In everyday speech, a sleep school is often thought of as one in which a child is left alone to cry. Here we talk about gentle sleep schools that are gentle and safe for the child and that help the child get a good restful night’s sleep. In sleep schools, there is a common basic idea: if a child cries when he or she goes to bed, he or she is approached. Soothing is gradually limited so that the child gradually learns to calm himself to sleep. Parents can choose from a variety of sleep schools the most suitable for their child and themselves. It is essential to be consistent in doing so. In addition, the aim is for the child to learn to fall asleep on his or her own, without the help of milk or a parent, and in the same conditions in which he or she spends the night.
Stopover – sleep school
At stopover sleep school the child is visited at regular intervals to check that everything is fine and reassures the child for a while. When the evening activities are done, the child is placed in his bed asleep but awake, but he is not “put to sleep”. A good night is wished for the child, after which the parents leave the room. If the child starts to cry, the parent returns to the child and say gently and calmly, for example, “sh sh, let’s sleep now,” “all is well, good night,” and then leaves the child.
Stopping by at a child should be as unobtrusive as possible – so it’s boring for the child. The child should not be lifted out of bed or activated with extra attention. The child thus learns to fall asleep on his own, but is told that a safe parent is always close. Usually the child learns to fall asleep on their own within a few days. However, for some parents, it may be too difficult to listen to their child’s crying, making this sleep school difficult for some families to implement.
Before starting a Stopover sleep school, parents should think together about how they will function if their child starts to cry after being put to bed: how long to wait before going to the child. For example, wait a minute or five minutes. The time between stops can be gradually extended. The exact amounts of time are irrelevant to the outcome. Time limits are talked about mainly because they can help parents get through sleep school in a controlled way. The first or the first few evenings of stopover sleep school are the most difficult. If parents manage to implement them consistently, the sleep school will usually help the child within a week.
Usually the child learns to fall asleep on their own within a few days.
Stopover Sleep School
- Put the child to his bed drowsy but awake.
- Say good night and leave.
- If your child starts to resist, go to him or her after a pre-determined time.
- When you go to a child, for example, tell him or her that everything is fine, now is the night, now we sleep. Always tell same thing and talk calmly. Do not lift the child out of bed. Leave the place.
- Listen. If the child resists and does not seem to be satisfied, go back after the time you have decided and do the same as the last time.
- On the next and subsequent occasions, wait a little longer before going to the child. In the following nights, you can extend the time even further.
- Continue sleep school for a week.
Paw – sleep school
At paw-sleep school, the child is soothed with a supportive, gentle touch. Paw refers to the hand of an adult held firmly on the back of a child. The touch calms the child without having to lift him out of bed. In Paw Sleep School, the child is put to bed drowsy but awake. If he cries, he is calmed by putting a hand on his back. If this does not calm the child, he can be stroked from the back, buttocks and shoulders. If that doesn’t help either, he can be lifted. It is important, however, that the child does not fall asleep in the arms or paw. The purpose is to make the child calm down so that he or she can fall asleep on his or her own. Usually, this sleep school also helps in a few days. Pawing is difficult to do if the child is not sleeping on his stomach. In addition, if the child is bigger, mobile, and much resistant to falling asleep, holding the child in place can be tricky.
- Put the child in his bed drowsy but awake. Exit. If a child cries, listen before you rush to the scene.
- If crying continues or intensifies, go to the child and place your hand firmly on the child’s back. Keep your hand still until the child calms down, but don’t let him fall asleep with your hand on his back.
- If the child does not calm down on this, stroke him / her with noticeable, regular movements from the shoulders, back and buttocks.
- If this does not help either, lift the child into your arms against your chest. When the child calms down, put him back in bed. Hold your hand on the child’s back for a moment. Do not allow the child to fall asleep on your lap or paw.
- Repeat if necessary.
Chair method sleep school
In the chair method, the adult is close to the child throughout the falling asleep. Gradually, the adult moves away from the child’s bed until he gets used to falling asleep alone. Initially, the adult can lie down or sit right next to the child. The next night, she can sit next to the bed in a chair, and then each night gradually move the chair away from the child until it is outside the room. This sleep school is especially suitable if the child’s difficulty falling asleep and at night is due to the child’s separation anxiety or if the child is to be transferred from the family bed to their own bed or from the parents’ room to their own room. However, it is only suitable for an older child who understands that the parent is present even if they are a little further away.
Chair method sleep school
- Put the child in bed awake. Lie down yourself or sit right next to the child. If the child is crying, comfort him by talking or even humming calmly. Do not lift into your arms.
- Sit the next night right next to the child’s bed or on the bed.
- On the following evenings, gradually move the chair away from the child’s bed until you are outside the child’s bedroom door.
The parent sleeps in the child’s room – Sleep School
If the child sleeps in his or her own room but wakes up at night and requires parents to be there to calm him or her down, then you can try to sleep temporarily, for example for a week, in the child’s room. The intention is that the parent would not interfere with the child’s falling asleep, but would either sleep or pretend to be asleep. The good thing about this sleep school is that it is easy to implement even when the parent is very tired. It may be helpful when a child is taught to sleep in their own bed or room and has not yet adapted to it. In many cases, the father may be a better option to sleep in the child’s room than the mother: especially if the mother has previously mainly cared the child’s nocturnal wakeups, for example by breastfeeding. Sometimes there can be difficulties when a parent moves out of their child’s room.
The parent sleeps in the child’s room
- Place a mattress or bring yourself a bed in a child’s room.
- Put the child in bed awake. Go to sleep on your own bed yourself.
- Pretend to be asleep or sleep through the night trying not to react to the child if he or she is awake or crying a little.
- Sleep in the child’s room for a week. Then go back to your own bed.
Scheduled awakenings – Sleep School
Scheduled awakening means that the child is awakened shortly before his or her normal night-time waking time and is put back to sleep by the means that parents usually use. A baby who has fallen asleep during breastfeeding is therefore breastfed after waking up back to sleep and the patted baby is patted again to sleep. The wake-up time is gradually shifted to a later time over the course of days and weeks.
This is especially suitable for children who wake up about one to three times at fairly predictable times each night. From parents, such awakenings require planning and perseverance. If parents are really tired, this can be too difficult to accomplish. The scheduled awakenings usually help the child to sleep continuously only after weeks of practice. If a child wakes up at night randomly and his nights are very intermittent, scheduled awakenings are difficult to carry out in such a way that the child would benefit from it.
- Make a note of your child’s night wake-ups during the week to find out your child’s typical wake-up times.
- Set your alarm clock and wake up the child 15 to 30 minutes before the usual night wake-up time. Soothe the child back to sleep in the same way you have calmed them down before.
- Follow the same night wake-up time for a few days.
- Then postpone the alarm time by half an hour. Follow the new wake-up time again for a few days.
- Gradually increase the wake-up time, always closer to the morning and the time when the child wakes up to a new day.
Later bedtime – Sleep School
If it is difficult to get the baby to sleep at a suitable time for a night’s sleep, a temporary delay in going to bed may help. In this case, the child is allowed to stay awake for so long that he is really exhausted, before he is put to bed. The next night, the child is put to sleep 15 minutes earlier the night before. This bedtime adjustment is continued earlier each night until the desired bedtime time is reached. After that, care is taken to use the same bedtime and wake-up times every day.