4 Steps to Master Your Child’s Sleep: Getting Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night – Embracing Safety Over Struggle

by Myra Hartzheim
A pediatric sleep consultant holds a baby that keeps waking in the night
Outline

Parenting is filled with questions, and one that often plagues us is how to get our kids to sleep through the night. After struggling with this same issue, I discovered a key element that can truly impact our children’s sleep – safety.

Sleep Through The Night 1 Home Staging in Bozeman, MT

Getting Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night – Embracing Safety Over Struggle:

After mentioning safety, I know that word might make some of you roll your eyes or think, “Why wouldn’t my kid feel safe? I respond to their every cry!” Hear me out. I want to redefine safety for you in a way that reflects how the body interprets it: Safety is when the body can fully relax. A state of full relaxation for the body is called “rest & digest.”

When our bodies are in rest and digest, the body can do just that – rest easily and digest easily. If you experience your child bouncing off the walls, fighting sleep, not relaxing easily, coming off as difficult to deal with, or if there is any disruption in their digestion (constipation, gassiness, smelly poops…), or if they get sick often, your child is not experiencing the state of “rest & digest” enough for them to experience sleep in a fully restorative way. They are not fully experiencing a physiological state of “safety” in the terms I explained here.

However, the opposite of this state of ‘safety’ is a state of ‘survival.’ This is where the role of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, becomes crucial. Cortisol plays a significant role in regulating our body’s stress response.

When cortisol levels remain consistently high due to chronic stress or prolonged exposure to stressors, our nervous system tends to stay in a state of survival rather than moving towards safety and relaxation. This disrupts the delicate balance between the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) divisions of the nervous system.

Now, let’s explore what can disrupt our child’s sense of safety, ultimately affecting their sleep. Drawing from my experience in resolving complex sleep cases over the past decade, I will discuss the factors we address to help children feel truly safe and promote restful sleep.

Factors Influencing a Child’s Sense of Safety:

Internal Schedule:

We all have what’s called a chronotype, our own natural internal schedule that determines our optimal sleep and wake times. When we operate outside of our chronotype, our bodies compensate by increasing stress levels to keep us awake. By helping families identify and align with their child’s internal schedule, we can reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels and promote a feeling of safety, leading to better sleep.

Research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) emphasizes the impact of maintaining alignment with a child’s internal schedule, highlighting the need to synchronize activities with a child’s natural timetable to foster better sleep quality and duration as they grow and develop. This can ultimately help you get your baby to sleep through the night.

Digestive Issues:

Inflammation in the gut can cause stress hormones, including cortisol, to increase and sleep hormones to be suppressed, disrupting the body’s natural balance. This inflammation can also impact nutrient absorption, affecting essential micronutrients necessary for healthy sleep. By addressing digestive issues and reducing gut inflammation, we provide a conducive internal environment for restful sleep. Taking care of these issues can greatly help in getting your baby to sleep through the night.

Insights from the Medical Science Journal underscore the critical connection between digestive wellness and sleep, emphasizing the need to address any potential disruptions in digestion to promote a more tranquil sleep experience for children.

Autonomy:

Whether a child is bed-sharing or sleeping independently, it is important to create an environment that supports their comfort and safety. Allowing them to learn their own bodies, explore different ways of getting comfortable, and settle themselves within appropriate boundaries can promote healthy sleep habits and a positive relationship with sleep. Encouraging autonomy in this way can be instrumental in helping you get your baby to sleep through the night.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) highlights the significance of nurturing a child’s sense of autonomy in regulating their sleep patterns. By empowering children to be active participants in their sleep routine, they cultivate a sense of confidence and control, fostering a positive impact on their ability to achieve restful sleep. This approach recognizes and respects the child’s individuality and helps them develop lifelong skills for healthy sleep.

Uncertainty:

Consistency and reliability in responding to a child’s sleep needs create a sense of trust and security. By addressing parental uncertainties and providing consistent support, we create a safe and secure environment for our children to sleep. This can contribute to getting your baby to sleep through the night more consistently.

Findings from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) emphasize the role of addressing and ameliorating parental uncertainties to foster a more secure environment, essential for promoting tranquil and undisturbed sleep for children.

A New Approach


Choosing to understand and address the factors that influence a child’s feeling of safety shifts the focus away from fixing a sleep problem and toward creating an environment where a child feels secure enough to rest peacefully. By exploring these aspects, we open doors to holistic solutions that encompass both physiological and psychological well-being.

Unlocking peaceful sleep for our children goes beyond implementing quick fixes or rigid sleep training methods. It requires embracing the concept of safety and balance in their lives. By understanding the physiological state of “rest & digest” and addressing factors that disrupt a child’s sense of safety, we can create an environment conducive to restorative sleep.

Remember, every child is unique, and finding the right balance may require patience and experimentation.

Rerences:

  1. Lebourgeois MK, Wright KP Jr, Lebourgeois HB, Jenni OG. Dissonance Between Parent-Selected Bedtimes and Young Children’s Circadian Physiology Influences Nighttime Settling Difficulties. Mind Brain Educ. 2013 Dec;7(4):234-242. doi: 10.1111/mbe.12032. PMID: 24535929; PMCID: PMC3925339. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2980811/
  2. Medical Science Journal. (n.d.). Digestive Disorders and Sleep Disturbances. Retrieved from https://www.medsci.org/v18p0593.htm
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). (n.d.). Autonomy, Connectedness, and the Psychological Regulation of Sleep Across Childhood and Adolescence. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1201415/
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). (n.d.). Parenting and Child Sleep: Sleep-Related Parenting Behaviors and Their Association With Child Sleep. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7779594/
A pediatric sleep consultant holds a baby that keeps waking in the night

Sleep

Shouldn't be so hard. There's a reason it is.
There's nothing worse than your child not sleeping. It negatively affects the entire family. Together, we will change that.
Get Support

More Articles on Pediatric

Outline
Newborn baby boy sleeping through the night with a stocking cap

Sleep

Shouldn't be so hard. There's a reason it is.
There's nothing worse than your child not sleeping. It negatively affects the entire family. Together, we will change that.
Get Support

discover

The vibrant life waiting for you on the other side of sleep.

Get Support
A mother holds her happy baby after experiencing pediatric sleep consulting online
Cura Sleep Group logo
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram