I’ve been meaning to devote some time to blogging but, as we all know, life tends to get in the way. Before I get on to more sleep-specific blogs, I thought I should really take some time to introduce myself and explain how I’ve ended up with this wonderful job, helping families to resolve their sleep issues, issues which can have such a massive impact on the entire family.
So, my name’s Kerry and I’m a single parent to two beautiful children, aged eleven (almost) and six. Around nine years ago, I was that mum who was embarrassed to talk about having a child who wouldn’t sleep, worried that it meant I was failing as a parent, especially as most of the other parents I spoke to had children who supposedly slept for a good 12 hours a night. Straight through. Uninterrupted. The fact that I was a nurse and had experience of working with children with emotional and behavioural difficulties only made me feel like more of a failure – surely I should know more than most how to get my child to sleep?
I did muster up the courage to mention it to my health visitor at the time, although I failed to mention the major effect this lack of sleep was having on my wellbeing, and they recommended controlled crying, which definitely did not work for us. I ended up feeling guilty that I was leaving my little girl to cry, which just made me feel worse. And when our attempts at controlled crying didn’t work, I felt like a failure all over again and was ultra-paranoid that I was a terrible mother as obviously everyone else had this sleep malarkey cracked. It’s only now, looking back, that I realise just what a profound effect the lack of sleep was having on me – not only did I think that I was the only one going through this, but I was struggling mentally, emotionally and physically.
I’d prepared myself for the lack of sleep that comes with a newborn (well, as much as any first-time parent can) but I hadn’t expected it to go on this long. We’d had teething, sleep regressions, coughs and colds, all the usual, but my little girl (who was no longer a baby) still wasn’t sleeping. I was desperate for a solution. I trawled the internet and tried any methods that were working for others. What seemed to work for us was sitting in a dark room, with me stroking my little girl’s hair until she finally fell asleep. This gave me a couple of hours to sleep while she slept, or to try and catch up on some long overdue jobs that I just didn’t seem to have the energy for. It was by no means the perfect solution, but it was kind of working.
Although I had found these ‘workarounds’ to try and stop her waking so often and to get her to sleep in the first place, I realised that I didn’t understand anything about why she wasn’t sleeping. I didn’t know anything about sleep, never mind the potentially devastating effects of sleep deprivation.
But then, as if by magic, the opportunity arose to train as a sleep specialist at a leading sleep hospital in Southampton. I didn’t know being a ‘sleep specialist’ was even a thing, but I just knew I couldn’t turn down this opportunity, not just for the sake of my own career, but for the wellbeing of my entire family – the sleepless nights simply couldn’t go on.
Well, it was life-changing, to put it mildly and I can hardly put into words just what an impact this training has had on my life and that of my family. Everything fell into place – I could finally understand what she was doing and why, and now had the tools at my disposal to tackle the problem. After just two weeks, we had success and my little girl finally slept through the night and in her own bed! That’s when I realised that this was my vocation, my passion, and I’ve worked tirelessly since then, in conjunction with the NHS and local authorities, to establish sleep advice services right across the UK, dedicating my time, both in and out of work, to helping families achieve that all-important decent night’s sleep.
Around 25% of children and young people between the ages of 12 months and 18 years have real sleep problems. And, when it comes to children and young people with additional needs, 80% have significant sleep issues. In spite of this, it’s extremely rare for families to be able to access help from the NHS or their local authority. Even for those families of children with additional needs, free help may be available but the waiting lists can be huge. For those who can’t access free help, the cost of hiring sleep consultants is often unmanageable, making it an expensive luxury which many can’t afford.
That is why I’ve created The Sleep Fixer, providing affordable and accessible advice and information for families of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds to help children and young people from 12 months to 18 years achieve that all-important good night’s sleep.
The families I’ve worked with will tell you first-hand how I’ve worked alongside them to help their children sleep, and, since launching The Sleep Fixer, I’ve taken on a contract with the UK’s leading sleep hospital, making me the first behavioural sleep coach they’ve employed. I was also invited to be the keynote speaker at the Royal Society of Medicine, as well as taking various bookings to speak at workshops and conferences right across the UK. I do all this to help keep my customers’ costs to a minimum, realising the importance of affordable help and advice.
Sleep and helping children and young people to sleep is my passion. I love what I do, something that hopefully comes across in my work. No parent should ever feel like a failure, I know how lousy that feels and don’t want anyone else to experience that. Sleep really is the best medicine and I can’t wait to work with more and more families, helping them to sleep well and improving their family’s wellbeing enormously.