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What is the Point of Sleep Training?
Sleep training is one of the hottest parenting topics. Although it’s widely talked about, it’s very misunderstood. You may be wondering what the point of sleep training is, what exactly is it and how it could benefit your family.
The main goal of sleep training is to teach your child how to fall asleep independently. To reach this goal there are four methods of sleep training that you can choose from based on your child’s age, family dynamic, etc.
Having your child fall asleep independently helps them to link their sleep cycles resulting in more consolidated sleep for both you and your little one. They’ll be able to take longer naps and sleep longer stretches at night, only waking for feeds or sleeping through the night if they are ready.
If you are considering sleep training, you’re looking for a solution to your family’s sleep struggles.
The main point of sleep training is in short – to get more sleep.
Here are the outcomes you can expect from sleep training your little one.
Restorative Sleep for all Family Members
Each family is going to have slightly different sleep goals when entering sleep training. For some families sleeping through the night is the ultimate goal but for some families, just reducing the amount of night wakings is the goal. Either way is a perfectly acceptable goal!
As I mentioned above, the main goal and purpose of sleep training is to teach your child how to fall asleep independently.
That is the real key to improving sleep for the entire family. Of course, you also need to have a sleep conducive environment and an age appropriate schedule but those things alone won’t teach your child how to link sleep cycles.
Sleep training will teach your child how to put themselves to sleep at the onset of sleep so that they can easily put themselves back to sleep when they come to a brief waking between sleep cycles.
We (as humans) all wake in the night between our sleep cycles but with independent sleep skills we can quickly put ourselves back to sleep, often without any recollection of waking at all. This is what I am referring to when I say “linking sleep cycles”.
When your baby or toddler learns to link their sleep cycles, they are going to be getting more restorative sleep. A night full of wakeups feels very tiring for you but it’s also very tiring for your little as well. Those breaks in sleep affect their body’s ability to reap all the wonderful benefits of sleep.
If you do want to keep a night feeding or you baby still needs a night feeding, sleep training will help you and your little to listen to their body. Independent sleepers will wake out of hunger and that’s not a bad thing. It’s nice to know in the night WHY your little is waking instead of playing the guessing game. When your little is in charge of putting themselves to sleep, when they wake in the night, you will know it’s because they truly are hungry and are not just using the feeding as a soothing strategy for falling a back to sleep.
Let’s not dismiss the fact that when your child doesn’t sleep well, neither do you! You and your need for sleep matter too. It’s perfectly acceptable to desire your child to sleep well so that you can too. You need to. You deserve to.
Sleep training is a solution if you are ready to prioritize sleep for all family members.
Healthy Relationship with Sleep
Many parents consciously make sleep a priority for their children from a very young age because they, themselves, have struggled with sleep over the years and they want to avoid these hardships for their kids.
The way that you think and speak about sleep matters! Your child is watching and they are listening.
As their parent, when you make sleep a priority and instill a solid foundation in the early years you foster a healthy relationship with sleep for years to come.
Healthy sleep habits, like anything else (eating, exercise, reading), become second nature when they are prioritized and consistently practised.
You Feel Confident Handling Your Child’s Sleep
Sleep training, in addition to healthy sleep hygiene, will teach your child how to fall asleep independently and foster a healthy relationship with sleep.
But let’s be real – sleep training will not prevent your child from ever having a sleep challenge again.
That is not a realistic expectation. Your child will still have regressions, will still have bad days and bad nights, and their sleep needs will continue to evolve as they grow. However, a child who has a great sleep foundation will be able (with your guidance) to work through sleep challenges much faster.
Once you have put in the work and commitment of sleep training, you will feel so much more confident about your child’s sleep and you (and your child) will be better equipped for tackling the future challenges that arise.
Beyond the great sleep that comes from sleep training, there are also many other unexpected benefits that families notice once their little is sleeping well.
Read on to find out what they are…
Improved Mood for all Family Members
I honestly think this may be my favourite part of life after sleep training.
I always say that the first things to go when you’re tired is your mood and I’m sure you can relate to this. When you are really tired you are likely irritable, quick to anger, and struggle to enjoy your day. The same is true for your little one!
While working with families to support them through sleep training, parents often remark on how much of a difference they notice in their child’s temperament once they start sleeping better. I remember noticing this with my own daughter too – for nine months, I thought my baby was just cranky. She was always fussy, needed to be picked up all the time and rarely smiled or laughed. Turns out she was cranky because she was tired. Once we did sleep training and she started sleeping better, she transformed into a smiley giggly baby.
Improved mood also plays a role in contentment to play independently. Babies and children who are sleeping well are less moody as I mentioned above which allows them the capacity to happily play independently.
As with my own daughter, when she was tired and cranky, she was so clingy that I could barely put her down without a meltdown. Improved sleep allowed her to be content to play with toys on her own and discover new things. To this day, watching my daughter play on her own is one of my favourite things to do. It’s amazing to see their imagination and problem solving skills blossom without any parental influence!
I can’t tell you how many times a baby reaches a developmental milestone during sleep training, or shortly after. This happened with my own daughter and with many of my clients as well.
And the reason for this is because sleep is food for the brain. Without adequate sleep, we (babies alike) are in a state of survival and brain fog. Our brains cannot process things as well as it can when it is getting the restorative sleep that it needs.
Once your baby starts to sleep well, they will start hitting those developmental milestones such as rolling, standing, crawling, and even weight gain.
Time to Connect with Your Partner
So often, families come to me because it’s taking their child hours to fall asleep at bedtime. Whether it looks like rocking, bouncing and nursing a baby until they eventually fall asleep or playing a game of endless bedtime requests with a toddler. Whatever it is that’s causing your child to have a bedtime that is wayyy too late, it’s cutting in to your evening (in addition to their sleep needs).
If you have been on the bedtime battle struggle bus, maybe you forget what it’s like to have an evening of adult connection. But let me remind you – a peaceful evening spent with your partner is the best way to end the day.
Having time to talk about your days without getting interrupted by some elaborate story about elephants swimming in the ocean or cleaning up spit-up mid dinner is not something you should have to go without.
When your littles are going to bed at an age appropriate time (somewhere between 6:30-8pm), you will have time to talk to your spouse, watch a show together, play a game, or perhaps even rekindle that spark 😉.
Time to Yourself
And because of…shift work…you may find yourself alone in the evenings after the kids go to bed.
Alone time? Count. Me. In.
I know those late bedtimes for your kids aren’t stopping you from watching trash tv while eating the good snacks once they finally fall asleep. But it does mean that you are also staying up wayyy to late and regretting your decision every morning.
Tell me I’m wrong!
When your kids go to bed at 7pm you get to enjoy alone time (or time with your partner) for a few hours before heading to bed at a reasonable time yourself. Plus your sleep trained child is going to sleep well all night long so you can count on yourself getting a good night’s rest too.
Lower Stress Levels
Sleep deprivation causes an increase in cortisol (a stress hormone). Increased stress also increases anxiety and depression.
When you start sleeping better, you will likely see a significant decrease in your stress levels. That may look like improved mood, reduced anxiety, and the absence of stress headaches.
I know for myself personally, the anxiety and stress I felt during those days of sleep deprivation caused me to feel like an inadequate mother. I had this idea of the type of mother I wanted to be and I felt immense guilt for not being able to meet my expectations.
Lower stress levels and an improved mood have absolutely helped me to be able to parent the way I want to. Obviously not all days (I am still human after all), but most days I feel like I am the mom I want to be and the mom that my daughter deserves.
We also see lower stress levels in children, particularly preschool aged children, when they begin sleeping better. If you are noticing that your preschooler is experiencing anxiety or having behavioural outburst, I would recommend looking at lack of sleep as a possible trigger. Of course many factors play a role here but adequate sleep will help children to manage their emotions and fears more easily.
Feeding and sleeping go hand in hand. Babies who sleep well, eat better and babies who eat well sleep better.
I always recommend for my clients to use an eat, play, sleep routine during the day because it encourages baby to eat and sleep well – the two most important things in a baby’s day.
When babies are reliant on eating to fall asleep, they are often in this snack and snooze cycle. Meaning, they are never really taking in a full feeding because they are falling asleep before they are finished eating, and they are never really napping long enough because they are waking up early due to hunger. Not the best cycle to get stuck in, as you can see.
An eat, play, sleep routine encourages baby to take in full feeding upon waking when they are most rested.
It’s not surprising to be when parents remark during sleep training that their baby starts eating better. They start taking in more daytime calories, finishing more bottles, and fuss less during feeds.
So, What’s the Point of Sleep Training?
The point of sleep training is to teach your child how to fall asleep independently, prioritize sleep for ALL family members, and to build a healthy relationship with sleep that allows your child to thrive!
Sleep truly is medicine for our bodies and our minds, and I think that sometimes we overlook that. Just because sleep is “natural” doesn’t mean that it’s natural to sleep well.
You can absolutely do sleep training on your own by choosing one of the four methods. Or you can work one on one with me to guide you through the process so you can feel confident and supported every step of the way. Either way, I can’t wait for your family to experience all the amazing outcomes of good old fashioned SLEEP!
Ready to learn more about working with me to reach your family’s sleep goals? Book your free discovery call to chat about my sleep training program!