By Nathalie Schittekatte, certified sleepcoach for children at Snuggles and Dreams
Why I write this blog
“As pediatric sleep coach I often recommend products that improve your little one’s sleep. For example, a proper sleeping bag, baby monitor or white noise machine. When I am helping parents with a toddler one of my go-to suggestions is a sleeptrainer. But what is a sleeptrainer?”
“A sleeptrainer is a kind of alarm specifically designed for children. Key features are colors that indicate when it is time to sleep or to wake up. Little kids cannot tell time; hence such colors are extremely helpful. From the moment I started to advise parents, I recommended Sam the Lamb as a sleeptrainer and I was enthusiastic when its maker ZAZU sent one sample to test!
Sam is a very easy-to-understand (and beautiful!) sleeptrainer. He turns red when it is time to sleep and green when it is OK to get up. Red light does not disturb the production of melatonin, on the contrary of white and blue light, which makes this product extra helpful. 30 minutes before Sam turns green, it turns orange. This shows your child that it only takes a little while longer before it could wake up other people in the house. You can select to turn off the red nightlight, but my suggestion would be to keep it on during the night, as a visual aid for your toddler. Below you see how Sam works.”
Why would you use a sleeptrainer?
A sleeptrainer could be useful in the following situations:
- Your child wakes up at a different time every day, but you would like consistent wake up hours.
- Your child is an early bird and you would like to teach him or her to stay in its bed a little longer.
- Your toddler sleeps together with a sibling and you want them to get up at the same time.
- Sam is also suitable for naps. Set the timer for 30, 60, 90, 120, 150 or 180
- When your kids go to school, but they oversleep sometimes, you can use Sam’s alarm clock feature to wake them up.
When to start with a sleeptrainer?
Around the age of 2 you could start with a sleeptrainer. However, it depends per child when he or she is actually ready for it. The most important thing is that your toddler understands the differences in colors and what they mean. In other words, that they could tell that red = stay in bed, orange = wait a little longer and green = you can go to mama/papa. ZAZU recommends Sam for children aged 3 years and older.
How to introduce a sleeptrainer?
It is key that your toddler accepts the sleeptrainer when it is being introduced to him or her. If there is no interest at all, there is little chance that your little one will follow the rules that come with the sleeptrainer. Therefore, it is recommended to start simple. Does your child wake up every day around 6 am? Set the alarm for 6 am, even though you wish he or she wakes up later. In this way your child could easily follow Sam’s rules. And be excited when your toddler manages to comply with Sam’s rules!
Try to stick to this routine for around 3 nights until you are certain your child is on board. From that moment onward you could gradually (perhaps even secretly) increase Sam’s wake up time towards 6.30 am at first and consequently to 7 am depending on the situation. Having to wake up half an hour later is more realistic than 1 hour for many kids, although it differs per character. My advice would be to go rather slow than fast, as it could demotivate your toddler when they fail to follow Sam’s rules.
During the introduction of a sleeptrainer you could also work with a reward system where your toddler receives a sticker when he or she wakes up its parents only when Sam turns green. This could be a huge motivation for kids that tend to wake up early and get out of their rooms immediately.
Nathalies own experience with Sam
We started with Sam when our daughter was 2 years and 3 months. Noélie is not an early bird so that was not necessarily the reason we wanted to use Sam. Our issue was that Noélie usually stayed in bed when waking up and played with her soft toys until we came into her room, but this was unfortunately no longer the case. When she woke up, her day started straightaway. Often this was before 7 am, the time we normally came to get her for breakfast. So, we needed the sleeptrainer to get back into a routine where the day starts at a specific time.
The day we introduced Sam I showed my daughter how it works. The lamb has its eyes closed when its belly was red, and open when it’s green. Together we set up the time and put it on her bedside table. Sam was now her new friend who goes to sleep with her and protects her during the night. She loved it! On the first day the wake up time was 6.40 am, even though the goal was 7 am.
6.40 am was a time that Noélie could handle and thus become enthusiastic. Maybe we were lucky, but the lamb was an immediate success. Our daughter waited patiently until Sam’s screen turned green and when it did, she called us to get her. After a few days I slowly increased the wake up time per 5 minutes towards 7 am. Now every day our day starts at the same time which brings a certain peace. From time to time it happens that Noélie calls us before Sam turns green, we let her do this because we know she does understand the rules. The other way around happens as well, that she sleeps later than 7 am. We savor these moments and start the day a little bit later 😊.
As with every young child it occurs that Noélie wakes up during the night, but also then Sam works well. This because she understands that when Sam’s belly is red, she has to sleep. Currently she set her own bedtime when we are in her room and do our bedtime ritual. Sam’s eyes close at 7 pm but she cannot wait until then. Luckily, she only knows how to change the bedtime and not the wake up time! Sam has become a real buddy for Noélie and must even come with her on holidays! You will not hear us complain, because it means our days do not start before 7 am when we are away 😊.
I hope I have given you some insights in why and how to use a sleeptrainer.
Written by Nathalie Schittekatte, certified sleep consultant for children and owner of www.snugglesanddreams.com.
Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are mine and are not influenced by ZAZU Kids