Sleep cues can help children to fall asleep and fall back asleep. Once an association is formed, you can use sleep cues to encourage your child to go back to sleep. You can also form sleep associations around a toy, such as one with a warm glow that sings gentle lullabies. You can then teach your child to turn on the sleeping toy when needing to settle or resettle to sleep.
You can try to build an association between a certain tune, humming, or certain words and sleep. I examine the research behind these tactics, and steps to achieve a successful association in this podcast episode: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2015/02/25/pr-p-002-sleep-associations/
Which is a compilation of these blog posts: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/06/28/sleep-associations/
Figure out when your child is most ready for sleep. You can do this via the free sleep-mapping course.
During your usual settling practices:
- Play your sleep cues, just before your child’s eyes droop and body relaxes.
- Use your sleep cues with a variety of settling techniques (not just a single settling technique).
- Continue this, unaltered, for a couple of weeks
- At the same time introduce substitutes for the comfort provided by hugging or feeding (e.g. a firm wrap – listen to the podcast above for further examples)
- Introduce your sleep cues after a calming bed routine, as you pat your child in his or her sleep-space.
- If your child doesn’t fall asleep in his or her sleep-space despite the sleep cues, only use your cues in the sleep-space once a day, or once every two days, so that you retain the association.
- Continue to use your cues no matter where your child is falling asleep.
- Once your child is falling asleep in his or her sleep space after the cues more often than not, you can use these cues every time you settle your child in his or her sleep space.
Please add your experiences with these approaches in the comments below. Let us know how long you tried it it for. Please provide the age of your child when you tried it. If it worked, please share the effects you saw. If it didn’t work, why do you think it didn’t work in your case?