“I’m passionate about the problems of sleep deprivation, and that’s why I called the introductory Time 2 Sleep day,” said Fran Boto, Early Support Co-ordinator of the Sutton Disability Partnership, in Wallington.
More comprehensive workshops are run by sleep practitioners from Sleep Solutions, nationally recognised as a unique sleep service, and managed by disability charity, Scope.
Sleep problems are common among children with support needs, who often have difficulties with the initiation and maintenance of sleep, irregular or short sleep patterns, and early morning awakenings.
A specialist sleep service that works one-to-one with the families of children with support needs, and runs partnership parent and professionals training workshops, is vital because sleep deprivation can have a hugely detrimental impact on home life.
“I noticed how prevalent sleep problems are in Sutton, through feedback from parents and key workers,” Fran said. “It’s important to put in services that tackle the stress that sleep deprivation is causing.”
Joining the early years practitioners and parents for the Time 2 Sleep awareness day was Lucy Stuttard, from the University of York’s Social Policy Research Unit.
From questionnaires, Lucy was learning of parents’ experiences of their child’s sleep problems. This is part of research studying services that help parents with their child’s sleep or behaviour, and is funded by The Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children and Young People’s Services (C4EO). The research findings, which will be available in mid-2011, will be a useful resource for agencies wanting to develop sleep or behaviour support services.
Led by Sleep Practitioner, Anne Murphy, the introductory workshop explored the basics of good sleep practice and advised tips and tactics to help parents compartmentalise problem issues and explore approaches to good countdown and sleep preparation.
Sleep: sharing and learning
In an atmosphere of listening with respect and challenging with sensitivity, parents described their experiences; what one described as ‘torture’.
“He takes two hours to go to sleep, and then wakes again screaming after an hour.”
“For the neighbours, it must be awful to be continually woken in the night by another person’s child.”
“We have such sleep problems. I knew there would be other people in the room who could help me. I had to come.”
Drawing on her one-to-one work as a Sleep Practitioner with families, and content from more in-depth workshops, Anne had a wealth of information to share.
Guidance on how to stage a good bedtime routine for settling the child to sleep was offered empathically, along with lesser-known tips on food and children’s natural sleep patterns. Other advice included how to manage disruptive siblings’ time and space, looking at who was really in control, and why, at bedtime, and considered factors such as medication times or the effects of hospitalisation.
One parent said: “My son always seeks forgiveness for his incontinence. Sometimes we have terrible, terrible distressing nights. My GP isn’t the most co-operative.”
As the workshop closed, a school nurse said: “I hadn’t taken to heart how much it all affects parents and families.”
Fran said: “Working with parents, there’s real evidence of the problems; professionals can really understand what they’re dealing with and can learn techniques and cascade the training. I wanted practitioners to hear it from parents – how bad it is. The workshops and awareness days really put it out there. Professionals don’t always hear. There’s a taboo about people discussing their night-time and sleeping problems. I want to raise awareness and promote funding for sleep intervention.”
Read more about the University of York’s Supporting Parents Research Project (SPAR) into disabled children’s sleep and behaviour.
Read more information on Sleep Solutions.