We’ve all felt it before, sometimes it creeps up on you throughout a particularly stressful day, taking you altogether by surprise and in some cases, it’s a debilitating state of mind that can leave you physically and emotionally drained, highly strung, nervous or even completely paralysed. A recent US study has shown that anxiety is one of the leading causes of health problems in adults over the age 25; and between working, looking after a family and striking a balanced lifestyle, it seems no one is immune to it’s uncomfortable symptoms. Considering how debilitating it can be for adults, just imagine how overwhelming it can be for babies and toddlers! Separation anxiety is a particularly sensitive area for babies and toddlers and inevitably, high levels of anxiety significantly impact on a developing child’s sleep patterns; from mid-sleep disruptions to night terrors, fear of napping or simply a resistance to sleeping alone. So what can you do to ease your precious child’s sleep anxiety and establish a healthy, happy, sleep routine?
Over the next 2 blogs I will offer you some tried and tested, gentle sleep solutions for you and your baby or toddler that may just be the key to moving through what can otherwise be a particularly challenging problem area in the establishment of an ongoing, effective sleep routine.
Firstly, one of the key factors in overcoming separation or sleep anxiety at nap or bedtime is consistency. Babies and toddlers thrive on routine as it inspires a natural sense of safety, security and familiarity with both their own place of sleep and internal body clock. I can not stress enough how valuable it is to establish a consistent schedule for nap times, bedtime and wake times. By providing your child with a carefully designed sleep routine, you can significantly decrease their level of separation anxiety as they form a greater level of trust and security within the defined structure you provide for them. I like to think of it this way; think of how destabilising it can be to sleep in a completely foreign country, jet lagged! Now imagine how destabilising it for a child to adjust to fluctuating or inconsistent bed times – quite a challenge! To further alleviate your child’s sense of sleep anxiety while establishing their sleep routine, you can help guide them through the process by creating a specific (and consistent!) routine that provides soothing cues, such as nappy changing, cuddles, laying down together, bed time story and then lights out. By being consistent with your own process, your child is able to adjust and relax into the oncoming sleep, significantly reducing their level of anxiety! This process can be a great way for you to bond with your child during lights out and you can have fun being creative with the routine you establish! Now that we have outlined the foundations for alleviating sleep anxiety, next edition we are going to delve deeper, dealing with issues such as night terrors, sleep disruptions and fear! Here’s to healthy, happy sleeping for you and bub (and reduced anxiety for all!)