Interview - Marian Pearson

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Sleep counsellor at Sleep East, a provider of sleep therapy for children with neurodisabilities and additional needs


Marian Pearson

What does a sleep counsellor do?

We offer one-to-one counselling for families with children with sleep difficulties and run workshops for parents and professionals, including early years practitioners.
Our package includes a two-hour in-depth assessment at a child’s home, in which we discuss routines, sleep environments, a child’s diet, etc. Parents are given a sleep diary to fill in over a two-week period, which we use to develop a sleep programme for the child using behavioural techniques.
We are currently working with 23 families who have children with special educational needs with sleep difficulties, made possible by an Awards for All lottery grant.
We also offer workshops for parents looking at what sleep does for their children, sleep hygiene and good bedtime routines, while our workshops for professionals cover sleep in settings, the nursery/home partnership and understanding parents’ perspective.
From April, we will be delivering training to early years practitioners in Norfolk on behalf of the council.

What are the most common issues?

Sleep problems fall into three areas – settling problems, waking up a lot at night, and early waking (before 6am).

For instance, breastfed babies can wake a lot at night if they have become used to feeding to sleep. Detaching them before they fall asleep and putting them to bed while they are drowsy, but still awake, teaches them to fall asleep by themselves. Children’s needs for sleep differ at different ages, but the principles are the same.

How can early years settings make environments more sleep-friendly?

It can be very tricky because of the layout of a setting. For sleeping, you ideally want a place that is quiet and undisturbed. If settings don’t have a separate room for sleep, in particular schools taking young children, they need to think about how they can make a space a bit more private.

It’s also important that early years settings take into consideration a child’s sleep routine at home, and raise any sleep issues with parents to support them with any sleep difficulties. Often a child’s sleep can be different at home from nursery.

Our workshops encourage practitioners to look at each sleep problem from the point of view of the child, parent and nursery. There are a lot of challenges with sleep in nursery as it is such as busy place.

Sleep is so important – children can’t process learning opportunities without enough rest. Sleep has to be taken seriously because of its significant impact on health, behaviour and learning.

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