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Does Stress Impact Sleep and Influence Cortisol Levels?

Baby crying standing in cot.

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Families regularly ask us about whether our solutions involve “crying it out,” so we think crying is something that we need to talk about before you decide to work with us. The short answer to the question is ‘no’.

The “Cry-It-Out” Approach

Crying is your child’s way of protesting the change that we will be asking you to make. Lots of little ones we work with are nonverbal (because of their age) so one of their ways of communication is crying – to tell you they are hungry, thirsty, bored, frustrated or simply that they prefer things the old way. We don’t use a cry-it-out approach but think it is important to talk a little about crying here.

Understanding Crying as Communication

Implementing major changes can cause our little ones to protest. It’s reassuring, therefore, to know that some crying at sleep time, while uncomfortable for us as parents, does not cause an increase in cortisol – contrary to previous research – and won’t cause your little one harm. We at Little Dreams are all mummies and so would not be doing the job in the way that we do if we thought that there was any way that it would harm your little one. We are incredibly evidence-based and choose to rely on science rather than opinion.

At Little Dreams, our enthusiasm for the benefits of children’s sleep is evident (you can find more about this in my blog here). Alongside the numerous advantages that sleep offers to both children and their parents, Professor Mike Gradisar B.Sc. (Hons), M.Psyc. (Clin), PhD, a Clinical Psychologist and Professor in Clinical Child Psychology at Flinders University, Australia, has conducted intriguing research that could greatly interest parents considering our services.

Research by Professor Mike Gradisar

Several articles discuss that a baby crying at sleep time causes harm. Professor Gradisar has effectively compiled all the evidence and research studies on this matter.

It will not harm your little one. We, at Little Dreams, are parents ourselves, and our approach to our work reflects our belief that it would never harm your child. Our methods are deeply rooted in evidence, and we prioritise scientific foundations over personal opinions. You can find a comprehensive overview of Professor Gradisar’s discoveries here.

Gentle Approach and Parent Experiences

While we advocate for a gentler approach than the “cry it out” method, as confirmed by the experiences of all parents who have worked with Little Dreams across the country, making significant changes can lead to protests from your little ones.

It’s reassuring to understand that some amount of crying at sleep time, though emotionally challenging for us as parents, does not lead to an increase in cortisol, contradicting prior research.

As always, if you’re facing any sleep-related challenges with your child, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a free 15-minute conversation. We are here to assist and support!

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