Moving and Sleep

September 9, 2015

For most people moving isn’t something that we do often and it most likely is NOT on the top of the list of things we like to do.  It is often one of the most stressful experiences a family can experience.  Knowing how stressful the experience is for an adult we must acknowledge that the event is stressful for our baby or toddler as well and unfortunately the stress can affect their sleep.


As adults we stress over the logistics and the never ending to do list.  Children don’t stress over these details but they do feel the anxiety that such enormous changes cause.  Babies, toddlers and preschoolers thrive on predictability and routines.   When those routines and familiar settings are disrupted it can make them anxious.


For babies the stress of moving is directly related to a disruption in routine.  For toddlers and preschoolers the routine disruption affects them but it also has an emotional and psychological element involved as well.  They feel the stress similar to adults however they lack the vocabulary and self-awareness to articulate those feelings.  Some behaviours you may witness with your child include increased clinginess, regressive behaviour (bed wetting, thumb sucking, middle of the night wakenings, etc.), decrease appetite or complaints of stomach aches, nightmares, anxious habits (nail biting, twirling hair, etc.) or new and unusual behaviour such as increased shyness or aggressiveness.


I know there is an never ending to do list when moving, but here are a few more things to consider before the big day.  When preparing and packing be sure you know where all bedtime essentials are being kept.  It will be important that lovies, sound machines, bedtime routine books, etc. get unpacked quickly upon arrival to your new home.  It is also crucial to think of window coverings, even if only for your child’s room, so that naps can go on uninterrupted soon after the move.  You can easily purchase inexpensive black out paper blinds that will work perfectly even if only temporary.


Once moved in to your new home don’t be surprised if the unfamiliar surrounding lead to more frequent wake ups or even resisting to go to sleep.  This is especially true if you use the move as an excuse to redecorate with new bedroom décor or make the switch from a crib to a bed.  In addition, a new home may also be associated with new noises.


With babies the best you can do during a move is ensure the essentials are available when needed and try to get back to your routine as quickly as possible.


For toddlers and preschoolers there are some steps you can take to minimize the psychological stress associated with moving.  Before the move, talk it up!  Discuss the move early on so that they have time to process.  If possible even visit the new home in advance and maybe even point out the nearby park.  And getting them to help with packing, especially their room and toys, will make them feel a part of the process and may ease some fears.  On moving day allow them the time to say goodbye to their home as it will help develop closure.


After the move set up your child’s room first.  Find that important box of bedtime essentials and put them in their place.  Ensure the room is clutter free and tidy as quickly as possible.


The first few days after the move stay home as much as you can.  This will allow you time to unpack but also will give your child time to become familiar with their new home.


If your child wasn’t a superstar sleeper before the move don’t expect much to change.  Give it a couple of weeks to adjust to the new environment and then consider sleep coaching.  If you need help instituting a plan contact me for a free 15 minute strategy call.