Sleep regression especially during sleep training can be disheartening, frustrating and scary!! The weeks of training and hard work were going so well and all of a sudden you are facing consecutive night wake ups after having so many nights of blissful sleep.
How do you know whether the regression or what I call a ‘dip’ in sleep is a result of emotional discomfort and not just a behaviour you need to change in your child?
What are signs your child is going through emotional distress and what can you do to help them get through this phase effectively?
1. For the past month or so they have been sleeping really well with minimal wake ups at night, if none at all and suddenly they start waking up.
2. These sleep disturbances have been going on for at least a week and occur each night.
3. You are finding that your child is suddenly resisting bedtime and becoming more and more hysterical at night until you go to them.
4. When you do approach them at night, they need more attention than usual in order to get them back to sleep.
5. At each wake up, it takes you a very long time to get them settled at night (ie over an hour).
6. The techniques you learnt during sleep training are not working as well as they have been.
7. They have a preference for one parent during the night and often call out asking for that specific parent only.
8. All of a sudden they are complaining about being scared of the dark, wanting the door open, asking for more water etc.
9. They are complaining about fears they are experiencing : seeing monsters or scary animals in their room, even in the bath.
10. There has been a sudden lifestyle change that is deeply impacting them such as: mum has gone back to work full time, dad is travelling extensively for work, a long family holiday has ended, start of a new creche or new childcare arrangement. Other examples: moving house, inheriting a new sibling, mum has left them suddenly due to health reasons or a last minute trip overseas with very little warning.
All of the above can cause your little one to feel emotionally insecure. In these cases they often express their discomfort at times of the day when they know separation will be at its longest. Ie: bedtime or in the middle of the night.
What can you do to relieve your little one and get them sleeping better?
1. Give them a lot of extra reassurance during the day, before bedtime and at night.
2. Talk them through their daily routine and explain to them at what point you will be seeing them so they know what to expect.
3. Explain to them how the change will affect their life- who are the new people in their lives? What they will be experiencing and when? Try and get them excited about it. If you feel anxious about the change, they will feel it and will respond badly. Children pick up on our vibes very easily and use us as anchors for how they approach certain situations.
4. If you are leaving them with a new nanny, keep to their normal routine as much as possible so the feelings of change are minimised.
5. Extend your bedtime routine to make sure you are giving your child quality 1-1 time before bedtime. Do something nice and calming together to get them in a mood for sleep.
6. Don’t panic when your child wakes up at night. Even though you will be exhausted don’t resort to old patterns that were happening before you started sleep training such as: feeding your child to sleep, going in to their bed with them, taking them in to your bed or lying down in their room in order to get them back to sleep. You are better off cuddling and caressing them until they calm down and get through this difficult phase.
7. Go to them at night but don’t linger in their room for too long. This phase will pass and is very normal, so don’t think you need to go overboard and overdose your child with too much attention. They will quickly get used to this and the regression will take longer to pass.
8. Buy your child a night light, or turn on the light in the hallway if they are expressing fears of the dark. Not all children use this as a tool to get your attention. For many children this is a genuine fear, so treat it seriously.
9. Try and get your child to speak about his fears (if he is of toddler age), so you can relieve him a little bit.
10. If your child is consistently waking up in the early hours of the morning in a panic wondering where you are, buy yourself a gro clock. They are a fabulous tool in getting your toddler to wake up later. See here: http://gro.co.uk/gro-clock.
11. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute: think about the times in your life that you went through difficult lifestyle changes and consider how long it took you to get used to it. Your child is no different and may require the same or even more time than you in order to feel secure again. Their brain is still maturing so they will take longer to understand certains concepts especially changes in time or places.
Make sure to vent to your friends and family how difficult it is for you to suddenly be sleep deprived again. You may be surprised when you hear from other parents how normal and common these sleep issues can be for our children.
If you try the above and you are still experiencing issues, don’t hesitate to give me a call ph: 050 595 9156 or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org for a 1-1 consultation.