sun". We read it together. Every night. We can both quote it verbatim. 
  • When Harry did wake up before the sun came out in the early days, a few times he got very cross and continuously got out of bed. We returned him to bed with minimal fuss and emphasised that he needed to wait until the sun came up. When it did, we would go in and give him lots of praise for staying in bed (even if he hadn't exactly!) But this only happened a handful of times.
  • We talked a lot during the day about what a good boy he was for waiting nicely in bed until the sun had come up. 
  • You could think about a reward system, such as a sticker chart, but we found we didn't need one.

Of course, I may come back in a few months time and report that it's all gone pear-shaped. But we are still in shock at how well this seems to have worked! And we are much happier now with his sleeping, even if we do now have less time to get us all ready in the mornings. I would certainly recommend giving it a go. And we can forget for the time being that we have many more sleepless nights ahead until we do it all over again with the littlest one!

You can find some more tips on using a sleep training clock here - How to use a sleep training clock for an early rising child

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