I set up the Children’s Sleep Charity in 2012. Like many mums I was inspired to set it up due to my experience of parenting. I found that there is lots of advice out there about things like breast feeding, weaning, potty training but sleeping seemed an absolute minefield of information.
I suffered sleepless nights as parents do, being a full time working mum I found sleep deprivation impacted on my daily functioning. I sought advice from the Health Visitor who ironically gave me a book to read. I remember looking at her in a confused state and wondering why she hadn’t recognised that I was so exhausted that I had lost the ability to see straight, let alone read! I visited my GP who told me that “children don’t sleep” and what I was experiencing was simply “parenthood”.
I set up the charity after learning as much as I possibly could about sleep. I helped other families and got terrific success rates, all using a gentle approach. I was determined that no family should suffer as a result of sleep deprivation, the support should be readily available. I was very naïve looking back, I thought that setting up a charity would be easy. How wrong I was!
Three years on and I have an amazing board of trustees backing our work. Funding is an ongoing issue as sleep is still not regarded as being important. The attitude is quite often that parents need to simply put children to bed, a rather simplistic view of what can be a hugely challenging issue. I continue to work as a teacher and juggle this with being what parents have affectionately dubbed me as a ‘sleep fairy’.
I have recently secured our first sleep service which is funded by the Clinical Commissioning Group in Doncaster. We offer sleep workshops and clinics in the town. I have also developed a 3 day accredited sleep practitioner course where others can train in our methods and also become ‘sleep fairies’ or ‘sleep geeks’ as the male practitioners may prefer to be called. In fact we have trained over 100 professionals this year alone so I know that our work is becoming embedded in communities across England and Wales.
One of the things I’m most proud of is that two wonderful practitioners, Claire and Carol, run our services in Doncaster. I first met them as sleep deprived parents, once they got sleep back in their lives they become better equipped to work and now do a wonderful job of supporting others. Both have children with profound and complex needs and we work together as a team to ensure that the charity is family friendly in every sense of the phrase. It’s great to see them back in work and the results that they achieve are remarkable.
In terms of fitting things in. I love the work that I do and it is a real privilege to support families and to hear the way that the charity has impacted positively on their lives. I spend a lot of time on the telephone, emails and work long hours once my own children are in bed. My only hope is that one day I can be a full time sleep fairy.
Find out more:
If you would like to help families whose children have sleep issues, the Children’s Sleep Charity offers training. Find out more about this and the charity’s services at The Children’s Sleep Charity website.