Say sweet dreams to Aaron Hopkins – the sleepless little boy who’s finally managed to get his 40 winks... with the help of the humble banana.
For three-and-a-half years, Aaron’s parents were battling to find a solution to the youngster’s night terrors, hallucinations and violent behaviour.
But with the help of a miraculous sleep workshop – and a banana before bed – it seems Aaron is finally able to drift into the land of nod.
Aaron’s problems began when he was born 14 weeks early. He was in hospital for four months before he was allowed home to East Dene, Rotherham, with mum Maryann Battersby and dad Matthew Hopkins.
Maryann said: “When he came out of hospital he never slept well. He would wake up every hour and by the age of one he was surviving on four hours of sleep in 24 hours – he would just cat-nap here and there.
“His behaviour was terrible – he would smack himself, headbutt people and scream. He would also have really bad night terrors and hallucinations – sometimes he would climb his bedroom furniture in his sleep and then get stuck.
“He would be up four, six, seven times a night and the only time he would ever sleep through is if he was poorly or absolutely exhausted.”
Over the years full time mum Maryann, 34, worked with her GP and the Child Development Centre at Rotherham Hospital to come up with a solution.
They tried everything – from orange lights in his bedroom and milkshakes before bed to changing the decor of his room and putting him to bed under a weighted blanket – but nothing worked.
Aaron, now aged three-and-a-half, was eventually put onto a maximum dose of melatonin – a hormone intended to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. It still didn’t work.
Maryann said: “I just said, ‘I can’t carry on like this. I’m absolutely exhausted’.”
In January this year, Maryann approached Vicki Dawson, a sleep expert based at Aaron’s nursery, the Arnold Centre in Rotherham. Vicki is also founder of The Children’s Sleep Charity and invited Maryann and Aaron along to a workshop hosted at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
“It was amazing,” said Maryann. “They gave us all sorts of advice – simple, little things I would never have thought of.”
Maryann was advised to give Aaron half a solid banana before bed among other techniques including wrapping him in a warm towel and giving him milk, brown toast and peanut butter.
Since the workshop on January 17, he has had seven full nights of sleep – unheard of beforehand.
“Before, Matthew would have to sleep on the settee or in the spare bed because he was working 12-hour shifts and I was constantly up and down,” said Maryann.
“Now we are just a family. Aaron goes to bed and then me and Matthew can sit down together and have time together.
“Aaron is amazing now – he is the little boy I know. He’s a happy boy.”
Vicki said: “I’m so pleased Aaron is now sleeping through the night. It’s wonderful to hear success stories and how the charity has improved parents’ lives.”