Losing Sleep During Quarantine? We Ask a Sleep Expert for Advice
Maria Lopez of Not A Peep talks sleep philosophy, tips, and more.
Along with everything else that has changed, the stress of COVID-19 has created and intensified sleep issues for all of us. Sleep is so important to our health—both physical and mental—but as fatigue, stress, and anxiety grow, the whole family is thrown off balance.
Young kids don’t understand the virus; but even if they’re home with their parents and think it’s fun, they still know things are different…and they respond by pushing boundaries, explains Maria Lopez, the LOVE Award-winning certified sleep consultant and founder of Not A Peep. “They’re testing limits to make sure everything is still in place. Don’t feel bad to be strict and consistent—kids are actually asking you for that,” she advises.
With her sleep plans, Maria has guided hundreds of parents through the process of teaching their children to be independent sleepers.
It all started when she became a mom for the first time, finding herself overwhelmed and sleep-deprived. “Like other moms, I was scared of sleep training her,” she describes, “but one day I said ‘this has to stop, this is about my health too.’” Once she taught her baby to sleep, “It was life-changing for me. I could not believe I had waited so long. I was actually able to enjoy my baby.”
Friends and family asked for her help, and Maria discovered her passion about children’s sleep. After her second child started preschool, she decided to officially go into the business of changing families’ lives with her expertise.
It became clear that a child’s sleep issues affected the whole family. Maria saw marriages strained by the stress of sleep-deprivation—and couples who hadn’t slept in the same bed for years because one of them always had to sleep with their child. She also emphasized the link between lack of sleep and more dangerous outcomes like postpartum depression, life-threatening accidents, and a weakened immune system. Yet so many clients felt like this was just a parenting norm. “It drives me nuts when a mom is told she shouldn’t expect her baby to sleep through the night. It actually stigmatizes moms who are seeking help,” she says.
Another barrier to parents getting help: preconceived notions of what “sleep training” meant. Maria is quick to point out that there are alternatives to the Cry It Out method, and uses more gentle, routine-focused methods. “When there are sleep problems, it’s often when there are no schedules and structure.” While correcting this often requires families to change their lifestyle, it pays off. “These are skills that stick with the kids the rest of their childhood and the rest of their lives,” she tells us.
Maria reports that some previous clients have called her back for help through the disruptive change in dynamics that coronavirus has caused. Her tips: “Try to keep things the exact same way. Be consistent with bedtime and what you’ve always done.”
She also notes that kids spending more time indoors and less time being active can be disruptive to sleep. Instead, she recommends that parents try to get their kids outside everyday, or at least be active in a sunny spot in the home if going outdoors is not possible. Additionally, kids should get exercise every day, whether that’s taking a walk or just having a dance party—“Whatever it is to get their little heart rates going!”
In addition to her one-on-one consulting packages for parents, Not A Peep also hosts group seminars at local community centers like Brewerytown’s Kith + Kin and Fishtown’s PlayArts—except now these have moved virtual, like everything else. Hinting at the increased need for sleep help, the turnout and feedback for these informal evening Zoom sessions has been very positive “At 8 pm everyone logs in with a cup of tea and in their PJs—it’s great!”
As for her consulting, Maria says not much has changed, since so much of her work is done over the phone and video chat. Together, she and parents discuss challenges, craft a sleep plan, and follow up with ongoing consultation until things are perfect. She tells us that she places no limit for how long parents can reach out: “I look for perfect: easy nights, easy naps. It doesn’t matter how long it takes us, I stick around. Typically, children start sleeping through the night within two weeks—some within the first week, but it depends on each child.”
While things are more hectic than ever, Not A Peep’s mission and philosophy remains just as strong and important: “I want everyone to know that they can enjoy parenthood. There is no way that sleep deprivation is normal and just something you have to come to terms with and accept.”
Maria Lopez—founder and owner of Not A Peep— is a certified Sleep Sense specialist and certified Happiest Baby Educator. She offers sleep plans and support to parents in the Philadelphia area (and beyond), and can support clients in both English and Spanish. Visit Not A Peep to learn more about her services and to contact her.
Not a Peep supports the Philadelphia Family Community.