Melissa Doman is a certified Sleep Sense Consultant who has 13 years of experience working with parents and their young children from around the world.

by Len Lear

You know you are a mother when your fantasies are about sleeping.” “I really think that tossing and turning all night long should be considered exercise.”

Who hasn’t been sleep-deprived at some point in your life, especially if you are the parent of a young child? Millions of Americans take sleeping pills or even stronger drugs to help them sleep, but there has to be a better way.

For example, Melissa Doman, 33, a former therapist at the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential in Wyndmoor and a Chestnut Hill resident from 2010 tom 2018, started Melissa Doman Sleep Consulting after being certified as a Sleep Sense Consultant in October, 2016, in Sarasota, Florida. It is a service that helps parents teach their children how to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.

Doman helps parents locally and abroad using the “Sleep Sense Program,” which was developed by sleep expert Dana Obleman. “I saw how successful it was, and I just decided this is fantastic. I love the program,” Doman said. “So I went ahead and got myself certified in teaching other parents to sleep-train their kids.

“When kids are not sleeping well, of course parents naturally are waking up to respond, comfort and help their child get back to sleep. And unfortunately, that leads to a lot of disruption for parents sleep as well. And as important as it is for a child to sleep well (for health, development, etc.), parents also need to have their sleep so that they can be the best support for their children.”

What is the most common cause of sleep deprivation? “Time and time again, when I ask parents about their child’s struggle to sleep, it often boils down to the child not really knowing how to do it themselves. We all have our own ways to get to sleep, whether you need to lie on one side, have your arms tucked under you, sleep with a certain pillow, etc. But we’re not dependent on anyone else to get ourselves to sleep. 

“However, for 99% of kids that I work with, they need their parents in some way to get to sleep at night. Some babies are fed or rocked to sleep, and some kids must have parents patting their back or lying down next to them. For some children, just having mom or dad sit at the edge of the bed helps them get to sleep.” 

According to Doman, we go through cycles of sleep. Before a new cycle starts, we wake up briefly, but because we don’t rely on someone else, we get back to sleep quickly and don’t remember these wake-ups in the morning. But for kids who need their parents to get to sleep, they will look for the same help they had when falling asleep for the night. 

“To give an example, it would be like falling asleep with a pillow and blanket and waking up to find them gone a couple hours later. You would immediately wake up fully and go looking for them again. This is exactly why a child might wake up multiple times a night and have a hard time getting back to sleep. They’re looking for that help they got in the beginning of the night.”

What is Doman’s basic strategy for treating sleep deprivation? “The reason for sleep deprivation could be different for many people, and I do my best to customize my approach for each child (and adult!) that I work with … I also focus a lot on bedtime routines and other important elements of sleep hygiene. For adults, it often boils down to making lifestyle changes and creating new habits. As a society, we are uber-connected with smartphones, tablets, social media, email, etc. and it’s been destroying our sleep. Many of the adults I have worked with are business owners and workaholics, like myself. It’s not easy to put boundaries up, but when people learn to disconnect, prepare for the next day and clear the mind, it’s amazing how quickly sleep can change.” 

According to Kate Neft, of Ambler, “When I first reached out to Melissa, my three-year-old, Ben, was not going to sleep on his own, and he was waking many times through the night. We had just switched him from a crib to a bed, and he went from a mediocre sleeper to a bad sleeper … I spent several weeks in communication with Melissa. She offered suggestions or tweaks to maximize success. Little by little, Ben started to go to sleep on his own and either sleep through the night or just wake once, briefly … Hiring Melissa was one of the best decisions we’ve made, and we are extremely grateful!”

Doman now lives in Northeast Philadelphia, “but, that doesn’t mean I don’t miss Chestnut Hill. Having lived and worked there for so long, there are a lot of great things I love about the Hill.”

For more information, visit www.melissadomansleepconsulting.com or call 267-342-4498. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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