When our children are taking a really long time to fall asleep or waking multiple times per night, it can be SO exhausting and frustrating.

(There’s an audio version of this post here if you prefer to listen.)

I clearly remember what it felt like to be waking up 4, 5, 6+ times per night with my 9 month old (that was 9 years ago now!) and want to share the approach that profoundly changed things for me so it can help you too!

Behaviour is always communicating a need. So if we’re experiencing challenging behaviours of any kind with our children (including sleep behaviours!) it can be really helpful to be curious about what that need might be and I can certainly help you to decipher that!

Generally, if we’re meeting our children’s physical needs and needs for closeness what those sleep issues are communicating is a build up of feelings/ energy stored in the body.

I’m sure you’ve experienced for yourself that when you go to bed with feelings from the day still bubbling around, such as feeling angry about an argument, stressed about money, anxious about starting a new job etc, even though you might also be really tired, you probably don’t experience very restful sleep…

Instead, you might find yourself tossing, turning and taking a really long time to fall asleep and waking up multiple times through the night.

Compare that to the times you’ve had feelings but been able to let go of them before bed either through talking, crying or laughing with someone you love or journalling etc. Perhaps at those times you would have felt much more relaxed in your body and slept much more deeply and restfully, yes?

And it’s the same for our children! Although they have feelings about different things such as

  • being frustrated that they couldn’t yet crawl or walk or hop
  • or disappointed that they couldn’t have that cookie they wanted …
  • or angry that their sibling broke their block building.

Our children have natural ways of expressing and letting go of their feelings too which also include crying, talking and laughter.

Feelings are not bad. Feelings are a part of everyday life. The trouble with sleep time comes when we are trying to fight feelings rather than welcome them.

Often, we get in the way of our children being able to express and let go of what they need to in order to relax for sleep.

So instead of supporting them with opportunties for healing crying or laughter, it’s most common in our society to help our children numb their feelings instead.

Again, let’s relate it back to ourselves. When you’re angry, sad or stressed how do you numb or distract from your feelings?

Some of the most common ways include food, drinks and movement (such as exercise or keeping busy, never sitting still).

And what are some of the most common ways we use to help our children fall asleep?

YES! Feeding (breastfeeding, bottle feeding or substitute like a dummy) and movement like rocking or carrying.

These are just different versions of the adult ways we use to numb our feelings!

When our children do not have enough opportunitites to express and let go of their feelings during the day, this energy will stay in the body and build up over time, causing more and more tension and agitation in the body and making it harder and harder for our children to feel relaxed and sleep soundly.

The answer?

The more we can listen to our children’s feelings and let them express what they need to during the day instead of distracting them, the more deeply and restfully they will sleep 🙌

If you’d like to learn more about how to do that my Soothing Sleep program is open now and in it I’ll be teaching how you can use therapeutic play to encourage healing laughter and hold space for tears and tantrums so that the night wakings decrease and you get to experience deep restful sleep for you and your children. 

If you have any questions, you can always get in touch through my Facebook page and I’ll get back to you really soon.

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