For young children, issues around sleep are not uncommon. For parents, sleep issues can be exhausting (pun intended). While there are not always clear- cut solutions to your child’s sleep issues, there are things that you can do to support your child right now. When considering how to best support your child’s sleep issues it is important to keep several things in mind:
1. Sleep is a skill
It’s easy to forget that we literally learn how to fall asleep, it is not an inborn skill to be able to calm oneself down and fall asleep alone. Babies and young children need our help in learning this skill! We need to teach them that they can relax in a safe and comfortable environment and let their little bodies get as much rest as they need to grow and learn other skills. Like any other developmental skill we want our children to master, we need to help them with it until they let us know that they can do it on their own.
2. Separation distress
In order to calm their bodies down and soothe themselves to sleep, infants and children need to feel that they are safe. In other words, they need to let their guard down. Being left in a dark room all alone is scary, it causes high levels of stress in infants, even after they stop “crying it out”. By relaxing with young children we teach them the skills they need to eventually calm down and fall asleep on their own.
3. Setting up the environment
Babies and children are highly reactive to the environment that they are in. This is why setting up a calm sleep environment is so important to supporting healthy sleep skills. Dim the lights, quiet the noise levels, and make sure that everything you need to help your child sleep is nearby so you won’t find yourself suddenly needing to be somewhere else. Most importantly, remember to calm yourself, if you are in a rush or a panic your child will pick up on it and start reflecting your energy.
4. The power of routines
Even infants have an internal clock, they have a sense of when things are supposed to happen based on clues from the environment. That is why having a routine is so important to supporting sleep issues. A consistent routine helps children know what to expect and feel in control. Maybe you always sing the same song or read the same book right before bedtime or naptime. Maybe there is a special calming song you play while you get your child dressed for bed. Whatever you decide to make your routine, keep it simple and follow your child’s lead.

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