Evelyn Bonney, Certified Sleep Sense Consultant
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Starting day care or preschool offers numerous benefits for children but it can also be fraught with anxiety for parents for many reason. How they will adjust, will they settle in ok and of course how is it going to impact sleep?

One of the most significant hurdles children face when starting day care or preschool is separation anxiety. This emotional response occurs when a child is separated from their primary caregiver, often resulting in distress, fear, and physical upset like crying. It’s important to remember that this is absolutely normal behaviour for children.

After a period of adjustment this usually gets easier for children, as they adapt to their new environment and build relationships with their care givers. However, in the short term this separation anxiety can lead to disrupted sleep for some children. They may refuse to go down for naps or resist bedtime. It’s really important to not shift the boundaries and keep each sleep situation the same as it would normally be. They may need more reassurance or extra physical contact but don’t change the way that sleep occurs in these situations.

The new environments and routines can also very stimulating for young children and will cause them to be more tired than usual. When children are overtired it becomes much harder for them to get to sleep. Nap time refusal is common for this reason. Try to be responsive to this and put them to bed earlier that normal if you need to.

The change in sleep environment may can also be challenging for some children if you child start napping at day care. You can easy this transition by sending them to preschool with a favourite toy or something they associate with sleep such as a sleeping bag or blanket. It’s a good idea to ease children into the day care routine by gradually increasing the amount of time they spend away from parents. Start with short visits and gradually extend the duration over time.

They key to ensuring the transition to day care doesn’t completely derail your child’s sleep is consistency. If your child was sleeping well before starting day care, stick to your routines and don’t be tempted to change the way that sleep occurs! Your child is going through a big change and the environment at home needs to stay as predicable and consistent as possible, to help make this transition easier for them and crucially keep them sleeping well!

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