The Sleep Thieves - Emotional Thieves of Sleep

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The Sleep Thieves - Emotional Thieves


Today we focus on the second category  of sleep thievery so often overlooked Emotional Thieves of Sleep  

So onto the second category of sleep thievery…..

Emotional Thieves of Sleep

“Your baby/ toddler's developing emotions and attachment to you affects all aspects of their behaviour including how they sleep.” Charmaine Walters

A child’s emotional health can play a part in them resisting sleep. emotional wellbeing is an often overlooked when looking at sleep difficulties in younger babies however is an important factor to consider when looking at sleep struggles for little ones.

Little ones thoughts and feelings and inability to deal with them by themselves can cause them to struggle with sleeping.Emotional Sleep thieves Pinterest

  • Minor  changes to us/ Big changes to them.

  • Developmental leaps and milestones

  • Intuition/connection to mum

Firstly as babies and young children are learning about themselves and the world around them, they have new discoveries and learnings everyday. Even though they may encounter everyday items, everyday, the way the perceive and take in information about the world around them can change from week to week as they grow older and further develop their knowledge and understanding. Even the way they process the information and organise their learnings can change from week to week. All those changes, all the time must be overwhelming? Whats minor and no big deal to an adult is a huge deal to your little one. So the meltdown over the blue spoon seems silly to on the surface but to 18 month old fred  it’s devastating that he got the orange spoon instead of the blue one he wanted.


Developmental leaps & milestones

With milestones and advances in the physical & intellectual development your little one may be going through changes that stir new emotions and feelings your little one hasn’t dealt with before. Leaps in intellectual development ( The Wonder weeks book explains leaps perfectly) can cause feelings of fear, anger , frustration. Some of these emotions may be new for your baby to deal with.

An anxious baby with feeling they don’t understand or deal with may be tired but will struggle to  relax and will fall asleep .

A tired little one who may have become upset but who has been calmed & soothed can easier cope with these confusing new emotions will be much more calm and relaxed and should have no struggle getting off to sleep will fall asleep easily

A child coping with emotions they don’t understand and  feel overwhelmed with  will be anxious and fretful and no matter how tired they may be they can really struggle to fall asleep. That s unless you help them to relieve those fears.

The older your baby gets the more they may struggle with their emotions and dealing with them having a impact on the quality and quantity of sleep your little one may get.

The downside to that is also that the more tired a little one becomes the harder it becomes for them to deal with their emotions and then can have an impact on their behaviour.

You know the addage of when a toddler kicks off our first assumption is that they’re tired.

Think about how you feel when your tired your quicker to succumb to your emotions -- or is that just me?

You can usually tell if sleep resistance is due to emotional reasons if for example your little one won’t sleep well alone but sleeps like a log and all night long in bed with you

Or if they are distressed and upset but stop crying as soon as you go to them and pick them up.

Help your little one deal with changes and emotions:

You can do this by

  • Communicate changes to your little one and tell them they can rely on you to support and reassure them. That way they know whats happening now and can predict whats happening next.  This builds their trust in you

  • With older children and toddlers give them the opportunity to talk about their day and release feelings before beginning the wind down for bed process.

  • Plan ahead and Alleviate any fears they havem check under the bed for “monsters”  or leave them a dimmed or red coloured  night light if they're afraid of the dark

  • Remember you are they’re safe place when they are struggling.

  • Model the mood/energy you want them to have, if they are anxious and fraught respond by being calming and soothing. Be patient.


Further reading for emotions and sleep

Get a book or app that breaks down children’s development over the weeks or months of the first few years of life, then you can read ahead so you know what to expect and can plan for when  your little one may need more help or support from you. The Wonder Weeks book & app series is one of my favourites

Be mindful of your own feelings and behaviour.Babies and toddlers are so intuitive, they know when something’s up with you. Think back to when you were a child sometimes you would just know when something was up with your mum even though she may have brushed it off or dismissed the idea. Babies have that same radar, and instinctively if they sense this feeling they fuss more to stay close to you.

If we mums  have things on our minds or are distracted by worries and concerns our little ones can pick up on those thoughts & feelings  they of course dont know whats wrong but they know something isnt quite right.

They don’t know or understand what they are feeling and will think it concerns them hence they clinginess and anxious attention seeking behaviour.


That’s all for Day 3 of #Soundsleepweek

Check back tomorrow for Day 4


To recap click Day One Day Two