On today’s episode of Sleepin’ It Real, Sleepably’s pediatric sleep consultant, Sara Nudd, shares how families can experience better sleep. Sara has a lot of experience improving families’ overall well-being and helping kids get the rest they deserve. So check out the transcription below or listen to the complete conversation wherever you get your podcasts.
What is a Pediatric Sleep Consultant?
Sara explains that sleep consultants help people of all ages build healthy sleep habits: “It’s just identifying where families are struggling and what modifications we need to make for them to finally get the sleep that they’ve been missing out on. So it just kind of depends on what the family’s goals are and kind of how we support them to find that sleep.
“I work with kids from newborn through age twelve. The sleep issues for that range are so different. Sometimes we will have bedtime resistance; sometimes, we’ll have middle-of-the-night waking issues. Sometimes we’ll just have early risers. So it’s figuring out the root cause of these sleep issues.”
Sleep Resources for School-Aged Children
Sara shares about the need for sleep support for older children: “A lot of those parents and families just feel alone and isolated. There are many support things—literature and social media support and websites and blogs—for baby sleep and toddler sleep. But for these school-age kiddos who are struggling, it’s super hard for the parents and the kiddos. Because they can rationalize, ‘I’m having sleep troubles. I’m frustrated with myself. My parents are frustrated with me.’ And then we can get their buy-in with the program, and we can see that transformation.”
Getting Caregivers on the Same Page
Sara advises that all of a child’s caregivers need to be on the same page with sleep routines: “Each parent will have their routine for going in to help a wakeful kid, right? And then, a lot of the time, both caregivers are on different pages, right? They may be in the same book but on different pages. And then there’s some confusion on expectations for the kid when they wake up.
“So I encourage both caregivers, or even if you have a nanny or grandparent in the house, to do the same steps when you have a wakeful kiddo so that no matter what, that baby or child knows exactly what to expect. It’s going to be very predictable, very boring. And then often, once we get everybody on the same page, we start to see pretty efficient changes.”
Sleep Consultants as Guides
Sara doesn’t want families to feel shame for not knowing how to handle their children’s sleep struggles: “You’re just trying to survive. You’re trying your best to get your child to sleep so that you can sleep and be the best parent tomorrow. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or working, you want to be at 100% capacity. And frustration occurs when someone or something prevents you from doing that, right?
“Let’s flip that script and get the kiddo back to sleep so you can sleep too. There have been a variety of interventions and habits that haven’t contributed to sustainable sleep. We’ll modify and tweak those interventions as we work through the program.”
Sleep Hygiene for Kids
Sara emphasizes that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution but shares that working on sleep hygiene with her clients has been very successful: “I feel like sleep hygiene is such a buzzword right now. But, even for school-aged kiddos, it’s super important to create a relaxing end-of-day routine so that your body can cool in temperature and energy. Creating those healthy sleep hygiene habits is important from the beginning.”
On Becoming a Sleep Consultant
Sara shares how she became passionate about sleep consulting: “I’ve been a nurse since 2005. Over the last 18 years, I’ve worked in pediatrics only, supporting families and caring for newborns through 25. For the last ten-plus years, I’ve worked for the Children’s Hospital organization here in Colorado. And then, I had the honor to join you and Rebecca in the sleep coaching journey. First, I took a few certification classes to dial in on sleep and how to support parents and learn those evidence-based methods. And then we started.
About a year ago, I took a step back to reflect on what I was doing. Many moms with kids two and younger were struggling with postpartum mood disorders. So I was doing a lot of counseling and support for these parents. I began my NP journey and am currently a year out from earning my psychiatry mental health practitioner degree. I want to focus on just supporting kind of that perinatal population.”
The Importance of Sleep for Children’s Development
Sara explains how sustained sleep can help children hit crucial milestones: “One of the coolest parts is your infants, all of a sudden, begin to hit those developmental milestones. I think those little synapses in his brain were just waiting for that opportunity to grow and connect.
“So we’ve got development. We’ve got immunity purposes, right? As adults, we know if we are worn down, the odds that we are going to get sick are higher. And behavior regulation. If [kids] are having more disruptive sleep, they’re just hot little messes throughout the day.”
Advice for Parents
Different techniques work for different families, but Sara does have some advice for parents who are struggling: “Allow for grace and wake up each day with a fresh kind of attitude. Today is a fresh start. Last night may have been a hot mess. You may be struggling, but today is a fresh new day.
“And moving forward, you can begin to create those healthy sleep habits. We talked about consistency, we talked about routine. And one thing that we didn’t talk about, and especially helpful for our school-age kid, is to celebrate those small wins.”
Next Steps for Helping your Children Sleep
If your infants or school-aged children struggle with sleep, schedule a free consultation with Sara today. She’d love to hear about what’s happening with your family and help you come up with a personalized plan. Checking in with your doctor or pediatrician to rule out any underlying conditions is another good place to start. And of course, if you’d like to hear more of this conversation, check out the complete podcast.