Tag Archives: Sleep Practitioner

Building a better bed time routine


Recently we were contacted by Hardeep, whose daughter Avleen was not sleeping at all. This was having a huge impact on the whole family. Claire from our Sleep Service offered the family some guidance and now, just a few months later, Hardeep tells us about their journey.

My daughter Avleen was born prematurely at 28 weeks but is now five years-old. She was diagnosed with Autism in 2018 and this often causes sensory issues which can lead to meltdowns.

She had disturbed sleep until she was 3 years-old and then things started to get much worse. She wouldn’t nap at all through the day and even though she was exhausted, she would wake up through the night – sometimes hourly.

It inevitably started to affect her school work because she was so tired during the day that she couldn’t concentrate and would act out.

Things came to a head when I was pregnant and had my second child. Avleen was waking up through the night and wasn’t able to settle herself. Once her sister Harneez was born, the crying of the baby in the night would also affect Avleen. It was taking a huge toll on the whole family.

We saw a paediatrician who suggested that we try melatonin but I was hesitant to try this as a first step. They also suggested that we get in touch with the sleep team at Cerebra for some advice and support.

We were put in touch with Claire who listened to what was going on and asked lots of questions to help her to understand our situation. We worked together to put a plan in place to improve Avleen’s sleep.

Claire suggested that we avoid giving Avleen a bottle before bed but rather give her a small snack if she was hungry. We were also advised to switch screens off at 7 to allow her to start winding down before sleep.

We started to give her a bath as part of her evening routine and this allowed Avleen to start to recognise for herself when it was nearly bed time.

Claire was in frequent contact during this time and for every issue that we had surrounding sleep, she was looking for a reason why it would be happening so that we could adjust Avleen’s routine accordingly.

After completing every step of the routine, we were finally able to bring Avleen’s bedtime forward to 9pm. She started to go to bed much more relaxed and as a result, was finally able to sleep through the night without any episodes of waking.

Once her sleep started to improve we even realised that part of the problem previously had been that she had been extremely restless in her sleep and her hair was getting tangled. This was causing her sensory issues and was leading to meltdowns.

Before we worked with Claire, Avleen was anxious about everything, especially at night. Now her behaviour is much better because she is much more well rested. She even recognises when it is time to go to bed and asks to go to bed herself – something that would have never happened before.

The only time that she wakes during the night now is if she has a cold or is suffering with hay fever. This obviously disturbs her sleep but is understandable.

She will sleep for 10 hours now which is amazing and it has had a hugely positive effect on her behaviour.

She is now able to concentrate much more at school and we have noticed that her asthma is much more under control.

It’s not just had a positive effect on Avleen but has also made things better for the entire family. I have gained so much confidence with the help of Claire and now I know that I’m not going to have any issues getting her to sleep. We’re all far more rested and this has meant that we are able to cope with everyday life much more easily.

If you would like to find out more about our Sleep Service, including how you can get help from one of our Sleep Practitioners, check out our website.

Difficulty settling at night

A young girl lying in bed awakeOne of our Sleep Practitioners recently helped a family who were struggling to get their daughter to bed, and to sleep.

Sleep Practitioner Laura explained: “Charlotte is ten years old and has ASD. Her main issues were settling at bedtime and sleeping alone. She was taken to bed at 9:30 but this could cause huge issues and arguments, or endless delaying tactics and bedtime was stressful overall stressful.

We agreed to focus initially on introducing a calming bedtime routine and suggested implementing a temporary later bedtime. Mum began taking her to bed at the time she was naturally falling asleep with the aim of very gradually moving this backwards by 15 minutes.

This, in combination with a calming bedtime routine (we chose a massage, red light and filtered glasses to watch TV with) meant Charlotte was going to bed in a much better mood, and falling asleep without any arguments or delaying tactics.

Charlotte’s mum Judith explains how they got on:

“I found Cerebra’s Sleep Service invaluable as the advice given was tailored specifically for Charlotte’s needs, taking into account her preferences. Prior to using your service, I felt that I had explored all options and nothing worked. She was very anxious and confrontational at night and would avoid going to bed at all costs.  However, with your suggestion of removing the stressors (wash, teeth etc) outside of the one hour prior to bed and using visual cues, she is much calmer. I have a board upstairs detailing what she needs to do to the point of going to bed and the time she needs to be in her own bed.

I was concerned as she loves to watch a DVD prior to bed and I was aware that blue light was an issue with sleep. However, you reassured me that if this was what worked for her, we could work around that. On your suggestion, I purchased red filtered glasses and she wears these with pride. I also purchased red night-lights as the ones I was using had a blue light.

When you examined her sleep pattern, it was established that a natural time for her to fall asleep was 10.30pm -11.00pm, so you recommended she wind down for one hour prior to 10.45 and then watch her DVD with her filtered glasses on. We did this for a month then successfully reduced bedtime by 15 minutes for a further month. I have just reduced this again by 15 minutes and she is accepting this without question, going to bed without arguing and not delaying going to sleep by trying to play games. She is waking up in a better mood and this is helping with her self care routine.

You also suggested as she was experiencing pain in her legs that this could impact on her sleep. The GP/nurse had always put this down to growing pains. However, you gave me the confidence to question this and my podiatrist diagnosed her with hypermobility which is now being treated with physio and she has orthotics fitted. She also has daily massages. This is reducing the pain.

Once she is taken to bed, I still need to stay with her until she is asleep. In general, she falls asleep within 20-25 minutes and I am then able to leave her. Once I have a bedtime routine in place where she goes to bed at 10pm, I will work on supporting her to self soothe so she can fall asleep unaided. You kindly offered to support me at that time as this is a stressor for her and causes anxiety, as she is afraid of being alone.

I am very grateful of your help as your suggestions were not ‘the norm’ offered by other professionals I have worked with who do tend to focus on ‘bath, book, bed’, which just didn’t work for us. Charlotte’s overall well-being has improved significantly because of your help and we have a much calmer, happier household. Without your support, I am confident that my daughter’s sleep habits would not have improved. Thank you”.

Download our great new sleep booklet for more tips and techniques to get a good night’s sleep.

Helping families to sleep well


Our Sleep Service is there to support families to get a good night’s sleep.

One of our Sleep Practitioners, Catherine Stone, explains how she was recently able to help a family with their night time difficulties.

“I met Rebecca at an event and got chatting to her about the help Cerebra can offer. She was really interested in getting some advice on sleep as her son, Kaiden, was having some difficulties. We arranged for me to make a home visit so that we could discuss the situation in more detail.

When I visited them at home Rebecca explained that Kaiden would take hours to settle each night, especially if one of his parents wasn’t there with him. We also chatted about the anxieties that affect Kaiden on a daily basis and discussed his bedtime routine in detail.

Between us we discussed and agreed sleep programme that would meet Kaiden’s needs. The new routine would include introducing a later bedtime, closer to his current settling time as well as making sure that he has a comforter on hand to give him the same feelings of reassurance he gets from his mum and dad. We decided on a V shape pillow and making sure that that Kaiden feels enclosed in his bed.

Some of Kaiden’s anxieties from the day were having an impact on his ability to settle in the evening – noise seemed to cause the greatest problem. We discussed products that may help with this and Rebecca decided on purchasing a set of ear defenders.

With all of these changes in place, Kaiden has been settling in his own bedroom more quickly and gradually Rebecca has been able to let him sleep on his own”.

Kaiden’s mum Rebecca told us:

“I felt at a loss with our bedtime routine and was constantly trying new strategies. I would spend hours trying to settle my 7 year old son to sleep and going into his own bed was a big huge no no. Catherine took the time out to meet with me and instantly understood my son and set me up with a plan of action. I have had my bed to myself ever since.”

Sleep Practitioner Ends Sleepless Nights for Family

No one likes sleepless nights but for families of children with a brain – related condition, sleepless nights can often become the norm. Our Sleep Practitioners are there to advise families on sleep issues and ultimately improve everyone’s quality of sleep. Sleep Practitioner Claire Varey covers the north of the country and she told us how she was recently able to help a family:

“Mum Sara came along to one of my sleep clinics to discuss the issues she had with her son Lewis’ sleep for a long time. Lewis is 9 years old and has autism. He struggled with changes to his routine, taking hours to settle at night and needing mum to be present until he fell asleep. Lewis would then wake through the night and come into mum’s bed. Sara wanted to be able to reduce the time taken to settle Lewis at night, but found most things she tried in the past did not work.

By giving Sara information on how we sleep, what influences and inhibits sleep, she was able to better appreciate what would effect his ability to fall and stay asleep. Some of the suggestions I made for bed time routine included turning off the TV an hour before bed, placing blackout sheeting on the windows (Sara had tried blinds and curtains, but he had always pulled them down in the past), introducing red light in bedroom and trying some Delta wave music to listen to when in bed.

Sara felt sceptical that these would work, but was willing to give the new routine a go.

I contacted Sara the following week to see if she had managed to get started and she was so pleased to tell me that she had tried all of the above and Lewis had reacted positively to the changes. He was already settling easier and quicker, and Sara had even been able to leave the room before he fell asleep on one night. He seemed tired at the point he was in bed and asked for his ‘relax music’. He appeared to have a better quality of sleep, not waking as early and Sara was happy for him to come into bed with her at that point. Lewis was waking in a better mood very quickly”.

Sara told us: “The help Claire has given me has worked by getting Lewis to go to sleep in his own room again. Even though he is not staying there all night, he is spending longer in his room than before and this is getting better. Most nights he will now sleep about 3 or 4 hours in his own bed. This is great because before he wasn’t staying in his room more and half an hour.

Claire was brilliant to talk to as she didn’t make me feel like a failure or made me feel judged. She had a lot of very good ideas that I had tried before but this did not stop her coming up with more. I did it in steps – the delta music first which did help a bit, then came the red light bulb. Both together works really well. I then got some black out film for his window with his black out blind he already had. That really helped and because that has made him calmer I have been able to put curtains up which has also made a big difference.

Claire gave me the confidence to try these things with him and also the music idea has helped us with some of his autism melt downs so a big thank you.”

You can find out more information about Cerebra’s Sleep Service on our website.

Sleep Practitioner Gives her Top Tips for Sleep

Clare Varey, Cerebra’s Sleep Practitioner for the Yorkshire area, gives her top tips for getting your child to sleep.

“Sleep for some children is just like any other skill that has to be learnt. It can take time and patience and requires repeating many times before it becomes mastered. One aspect that can have a huge impact on sleep is having an effective bed time routine in place. This helps the child understand how to fall asleep and what is expected at bedtime. Once established the routine can help them to feel safe and reassured, reducing time taken to settle and reducing the impact of night waking/early rising.

Here are my top tips for an effective bed time routine:

  • A bedtime routine should not last longer than an hour. Any longer and children won’t be able to link what they are doing with feeling tired and sleepy once they are in their bed
  • Turn off TV/computers/tablets and phones. These devices all emit light into the brain which will be telling the brain it’s still daytime, making it harder for children to ‘wind down’ and feel tired
  • Start with an activity downstairs that will help them to calm down. If you’re stuck for ideas, have a look on the internet
  • Offer a light supper. Foods that contain Tryptophan are good as this makes Melatonin – our hormone that makes us feel sleepy
  • Move to bathroom and offer a bath (only if they can relax, if you find its stimulating bath earlier in the evening) teeth and toilet
  • Into the bedroom – it should be dark. Use a red based night light if children are scared of dark. This can be kept on all night as red light doesn’t stimulate the brain or affect Melatonin production
  • Introduce a smell to bedroom, such as Lavender
  • Put on pyjamas, offer a massage. This releases a hormone called Oxytocin which relaxes you.
  • Read a short, familiar story
  • Try using a low level music such as alpha/delta wave music which can be kept on all night if needed
  • Say goodnight and leave /stay if needed initially
  • By helping all the senses, this can provide your child’s brain with reassurance and understanding of how to fall asleep, avoiding the bedtime battles that many of us experience

I can provide parent presentations, workshops, sleep clinics, telephone support and in some cases I am able to offer home visits to discuss the sleep difficulty”.

Please visit our website for more information about Cerebra’s sleep service and how to get in touch.

Cerebra’s Sleep Service Helps Caroline and Dylan

Caroline and Dylan

Caroline and Dylan

Caroline is mother to six year old Dylan who is thought to have high functioning Aspergers although the family are awaiting a formal diagnosis. Dylan’s condition has a huge impact on the family’s daily life, including Dylan’s sleep pattern. Caroline shared her story with us:

“My name is Caroline, I am mother to three children aged 5, 7, and 15. I also have two older step children. My youngest son, Dylan, is nearly 6 years old and we love him so much. Dylan likes Fireman Sam and Ben 10, loves talking about dates and numbers, has a beautiful smile and an incredible memory.

Dylan has been under a paediatric consultant for the past 3 years who thinks Dylan has high functioning Aspergers. Despite intervention and support from numerous agencies, we are still awaiting a formal diagnosis.

My husband and I face many challenges in caring for Dylan including regular issues with toileting, meltdowns, fixed behaviour, communication, sensory processing and most importantly: sleep!

I attended sleep seminars run by Cerebra and we were allocated a sleep practitioner, Catherine Stone. Catherine came to the house and set out a personalised plan to tackle the sleep issues. Followed up with regular support and advice on the phone, we have felt able to start moving things forward. I know that Dylan’s sleep issues won’t be resolved overnight, but my husband and I now feel empowered to make gradual changes in order to help Dylan and the rest of the family to have less interrupted sleep.

We are extremely grateful to Cerebra for providing us with this support, so I am running in a 10k event in Cardiff on 28 February 2016 to raise money for Cerebra so that they continue to help families like ours. Thank you Cerebra!”

“Thanks to support from Sleep Practitioner Catherine Stone, Dylan has slept through 11 nights in January, 15 nights in February, 18 nights in March and 20 nights in April! Before Christmas we were lucky if he slept through 4 nights a month! Dylan will now settle alone every night and is less stressed at bedtime.  I would like to thank Cerebra for their support and advice and would recommend this service to anyone.”

Caroline sent us this lovely video update of their progress following their support from Catherine:

Early Rising

Small girl waking her parents early in the morning.

Early rising is a common sleep problem

Our useful checklist gives tips for what you can do if your child is an early riser.
Early rising is a common sleep issue. Have you considered or are you already doing the following?

  • Is your child waking due to a noise?
  • Is the room dark? If not, do you have a black out blind?
  • Is your child going to bed at the same time every night?
  • Does your child have a way of knowing when it’s an acceptable time to get up? ( e.g. a clock of some kind)
  • If your child is over 3, have they stopped having naptime?
  • If your child is under 3, have you tried reducing naptime?
  • Are you unintentionally rewarding them when they get up early by letting them come into your bed or taking them downstairs?
  • Have you tried using a reward chart for your child staying in their room until an acceptable time?
  • Do you have anything in the child’s room that they can do quietly if there is no chance of them going back to sleep?
  • Have you minimised anything in the room that is noisy or overly stimulating for your child?

Download this checklist as a PDF

Cerebra’s sleep practitioners can advise on a range of sleep issues in children, such as settling difficulty, night waking, early rising, sleeping alone, bedwetting, night terrors and anxiety. Visit our sleep pages to find out more.