Heather Welch from Edx Education today is in Conversation with Kim West, Award-winning Author, Founder of The Sleep Lady & The Gentle Sleep Coach and certificate program Kim West, has been practising as a child and family therapist for over 27 years.
She has helped over 20,000 tired parents all over the world get a good night’s sleep without letting their children cry it out alone.
Today we are chatting with Kim about sleep for children, the importance of sleep, recommendations, the Sleep lady shuffle, and touch on her books as well.
Here are the highlights:
(01:30) Finding a passion for sleep
(07:39) You name it, I’ve heard it
(09:53) Technology impacting sleep
(13:44) Shifting patterns during the pandemic
(18:50) Sleep affects temperament and perception
(23:42) Kim’s top tips
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Welcome, everyone. I’m Heather Welch from edx education. And today I’ll be in conversation with Kim west award-winning author and founder of the sleep lady and the gentle sleep coach and certificate program. Kim has been practising as a child and family therapist for over 27 years.
She’s helped over 20,000 tired parents all over the world. I think I would’ve been one of them. Kim, I definitely would’ve loved to have you. Side when my children were small. today we’re chatting with Kim about sleep for children, the importance of sleep, sleep recommendations, and the sleep lady shuffle, which I look forward to hearing about. And we’re gonna touch on your books as well.
So welcome Kim. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Thank you so much for having me,
Kim, can I ask you how and ask you to introduce your passion for sleep? How did you get involved in sleep? I mean, I love sleep personally, so I think’s fantastic thing.
Yes, it is. I think it also honestly was because I loved sleep and when I was pregnant with my first daughter, my older brother.
Both his children are six months older than both my daughters. And, um, he came to visit with his wife and, and baby, and they were a wreck. They weren’t sleeping. You know, Denise, my sister-in-law said maybe she’d have to quit her job. She was afraid of getting into a car accident. They were fighting and this is a happy couple.
They’re still together. Today, happy for you to know, um, 28 years later, and they said we’re never having any more children. We can’t take it. And I was. What , this is a thing, you know, I think that, that when we’re pregnant, we just tend to think don’t babies just eat, sleep and poop, and what’s the big problem.
That scared me. And when I get anxious about stuff, I research. That’s just the way I do it, even if it’s an illusion of control, um, it’s something I used to do. And, and I, it meant I started reading books because we didn’t have Google 27 years ago. no, we didn’t. No, it’s hard to believe that there was even life without it.
Didn’t know you had to go to the library and that became my mission in addition to because I needed sleep and then I got some bad advice with my daughter on top of 27 years ago, the only thing out there was to let your baby cry.
And I, you know, as a family therapist knew the importance of, creating a secure attachment with my child. A relationship in which she trusts me to keep her safe and to meet her needs.
And I thought, wow, there’s got to be a different way. I did this with a lot of things in parenting and I developed a gentle method and. Used it on my children and all my friends and families, kids until finally I added it to my practice and it absolutely exploded. And I just have continued my passion for sleep.
I think it’s fascinating and essential and I could talk for days.
Can I ask you, did you have sleeping? Did you get both your sleeping, their babies were sleeping babies or did you have ones that were slightly more difficult?
My second one is the one who put me in my place and, and helped me be a, what I call better sleep bleeding.
She was very, very alert and, you know, had to be on a, on a set schedule and had to be sleeping in her room in just such a way. And oh yeah, boy, she was much harder.
It’s funny, I have got two boys and neither of them, whether I did it wrong, I dunno. I tried with my first one crying it out. And actually, I found that really hard.
It didn’t really work for me. So whether I did it wrong, who knows, it just didn’t work. And then it actually just got the more upset and they, we ended up in like this lovely, vicious cycle where it didn’t. Become easier. So maybe I should have done it for two weeks or three weeks.
Is that co-regulation I found hard? I, you know, you find that bond and then actually to break it and let allow them to do that. But I am not a sleep expert. I’ve definitely done all the mistakes with sleeping with my children. So I can definitely say that they’re happy, but they weren’t great sleepers.
You know, I feel like unfortunately, parenting has become so filled with criticism and judgment and I really don’t there’s not a right and a wrong way, you know?
We all, as parents have to figure out what we want as a family, how we wanna raise our children. And then I think on top of it, we have to factor. Our children’s temperament to your question earlier. Right here. I have two girls, so same gender, same parents, and very different temperaments, you know, so it was my job as a parent to, to pivot.
So one it’s not a one size fits all and. And this is not in any criticism or judgment or potential panic of parents listening to this who did let their child cry. And now they’re wondering, oh my gosh, maybe I’ve broken that trust and that attachment. If you were able to do full extinction, which is let your baby cry and don’t go in and check on them.
And they didn’t cry for long periods of time and they slept through the night and they’re doing well, then all is well, right? I wanted, my mission is, well, not only is my mission to have quality advice being given to parents but also. Options to be given to parents because it isn’t a one size fits all world in parenting.
In a lot of things with, with children and I just want parents to have options so that if you tr either tried, cry it out and your child cried for. Hours, which there are some kids who, who will, um, or you just knew from the get-go, you couldn’t stomach that, and therefore couldn’t be consistent, which can make the problem worse.
Then there should be options other than, you know, suffering for months or years. And so that’s where I feel like having, uh, you know, a gentler approach is an option for a parent.
I would be really interested having in a case study, have you ever had, what’s the worst case you’ve had for a child? Not sleeping.
Have you had the absolute, like 10-minute sleep all night and that’s it? And just won’t go back. Have you ever had, a parent that’s come to you? Absolutely. Probably completely ruined and asking for help.
Absolutely I’ve worked with, or as you read, you know, over 20,000 families. I’ve had families where, I mean, I’ve never actually had a family who the child literally only slept 20 minutes in 12 hours at night.
I have had families where I’m thinking about one family where they only could sleep 20 minutes every hour. Because the baby had a heart condition, but for sure have I had the children who are up, you know, 10, 20 times parents losing their temper, um, whatever, multiple feedings during the day and night to get them to sleep driving in the car and snowstorms.
And you name it? And I’ve probably heard it. What, is interesting is that what’s more important is. How much sleep deprivation a family can manage before they reach out for help. So I have read history forms where I’m literally like, I don’t know how your, you parents are still standing to have, you know, and then I’ve read other ones.
Where they’ve been, you know, suffering for three weeks and they’re ready to throw on the towel, um, or even two weeks. So it’s all relative, right? It’s all about what we can handle. I, for instance, can’t handle a lot of sleep deprivation without feeling the ill effects of it. I always say to myself, I probably couldn’t, even though I.
Would’ve liked to have been a paediatrician. If I could do it over again, I don’t know if I’d be able to handle the sleep deprivation of residency, you know, and some of that is, has a genetic base to it. Oh, that’s interesting.
Do you find that there are common inhibitors to sleep with children? I mean, not with adults, but with children.
So for newborns, are there common things that we do maybe as a parent that and maybe we shouldn’t? Too much technology? If you think about TV, we were little when I was young, there were only two, probably two programs and they’d finished at six, six o’clock at night.
So there wouldn’t be a problem having any technology before bed, cuz it would finished.
I think I’m happy to say that during my career, I’ve seen the attention to sleep vastly increase, um, both in science and in the media, which I’m really excited about because in the beginning I just felt like I was standing in a, you know, in a closet screaming, right?
Like everybody sleeps really important, but we are learning more and more. Thank goodness. Most people know now that technology is a real inhibitor of sleep what’s in, which is why they say that we should not have any screen time, at least two hours. And for adults at the very least one hour before we go to sleep.
So that really means, honestly, not even having your phone by your bed, because then we could talk about EMFs, right? Um, and that affects sleep. So I usually start with families, like, can we try to have. Two hours of technology and not having our Prego to sleep routine, include an iPad and go back to reading picture books.
There’s so much amazing science and research on the benefits of reading. Books that are illustrated also on top of just reading books with our kids. So that’s, not to mention super great connection time with our kids. And you know, if you haven’t heard about this yet, listeners is that you know, the main factor with screen time is that the blue light that’s admitted from the screen tells our body, our penal gland to not secrete melatonin, the drowsy making hormone.
And that tells our body when to go to sleep. So that’s a big reason you can use apps like flux as an example that will help dim the screen. There are some adhesion screens you can put on things like phones and iPads. And there’s also, um, smart bulbs now that you can. You know, change the, the tone of the light and even kind of sleep smart bulbs too.
So there are some things that are coming out on the market, thank goodness too, to help us. And then the other thing is, although I’m hoping this is getting better that we don’t tend to make sleep a priority, you know, and we have electricity and the internet to help. We avoid going to bed at a regular time.
But in general, we’re supposed to go to sleep around the same time and wake up around the same time. And it’s just harder now with kids, you know, we have sports and so much homework. And then, you know, during the pandemic we had so much screen time and then even without the pandemic, there’s always a lot of screen time, particularly if you.
Teenagers, at least at the very least teach our kids about the effects of screen time on sleep and teach our kids about the importance of sleep and how it can benefit them in sports performance, academic performance, reducing depression and anxiety ability to pay attention and have a more positive attitude even.
They also had, I know that with my children, a lot of the friends in their class started wearing those blue glasses or those glasses, glasses stopped the screen and to make it cause they were, I mean, my oldest child at the end of the pandemic, I think it’s the third time we had a lockdown. We ended up, um, about six hours a day on screen time.
And he’s, you know, he was a young boy. He didn’t really appreciate being on the screen that much during homework.
So I remember giving him a foot football to sit on, you know, one of those. Big circle balls. And one of the teachers used to say to him that he needs to turn his camera off. Cause I’m making him see sick.
He just didn’t. I mean, just what didn’t suit him at all. He needs to move. He’s just one of that qual that needs to be, to be in there. But did you find during the pandemic, you had more, a lot of people that were reaching out and I suppose they couldn’t see in the cycle of, you know, sleep technology? Being exercise, food, all these things.
It was like a vicious cycle. If you weren’t feeding one, it was coming to the other type of thing. So then, and then sleep would be affected then
Mental health, absolutely. And not to mention anxiety, right? Yes, because of the whole world. Was scared, at least, in the beginning. Um, this is why you’re still seeing long wait lists for therapists.
And so, and not to mention social impact, um, with children, um, from the isolation of being home and then parents trying to work from home while having their kids home. I mean, really, uh, lots of. Anxiety. So definitely saw that mu so hard to pay attention for everyone, right? Uh, that many hours in front of a screen.
And then especially when, when you’re a child. Um, so, that definitely affected it. And then I, and this is just a hypothesis, but I’ve also seen within my coach community, and they’ve seen this in their clients an increase in the diagnosis for restless leg syndrome. which is, um, when you have low Fein levels and one idea is this, is it because we were not perhaps eating as well and healthily and getting enough vitamin D and iron and, um, other things, um, in our diet during the pandemic.
But restless legs feel like you just can’t go to sleep.
You’re just feeling restless the whole time.
Usually, people complain about it within their limbs, but you can have it in other areas of your body, but that’s the most popular known mm-hmm. Yeah. So you feel, it could feel like, you know, spiders crawling on their legs.
Some people say what they used to say decades ago as growing pains were actually restless leg that’s interesting.
Growing pains, they say when children are small are pains in their legs, don’t they. I know that you’ve written, you’ve written quite a few books, so you’ve written one, which is the sleep lady’s good night sleep type book. Could you let me know what it’s about? Could now listeners know what it’s about?
So that book is for, um, parents of babies, six months to children, six years of age, and it basically outlines my gentle, sleeps lady, shuffles, uh, method for sleep coaching to help your child learn how to go to sleep independently, sleep through the night and take restorative naps and so for a new, for a newborn parent, would there anything they’d be able to read teens and maybe suggestions and things to try and inhibitors or? I had, so that book’s been out for 16 years and it’s been edited.
Three it’s on its third edition. Um, I’m proud to say. And, uh, in the last edition I took, there is a chapter on newborns, but I took out most of it because I’m coming out with my brand new book in March yeah. Of 23.
And that will be the sleep ladies, gentle newborn sleep guide, um, that will come out in March. And then at the end of next year, the Twin eyes version of that book will come out.
So addressing zero to five-month-old twins. So really excited about that. And you’re right. What, what we’ll be talking about is not sleep training newborns because the science doesn’t support that they are ready for that in order.
Do they have the skills for that, but how to, uh, set up what I call baby-led sleep shaping? So it’s that foundation. That you set in the first three months, so that depending on your child’s health and temperament at month four or five, um, you can start gently implementing, um, further sleep learning.
Do you find that parents would say over two or three kids are much more relaxed or they’re the ones that actually come and when they get a really restless sleeper they’re like, or an unsettled sleeper, they’re the ones that find it harder or is it because the children just sort of have to fit in with three others?
They are much more relaxed. well, there are no signs. Um, I thought that was gonna happen with my second one like she’s the second one. Right? but wrong. So it really is, uh, so much of how a child sleeps and there is temperament related along with of course their behaviour in general and how they take in the world and process it.
So. even though it makes sense, logically, it doesn’t always happen that way that the second or third is, you know, has to be an easier baby and is more adaptable. So the other thing is they do, there is some science that shows that parents of at least one child, are more relaxed in their later pregnancies.
Which makes sense, you know, just because you, you have an idea of what’s gonna happen and you’re not as afraid. I mean, I remember in the beginning with my first one, I thought the newborn diaper was much too big. I thought her little legs looked like they could so easily break, you know? Um, I remember you had different fears than you do when you have your second or third.
Always, I don’t think it’s, you know, I always say to parents, I hope for you that you have an E easy angel baby for number 2, 3, 4, whatever, but know that there’s no guarantee I know there’s no, there’s no parenting.
Book that comes out with each one. The instruction manual’s very much lost. Now I know that you’ve developed this course, the gentle sleep coach and stiffer program.
So, can you tell us a, a little bit about, is it for people that wanna coach other parents or train the trainers you training trainers to be able to?
Over, you know, my 27 years of doing this, I would get emails saying. Probably around 15, 16 years ago, I wanna learn to, to do what you do. I’m a nurse in Europe, I’m a whatever, uh, mom in New Jersey, you know, uh, England, wherever in the world.
nd I always politely said no, cuz I wasn’t really sure how I would go about doing that and how I would replicate it. How I taught myself all of these things and, um, and how, where I went and got, um, further education. So I just would always politely say no.
And then finally sort. Two things happened. You know, one, I had a consistently long wait list and couldn’t help everyone by myself and really felt badly for these families and two as the internet grew.
And this is even before social media because now it’s even more of an issue is that the internet, you know, it’s good and it’s bad. allows. Allows people. exactly. Allows people to claim, to be an expert with very little training. And I was finding that parents were having success either following my book or somebody else’s book doesn’t really matter with their own child.
And then taking that information and kind of blanketly applying it to everybody and missing things like, yeah. Obstructive sleep apnea. Restless leg, uh, postpartum mood and anxiety disorder, you know, and the, and the list goes on. And, and then that creates suffering, um, in families. And I just had to have enough of those cases where I finally said, okay, I’m gonna train.
Other people. And so I created the gentle sleep coach certification program. It’s the first in the world. I started it 12 years ago and it has basic training for 12 weeks. I have a faculty panel. Doctors, psychologists, lactation, occupational therapists, attorneys, myself, and, and some newborn, um, coaches, uh, and doulas.
And we have training and, and exams and pro bono cases you have to work with. And then we have a year-long mentorship program. Um, that includes continuing education. So now I have the program also in Spanish and in English. And I have over 300 coaches all over the world, helping families as gentle sleep coaches, using my gentle sleep coaching method.
You’ve got a great network of sleep professionals. They’re not all sleep trainers, but I could say sleep coaches really coming yeah. Around the world in different languages. Now.
One of the things is what would be, I know that we’ve got limited time today and I do apologize for what’s the, if you had any advice for parents that were really suffering from sleep, what would be your..
The first piece of advice is that it’s not hopeless that we can improve?
Really pretty much any child’s behavioural sleep problem. So don’t lose hope and decide that you are ready when you’re ready, um, to really be committed and give yourself. Three weeks to make improving your family’s sleep your priority.
I would encourage you to reach out for help. You can go to, you know, my website, sleep lady.com, where I have a directory of coaches where you could Google a gentle sleep coach and find somebody in, in your area where you could even just start off with my book or a good solid, you know, evidence-based sleep training book, and decide to create a plan.
And pick a start date and then, and follow through it there really. I promise you, there can be an improvement in yours. That’s what we all want to hear.
Sometimes you can’t see I’ve been there when you can’t see light at the end of the tunnel with your family right now. The other one is last one is if someone wants to become a sleep coach or even have a look into your gentle sleep coach and certificate program, what’s the best way to contact you.
You can find it, either on social media or www.thesleeplady.com or thesleepcoach.com
Fantastic. Kim, thank you so much for joining us today. And I apologize for cutting it short, but we have an, we’ve had an amazing discussion on all the different ways, inhibitors and sleep, looking at the impact of sleep for children’s mental health.
If anyone wants to know more, Kim’s got, a great website, the sleep lady and she’s also on social media can have a look through there and the books can buy from the website, Are they on Amazon as?
They certainly are. They certainly are.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Kim.
Thank you, Heather.
There are so many exciting developments happening right now in education. edx education would love to hear from you. So do get in touch or subscribe to our podcast, which is available on apple pod beam, Spotify tune in and so many more. This podcast series is brought to you by Heather Welch from edx education.
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