Sleep advice from actress, Marijke Coetser

Sleep advice for parents and children

By Renate Engelbrecht

Fri, Jul 23

Sleep. It’s a basic human need, yet somehow we don’t all come into this world with the ideal sleeping patterns. In our home, we certainly have our ups and downs – from Elian (1) who still wakes up at least once per night and Catha (3) who often takes up to two hours just to fall asleep to myself often struggling with insomnia due to anxiety brought about by factors like Covid-19.

I recently spoke to actress Marijke Coetser, who is also a certified Sleep Sense consultant about the topic and she says sleep is your biological right. She says Sleep Sense’s consultations are probably what saved her marriage, which is why she didn’t think twice about becoming a consultant herself.

Marijke Coetser
Actress and sleep consultant, Marijke Coetser. Image: Supplied

Why is my child struggling to sleep?

There could be many reasons for your child’s struggle to fall asleep or to go through the night without waking up. Marijke Coetser says that children may struggle to sleep because of separation anxiety – something she has been seeing a lot lately among the so-called lockdown babies. She suggests that parents play pick-a-boo with their children to prove to them that they always return. Children got used to being with or around their parents all the time during lockdown and going back to school might cause separation anxiety.

The same goes for babies sleeping in their parents’ room for the first few months. (We did that with both our kids for at least the first month. They slept in a co-sleeper and it worked well for breastfeeding, but not necessarily for our sleeping patterns). Coetser says that babies can only truly sleep through when they sleep in their own rooms, because of partial awakening. Babies’ senses are super senses – especially babies that are breastfed. They see, hear, smell and feel when their mother is nearby and the slightest sound can wake them and disturb their sleeping patterns.

READ: The work-life balancing act as a mom

How to create a better sleeping environment for your child

Marijke Coetser was kind enough to share a few tips on how you can create a better sleep environment for your child, ultimately also allowing you to get in some more sleep at night:

  • When your child cries or makes sounds while sleeping, don’t go to him immediately. It might be that he is in the REM sleep stage, which means he might just be dreaming. Giving him a bottle or changing his nappy then, will just wake him up and disturb his sleep stages.
  • Consider rather allowing your baby to sleep in his own room. This will keep both of you from waking up unnecessarily.
  • Make sure your child is warm enough (Coetser recommends using a sleeping bag for babies up until at least 3 months of age).
  • Ensure that your baby or child sleeps in a safe environment (Elian climbed out of his cot just the other day, so I might have to make some changes…). Marijke Coetser says that the less things in the cot, the better.
  • She also says that putting children to bed earlier – before they are over tired – is better. Once they’ve passed the point of being tired, Cortisol kicks in and then you won’t get them to sleep.
  • Another way to create a better sleeping environment for your child, is by bringing in some white noise. This will assist in blocking out environmental noise. Young Living has a very handy white noise night light that also doubles up as a diffuser. Feather the Owl is child-friendly, easy to use and can diffuse essential oils for up to 10 hours.
  • Speaking of diffusers, Coetser says Young Living’s oils are 100% and putting some Lavender oil under your child’s feet might also help them sleep better. You can also add Lavendar oil or other oils to Feather the Owl.

If these tips don’t work, perhaps a consultation with MC Sleep Consulting is what you need.

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