Improving Your Child’s Sleep: Do It Yourself or Professional Help?

By Liberty Mahon,MS of Children’s Therapy Services Sleep Support Program

Have you ever tried a Do-It -Yourself project, whether it be a repair to your car, a home improvement project or a “small” malfunction with your computer and learned the hard way that sometimes DIY projects are not as easy or as cost effective as it may seem. Sure, you may start off by reading some books or watching a YouTube video excited and ready to conquer the problem and before you know it you’ve spent a fortune on materials that you thought would work but didn’t, you are completely frustrated, and your situation is far from improved! In the end, what do you do? You decide to call in professional help because you are at your wits end and you just need the problem to be fixed. Helping your child learn to sleep better can be this type of project.

So many of us parents struggle with our child’s sleep troubles and are left exhausted and in dire need of answers. What do we do?… Usually, we take on fixing the sleep problem just like a DIY project – we talk with friends and family, we consult with our pediatrician, we Google web pages to gain insight, we buy sound machines, snuggly toys, fancy light nights, etc., we get every book we can find off of Amazon.com. If we even attempt to read one of those books about improving sleep, we immediately look at the length of the book, think “I don’t have the time or energy to read this” and jump to the chapter related to your child’s age, skipping all the background and foundational information. We try a strategy.. or two… or three and just come to the conclusion that we are doomed to a lifetime of sleepless nights because none of them seem to work! We begin to wonder…how important is sleep anyway?

The simple answer…VERY IMPORTANT! Many adults view sleep as a luxury, but in fact it is as essential to us as the food we eat. While we sleep, our brains are not resting, they are actively processing information and making new connections. Sleep affects our mood, attention, memory and our ability to learn. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation has significant effects on a person’s cognitive abilities. Now think about a child’s brain as a little sponge soaking up the world around him. Sleep is even more critical for the that young developing brain. Dr. Weissbluth’s studies on sleep and children showed that infants that slept well were better able to learn from their environment because they were better able to focus their attention of the world around them. More recent studies have shown that young children with chronic sleep problems are more likely to require special education by age 8 and are at risk for long term developmental deficits (Bonuck 2012). If sleep is so important, why is fixing my child’s sleep difficulties such a hard DIY project?

As exhausted parents, we cannot even begin to make sense of the conflicting information given from all the sources as we are not thinking clearly due to our own lack of sleep. It is difficult to create a plan and have the energy to carry it through. We also do not have the time and energy to gather all the necessary information needed to fix the problem. The truth is, there are many components in establishing healthy sleep habits for your child such as environment, routine, schedule and behavior. Many parents focus on the behavioral or sleep training component. When the all the components are not in place, the sleep training method alone often is not successful and parents are left at their wits end, frustrated and even more exhausted. Parents might feel like it is time to call in professional help, but why is hiring a consultant any different?

By hiring a sleep consultant, such as myself, you have a professional sleep expert to take all the guess work out of this problem. After taking some time to get to know your family’s situation, she will create a personal, easy to follow, comprehensive sleep plan that incorporates all the essential components to healthy and restorative sleep. Most importantly you will be supported along the way as she will educate you about the importance of sleep and teach you how to build and maintain healthy sleep habits. A sleep consultant can also help new or expectant parents teach healthy sleep habits from the start to prevent the bedtime battles and naptime nightmares. So although hiring a sleep consultant may be more costly compared to DIY, think of it as giving your child the gift of healthy sleep for a lifetime.

Liberty Mahon, MS is an certified Early Childhood Special Education teacher and a certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant trained through the Family Sleep Institute. She is a co-creator of the Children’s Therapy Services Sleep Support Program. CTS Sleep Support offers a variety of consultation packages including in-person, phone, Skype/Face Time and e-mail consultations. Her services include a personalized plan and her support as she helps you to help your child learn to sleep better. Please go to www.childrenssleepsupport.com for more information or email her at liberty@childrenssleep.com.