One in four children have sleep issues at some point in their childhood.
But Allison Briggs has a way of helping sleep-deprived parents. The sleep consultant with Sweet Dreams Sleep Solutions has all of the answers to your child’s pajama-time challenges.
“It is not just the child who is affected by not sleeping, the whole family suffers,” said Briggs, a mother of two young children. “It can be torture.”
Briggs was a counsellor for children and families for 10 years before starting with Sweet Dreams and has a psychology degree from the University of Victoria.
Certified as a Gentle Sleep Coach in 2007, Briggs’ empathy for parents struggling with their child’s sleep issues comes in large part from her experience with her first child’s inability to sleep through the night and take restorative naps.
“My goal is simple — to help families thrive by empowering parents to teach their children how to attain and maintain healthy sleep habits,” she said.
The Gentle Sleep Coach program involves more than four months of training with a faculty panel that includes two medical doctors, a psychologist, a lawyer, a lactation counsellor, postpartum doulas and a family therapist.
Each coach must pass an exam and participate in case supervision with Kim West (aka the Sleep Lady), who has been helping tired parents for more than 17 years. Clinical supervision and ongoing advanced training are required to maintain certification as a Gentle Sleep Coach.
Some of Briggs’ training requirements have included child development, sleep science and behavioural modification techniques, secure attachment theory and supporting the breastfeeding mom.
Briggs is available to meet exhausted parents at a coffee shop, at their house, over the phone or by Skype.
“First I meet with the families and get a background on their issues. After that, I will send them a 10-page questionnaire so I can devise a sleep plan. Every child is different,” said Briggs.
With three children under the age of three, Jamie Jackson knows all too well the frustration of sleep-deprivation.
For the first six or seven months after twins Lilly and Taylor were born, Jackson didn’t sleep.
“They were up three to four times a night and then they would wake him up,” said Jackson of her two-year-old son Jacob.
“If I slept a two-hour stretch, I was in heaven.”
Since her husband works out of town, Jackson was desperate for help when she stumbled upon a stack of Sweet Dreams cards at Chicken Little.
She hung on to the card for several weeks, dreaming her twins would eventually just adapt to the sleep pattern she so desperately needed, until she finally made the call. It was a welcome relief.
“Now they go to bed at 8 p.m. and they don’t wake up until 6:30 a.m., and they’re napping an hour-and-a-half.”
That means the mother of three can function a lot better through the day too.
“Now that I’m sleeping, I can handle a lot more.”
The plan Briggs helped Jackson stick to in order to get her kids to sleep was also welcome.
“My most favourite thing is I don’t have to do anything. There’s some tough love but they still love me,” said Jackson.
Briggs is committed to helping children fall asleep. If what she suggests does not work on the first night, she will re-evaluate the plan for the next few nights until one works.
Most of the work Briggs does is for newborns to five-years-old, although she is also available to help adults with insomnia.