For children over the age of 6 months the main reason night wakings increase is not physical or environmental but emotional.
In our society we tend to numb or distract emotions. We’re not comfortable sitting with or holding space for painful feelings so we cover them up. And then of course those feelings sit in the body as stored energy, building up over time causing tension, stress and agitation in the body, which makes it very difficult to sleep restfully.
Let’s talk a little more about how built up feelings actually effect sleep.
You might resonate with the idea that feelings should be expressed rather than bottled up but still wondering how that would actually be causing your child to wake up in the night.
Let’s relate it back to you.
Say you have an argument with someone or you’re worried about how you’re going to pay that electricity bill or you’re feeling anxious about starting a new job tomorrow, chances are, even though you might be tired you’re probably going to toss and turn and take a really long time to fall asleep.
Because you’re not feeling relaxed in your body. You’re all tense and agitated. And when you finally do fall asleep it probably won’t be very restful either. It’s likely that you’ll wake up through the night too.
Because when you reach the lighter stages of your sleep cycle that tension and agitation is going to wake you up and then you’re back to tossing and turning and trying to get back to sleep!
Exactly the same thing happens for our children when they are holding onto feelings too.
There’s two paths our children can take with their feelings:
If they don’t have the opportunity to express their feelings they are going to need something to help them numb or disassociate from their feelings so they can fall asleep.
Commonly, this includes things like feeding (breast, bottle or replacement like a dummy) or movement (rocking, carrying, holding). And this might work okay if you only had to get your child to sleep once. But if there’s 3, 4, 5 + wake ups it becomes a big problem because your child is going to need to use whatever it was that helped them relax enough for sleep the first time (or a replacement) to help them, get back to sleep every time they wake up.
If you are meeting your child’s physical needs, including the need for closeness, and they still can’t relax enough for sleep without using a method like those I just mentioned there’s a problem.
Sleep is a biological human function. We don’t have to teach our children how to sleep. So what is going here?
Just like we have trouble falling asleep and wake in the night if we are holding onto feelings, our kids will do the same.
The second path we can take with feelings is…
- expression through healing tears and laughter
Often, you’ll find that challenging behaviours tend to come up at bedtime.
Why is that?
Because our kids are carrying all this extra tension and agitation in the body! The natural processes our young children use to release this is through healing laughter or tears.
So, instead of fighting their natural relaxation processes we can learn to work with them!
Instead of getting frustrated and angry with the behaviours, we can look at these as opportunities to offload some of that tension and agitation and help our children to feel more relaxed.
Of course, this really does require a bit of a paradigm and mindset shift and that’s why I’ve created a ten week program to walk you through this!
Soothing Sleep is open now and in it I’ll be teaching how you can use 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.