It seems that sleep issues plague all parents at some time or another.
But for parents of twins, triplets, or higher order multiples, it seems like issues with sleep are magnified because every sleeping moment is so precious. While there is no “magic bullet” to solve all sleep problems, the wake up light system (or “morning light” system) comes pretty darn close to it.
The wake up light is simply a light plugged into a timer. Place the wake up light where your twins can see it from their cribs or beds.
|Tip: Choose a light that emits a dim light — so that the light won’t wake the babies when it comes on. Most often, you will want them to sleep beyond the wake up time if they are still asleep. There are very cute night lights that work well for this purpose.
Crucial to the success of the wake up light system, is the consistent application and enforcement of the sleep rules. Make a poster with your sleep rules and place it on the wall near the wake up light. You can include a simple drawing of a child in bed with their eyes closed.
If wake up light is off:
1. Lay Down
2. Close Eyes
3. Be Still
4. Be Quiet
When you first introduce the light and the sleep rules, do it at a time OTHER than bed time or nap time. You can read and point to each word, you can point to the drawing of the sleeping child, or you can pantomime the actions as well as acting out the opposite of each. This is the one and only time you would ever act out the opposite of the desired actions. This is done just so they understand, and you don’t want them to make a game of doing the opposite of the sleep rules. Talk about the wake up light and point to it. Turn the light on to show what it looks like and explain, “when it comes on, you can get up!”. Then, turn the light off and review the sleep rules again.
Review the sleep rules every night at bed time.
If they violate the sleep rules, don’t get angry. Just calmly say “It’s sleep time.” and take them back to their bed and lay them down. If you need to, you can repeat the sleep rules in a monotone whisper: “the light is off: lay down, close eyes, be still, be quiet”. Do not linger, do not give kisses, etc. just lay them in bed then leave the room. Do this as many times as you need to do it — do not waver, do not get angry… just matter of fact and boring.
If there are some bad habits to be broken, it might take 3-4 days of this “matter of fact” putting them back in bed and repeating the sleep rules. After a few days they will get bored, but you might have to be prepared to repeat this action many, many times over in a night/morning during the training period. Don’t get discouraged. If you are consistent and really don’t give them any power by responding in a different way, talking with them, pleading with them, scolding them, they will get bored and will stop violating the sleep rules.
|Warning: If you do not consistently enforce the sleep rules, the system will not work. You cannot be “too tired” to go enforce the rules in your monotone, boring voice. Tell yourself that the investment NOW, will pay off with better sleep for everyone (the babies and you) in just a few short (although it may seem long!) days.
To help your twins feel successful in the beginning, you can set the light to come on earlier than your ultimate desired wake up time — early enough that you KNOW they will still be asleep. That way, when they wake up, the light will be on and they can start their day right away. The first few days you can plan to get up early and be ready to greet them with “The light is on, Hooray! Good job!”. You can then move the wake up time gradually back to the actual time you want them to wake up. Depending how far you need to move their wake up time, you’ll want to go in 5-15 minute increments and leave it at each setting for 2-3 days.
|Tip: Do not ever let the babies get up while the wake up light is off. Be sure to purchase a timer that has an on/off toggle switch — so that you can click the light on quickly if you need to. This should not be used often, as they will learn that the wake up light can be manipulated. Outlet timers are available at most hardware stores.
Be very animated about all successes (especially in the first several months). Anytime they get up after the wake up light has come on, make a big deal out of it. “Good Job! Look! The Light is on! Time to get up! Good Morning!”. Anytime they get up when the light is not on, be very monotone and boring, “Look. The light is not on. Sleep Time.”
What age is appropriate to start using the wake-up light?
Babies as young as 7 – 8 months can use a wake up light. The nice thing about starting at a very young age is that the wake up light quickly becomes a natural part of their life — almost like the sun rising. A young baby can sometimes take longer to get the hang of the light — but when you are consistent and continue to direct their attention to the light, they will eventually get it.
|Tip: If the sunrise brings light into your babies’ room in the morning earlier than you would like them to wake up, you might wish to purchase black out shades to keep the room dark until your desired wake up time.
Of course, it is always important to assess the reason for any violations of the sleep rules. If there is a need that must be taken care of, do so as quickly and quietly as possible. Do not talk unless critically needed. As the adult, it is up to you to judge if a violation of the rules is reasonable under the circumstances. If it is not reasonable, do not argue, discuss, or explain — just revert back to the monotone, “The light is not on. Sleep Time.” If they are old enough for discussion, there will be time during daylight hours to discuss why the violation was not okay.
Toddlers do very well with a wake up light system, but older children can still benefit from it as well. Sometimes, especially in the winter, it is hard to tell if it is time to get up in the morning because it might still be dark at the “normal” wake up time for your child. The wake up light can help a child who wakes in the night wondering if it is time to get up. If the light is off, it is still sleep time.
Hopefully this introduction to the wake up light system has given you a good overview. The wake up light system solves many different kinds of sleep and bedtime issues, and we’ll get into specific scenarios in future articles. In the next article in this series, we’ll talk about how the wake up light can help with children that think that bedtime means playtime.
Read More on sleep and TwinParenthood’s Wake Up Light System:
Copyright 2010 Kathryn Whiteley — TwinParenthood.com