She went from the spotlights of Broadway to the night-lights of her son's nursery. Actress-turned-"sleepytime" coach, Alison Bevan appeared in leading roles in such venerated productions as " City of Angels " and " Steel Pier ," among others, before turning her talent toward her son, who was a troubled sleeper as an infant. She now has a business helping families sleep better.
Bevan, who lives in Norwalk with her husband, actor Michael McCormick and now nine year-old Dylan, works with parents across the country to help their children -- and ultimately the entire family -- sleep. "After my son was born I made the decision to be a stay at home mom," says Bevan. "But I was totally exhausted because Dylan was such a terrible sleeper; he rarely napped for more than 20 minutes at a time and was up every hour-and-a-half during the night." As is the case with so many exhausted parents, Bevan and her husband let Dylan sleep in their bed, a pattern that lasted for more than two years, she says.
Out of desperation for relocating her son, Bevan tried Dr. Richard Ferber's "cry-out" method, which recommends parents let their children cry and not comfort them while doing so until the child falls asleep on his or her own.
"It was total disaster," she says. "After an hour and a half he was so hysterical that he vomited and actually bit his tongue until it bled. I found it impossible to follow through and raced in to rescue him. We were back to square one -- except now I had taught him that if he cried for 90 minutes, I would pick him up."
Bevan sought the help of author and sleep coach, Kim West . "With her guidance my son was sleeping through the night in his crib and taking two long naps a day within nine days." Bevan then decided to train under West so that she could lend a hand to other families who were struggling similarly.
When she takes on a client, Bevan first assesses the child's sleep issues and helps parents determine what their ideal "sleep solution" would be, based on their child's sleep requirements and the family's lifestyle. She then creates a detailed, step-by-step plan that gives children an opportunity to learn the "crucial skill" of sleeping, which they all need.
Bevan's method is a gentle alternative to the "cry-outs." "It helps minimize crying and makes it easier for parents to follow through with the plan," she says. Her plans vary greatly based on the child's age, sleep needs, temperament, sleep crutches and parental expectations. Bevan's suggestions might include weaning or eliminating bottles and pacifiers, moving children out of parent's beds (or parents out of children's beds) eliminating early rising, adjusting sleep schedules and nap coaching. And while she says there is "no 'one size fits all' plan for solving children's sleep problems," Bevan's approach of encouraging parents to respond to children "in a loving way" is a huge relief for parents, she says. "It allows them to follow through and be consistent. And consistency is the key to sleep-coaching success."
Does she long for the Great White Way? Bevan says, "This work is every bit as exciting as performing on stage, if not more so. Having a positive impact -- helping to change lives -- what could be more thrilling and gratifying?"
She's likely getting standing ovations from countless sleep-deprived families.
Are you -- or were you -- a sleep-deprived parent? Please let me know here.