How To Feel Less Anxious About My Child’s Sleep?
Are you experiencing anxiety around your little one’s sleep?
You are NOT alone! As a new mom struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety, my son’s sleep could affect my mood and ruin an entire day. It impacted my ability to enjoy motherhood and connect with my new baby. I was obsessed, but not in a good way!
My story is not unique. Many families experience some level of anxiety, stress, or worry about their child’s sleep. This can be due to short naps, bedtime battles, the quantity and/or quality of sleep, safe sleep, sleep routines, boundaries around sleep behavior, and more. With so many aspects of baby and toddler sleep, it is no wonder some parents feel so stressed out about it!
What can you do to feel less anxious about your child’s sleep?
In my journey to heal and grow from depression and anxiety, I have learned some key strategies that help when I feel like I am spiraling in an unhealthy way when it comes to my son’s sleep.
The tips below are great to keep in mind if you are in the process of sleep training and may help reduce your anxiety during that period of time!
Ask for help
One of the best things I did for my mental health was to ask for help. I found my specific anxiety centered around how long it would take my son to fall asleep at night. My worrying did nothing to actually make him fall asleep faster, so I gave the monitor to my husband and did not look at it the rest of the night. My husband would let me know if anything was wrong and if not, I was able to enjoy my evening without focusing on it.
Asking for help may look like getting your partner to watch the monitor for naps or overnight sleep so you can take a break and do something for yourself. It might mean you ask a friend or family member to come over and hang out with you during a sleep period. If you are in the newborn stage, it might be asking someone you trust to hold your baby for a nap or put them down for bed.
Whatever stage you are in, and whatever sleep trigger bothers you, ask for help from your support circle to deal with that trigger!
If you know your child is capable of independent sleep, or you are in the midst of sleep training, distracting yourself can be key to reducing anxiety!
Bella Luna’s founder, Christine, suggests “rage cleaning” as a tool to distract yourself. She says there is always something in your home that could use a deep cleaning; whether that be a junk drawer, hall closet, or garage shelf. This can have two benefits: you distract yourself and you end up having a clean hall closet!
If you are able to, go for a walk, read a book, binge-watch your favorite Netflix show… whatever you choose to do, it should be something that you can fully immerse yourself in while your child learns or practices their independent sleep skills.
Find tools that help you calm down
Anxiety puts us into fight or flight (sympathetic nervous system). The antidote is deep breathing, which turns on our parasympathetic nervous system. Some deep breathing techniques include:
- Box breathing – breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe in for 4, hold for 4, while envisioning a box.
- 4/7/8 breathing – breathe in for 4, hold for 7, breathe out for 8.
- Stegosaurus breathing – hold your hand up, starting with your thumb, breathe in while you are tracing up, breathe out while tracing the fingers down, and do all fingers. This is a great grounding technique for kiddos and adults alike.
Exercise can help reduce our anxiety by decreasing levels of adrenaline caused by being in fight or flight mode.
If it is not possible to do a full workout, even doing 20 jumping jacks, some push-ups, or wall sits can help. They will get your heart rate up and work as a tool to distract you from your anxious thoughts.
Weigh the pros and cons of sleep-tracking apps
As a sleep consultant, I have used many sleep-tracking apps and they can be incredibly helpful! However, as a mother, tracking sleep became a negative obsession that only further contributed to my feelings of stress around sleep.
If you are in the same boat, I would recommend weighing the pros and cons of using the app. Ask yourself:
- Is this app actually helping my child get better/more sleep?
- Do I feel like the use of this app is healthy and helpful for me as a parent?
- Why do I need to track my child’s sleep?
Once you have reflected on those factors, you can determine whether or not the app is something you should keep. If it is not adding anything positive to your life, delete it!
If your anxiety or depression feels like it is out of control…
Reach out to your healthcare team (OB/midwife, family doctor, therapist, etc.) and ask for help. Postpartum Support International can also be a great resource if you aren’t sure where to start.
If your anxiety is manageable but you find yourself dreading naps and bedtime, I would be honored to help you on your own journey to get better sleep. Book a discovery call with me today and we can work together so you feel less anxious about your child’s sleep!
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