Interview - Vicki Dawson

Monday, October 3, 2016

Founder of the Children's Sleep Charity

Why did you start the charity?

I started the charity in 2012. I was an early years teacher and often saw children who were sleep deprived, and my own child didn’t sleep well. I was surprised there was so little information out there for families. Sleep deprivation can have a huge impact on a child’s physical well-being, and on cognitive functioning and concentration. Research shows lack of sleep at an early age can put children at risk of obesity in later life.

What do you do?

We train professionals to be qualified sleep practitioners. So far we have trained more than 250 across the country. We work with all children but we have a specialism in working with children with special educational needs and autism.
Sleep is not very fundable. People don’t recognise the importance of sleep, that it can prevent families falling into crisis. We train practitioners in the NHS, early years settings and schools. Our three-day sleep practitioner course is accredited by the CPD Standards Office. Practitioners are taught by Professor Elphick of the Sheffield Children’s Hospital, chair of our trustees and head consultant at the children’s sleep unit. We also have a clinical psychologist, a bedroom environment expert, and an enuresis (bedwetting) nurse.
We have a full sleep service in Doncaster, so every family can receive support for children from 12 months. We’re funded through the clinical commissioning group. We also train sleep practitioners for the charity Scope and do CPD training for Norland nannies.

Tell us about your work with PACEY.

Childcare professionals have a vital role to play in promoting sleep. Structured sleep is a key part of a high-quality childcare setting, and we’re delighted to be working with PACEY to raise awareness of this. We want to educate practitioners to offer the appropriate advice about sleep. For example, one of the issues we find is that parents go to nursery and say their child has had a terrible night. They may not want their child to have a daytime nap, but actually daytime naps can promote night-time sleep if scheduled properly.

What are your plans for the charity?

To continue to raise the importance of sleep for child development nationally. Children cannot meet their full potential when they are sleep deprived. We’re working in partnership with the Family Fund to develop a sleep hub where all the information to support children with additional needs with their sleep will go online.

How does it feel to win the 2016 Nursery World Award for Health and Well-being?

It was a complete shock, a delight! Sleep is so fundamental – to have it recognised is incredible.

  • Download the ‘And so to bed’ poster for early years practitioners from PACEY here 

A factsheet for members is also available.

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