HEALTHY LIVING: Workshop helped my daughter to sleep easier

Gracie Edge from South Anston who had problems sleeping until specialists at Sheffield Childrens Hospital helped her
Gracie Edge from South Anston who had problems sleeping until specialists at Sheffield Childrens Hospital helped her
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TARYN Edge’s story will be familiar to many parents.

The nightly battle, the tantrums, tears and tirades from an exhausted youngster who refuses to go to sleep.

For the last four years bedtime has been a battleground for 33-year-old Taryn and her daughter Gracie.

Taryn, from South Anston, Rotherham, was ‘at breaking point’.

“Every night there would be a massive battle, everyone would be in tears and by midnight, Gracie still wouldn’t be in bed,” she said.

“I just didn’t know what to do, I’d tried everything I could think of and nothing was working.

“Extreme fatigue was affecting Gracie’s health, putting strain on my marriage, and made me feel like I was a bad mother.”

Taryn’s GP advised establishing a regular bedroom routine and she tried the many other ‘Super Nanny’-style tips that she heard about from TV and books.

But nothing seemed to help get the four-year-old to sleep.

‘Out of desperation’ Taryn signed up for a series of courses run by a sleep practitioner at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Taryn said: “Half way through the course I burst into tears because the course leader asked the class if we’d ever resented our own children because we were so tired.

“I love my kids more than anything, but when you’re feeling that low, you really feel as though anything could tip you over the edge.

“In the sleep workshops, everyone is in the same boat and you don’t feel as though you’re being judged.”

Taryn had left her job as a motivational speaker after having her second child to be a full-time mum, but husband Simon was still going to the office each morning.

“I think our society really underestimates how hard being a mother is,” she said.

“It is a 24-hour job - and a lot of the time you are on your own.

“We’re up all hours of the day and night nursing the little ones. It never stops.”

One of the main changes Taryn was told to make was to focus on a strict morning routine and a more flexible bedtime one.

She said: “Because Gracie rarely slept, I would never wake her up when she actually was asleep. Now I wake her up at 6.30am religiously, regardless of whether it is a Sunday, we’re on holiday, or Gracie is poorly.

“At first it was hell and I felt terrible doing it, but I learnt it was essential to keep Gracie’s body clock consistent.

“The course leader told us it was going to be really difficult but in the end it is worth it.”

Doctors told Taryn the sleepless nights could be stunting Gracie’s growth and development.

“Since we changed her routine, Gracie has shot up six inches in six months,” Taryn said. “She will sit down and do art and crafts. Before, she didn’t have the attention span to do anything like that.

“She’s still quite a hyperactive child but I know now that that’s just her nature and there’s nothing wrong.

“I’ve been told sleep-deprived children are often wrongly diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and given treatment - so without the sleep workshops, that could have happened to Gracie.”

Sleep practitioner Vicki Dawson, of the Children’s Sleep Charity, who runs the Sheffield courses, said: “Sometimes there are other medical reasons why a child is not sleeping, but anything you learn about the behavioural side of sleep can only be a positive step towards understanding your child’s feelings and emotions.

“During the course we talk about the sleep triggers parents may not realise are missing.

“For example, many don’t realise how stimulating their child’s bedroom is when it is full of toys and a TV.

“We also explore the causes of nightmares and night terrors and how to minimise them.

“Because we run the workshops in an informal setting, parents are much more likely to open up and be really honest about how sleep, or lack of it, is affecting their homes and families.

“It can be a massive help just to know that you are not the only one, and share tips with other people in your situation,” she said.

Heather Elphick, consultant at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, said: “The partnership between the hospital’s sleep service and the Children’s Sleep Charity is the first in the UK to offer sleep workshops to parents of healthy, typically developing children.

“It’s estimated that around 30 per cent of healthy children have sleep issues, such as settling to sleep and night waking.

“Sleep deprivation can have a huge impact on a child’s level of functioning and concentrating which can often lead to behavioural problems.

“Families are affected too with parents feeling the brunt of sleep deprivation, leading to exhaustion and increased family problems.”

The workshops, funded by the Children’s Hospital Charity, are free and open to anybody who has a child with sleep-related issues. To register for a place call Vicki on 07912667676 or email info@thechildrenssleepcharity.org.uk