I’m going to share a sleep tip that you may not have heard before. I talk to every family I work with about it because the long term value of it is huge.
It’s not wake windows, sleep environment or even teaching independent sleep habits (although these are all really helpful and important too!) The tip is:
When you talk about sleep, make sure you talk about it in a positive light
Sounds pretty easy-peasy right?
It definitely can be, but it may take some work and intention.
How do you talk about sleep at your house?
Think about it.
Not just about the times you are talking to your child about sleep. What about when you are talking to a partner, a friend or even the clerk at the grocery store? Our kiddos’ little ears hear it all.
You even may need to look at what you think about sleep yourself. Because let’s face it, many of us have negative, or at least not-so-positive thoughts about sleep. Things such we’ll sleep when we’re dead for example. Or we would rather do other things than sleep (sound familiar to what your child thinks?) Or being frustrated with the lack of sleep you are experiencing. These feelings are valid but we have to recognize that our child is influenced by this.
When we don’t value the benefits of sleep in our own lives, our children get that message. The words you say about sleep and your actions around sleep will lead to how your child feels about sleep. They perceive how we feel, they see past the things we say that aren’t true and authentic to ourselves. So often, just talking positively about sleep when you are talking directly to them isn’t quite enough (it’s a good start though!)
Being intentional about how we talk about sleep at an early age can help set your child up for a lifetime of benefits by valuing sleep and how it makes them feel.
Sleep is so important for mental and physical growth and development, emotional regulation and so much more. Plus we want our kids to sleep. It helps them feel rested, refreshed and ready to play and learn. It helps us, too — we get a break and better sleep for our children can help avoid or lessen those triggering tantrums that no parent enjoys and more!
An easy way to help your children sleep well is to help them WANT to sleep. Sounds kind of impossible right?
When they know sleep makes them feel good and they feel it is a desirable and positive thing, they are going to go to sleep easier and sleep better overall. They learn it is a desirable and positive thing from the words we use and our actions around sleep.
Start from an early age
Being intentional with your words and actions around sleep from an early age helps your baby internalize that sleep is a beautiful thing. Something that they want to do and something that makes them feel good.
For many babies being positive about sleep isn’t going to be the only thing they need to get them sleeping well (see more about that here) but it is going to be a good place to be starting from.
Labeling the feeling of sleepy when you see it so that they can start to recognize it in themselves and tell you when they are tired and ready for sleep. Using baby sign language is great so that they can tell you when they are tired before they are even verbal.
The 97/3 Rule
This is especially for toddlers, but really any age can benefit. 97% of your words and actions around sleep should be positive. It’s a lot but it matters. It matters in building our child’s perception of sleep in general and helping them internalize that it is something they want to do.
A toddler who wants to do something is going to do it a lot easier than a toddler who doesn’t want to do something.
For toddlers who have heard that sleep is a negative thing based on the talk that surrounds them, it may make them fight harder to avoid getting into bed and going to sleep at bedtime. It may help them push through their exhaustion to stay awake during nap more frequently.
So focus on making pretty much all communication around sleep a positive thing.
Here are some positive things you can say about sleep during bedtime:
“You are going to go to sleep and wake up with so much energy to play”
“I will be going to sleep soon too! I can’t wait. It feels so good to sleep.”
“Sleep helps your imagination rest so that you can do so much imagining tomorrow”
Here are some positive things to say when you wake up in the morning:
“Yay, good sleep last night helps us be ready to play today!”
“It feels so good after sleeping all night!”
“We are refreshed and ready to start a fun day!”
Why it is important talk about sleep positively
Sleep is a universal biological need. Our society has devalued sleep with the work, work, work, go, go, go attitude. We want our children to grow up healthy and getting the sleep they need to thrive. Setting the intention to help them internalize the beauty and value of sleep can help them sleep well (and WANT to sleep) for their entire lives.
If you are struggling with your child’s sleep and don’t know where to go from here, I would love to chat with you. You can schedule a free evaluation call here so we can chat about what is going on, what your sleep goals are and how I can help. Let’s get your family sleeping better!
To healthy and happy sleep,