Sleep Separation - what is it?

Sleep anxiety is perfectly normal, yet inconvenient and exhausting for parents who are desperate for quiet time of their own. This simple sleep separation technique will help your child to drift off alone, and free up some much-needed time for you.

It seems harmless enough, lying down with your child while they go to sleep, but falling - and staying - asleep by themselves at night is one of their biggest steps towards independence. Also, getting time to yourself in the evening means you’ll be on top form for another busy day of parenting.

An unbroken night’s sleep is crucial to your child’s development - and staying tucked up in bed all night could make a clingy child less dependent in the daytime, too.

Steps to get a good night’s sleep

Follow a calming bedtime routine Once you’ve put the little one to bed, don’t sit or lie down beside them. Sit on the floor instead, keeping your head down so they can see your profile but not your eyes, turn the light off and say “now it’s time to be quiet and go to sleep”.

If your child carries on chatting to you, insist that “it’s sleep time now” in a gentle but firm voice - don’t get drawn into a discussion.

If they get out of bed, put them back with a kiss and a cuddle the first time, just a kiss the second time, then with minimal physical contact after that. This part can be really hard, especially as the nights go on, but consistency is crucial, and a kind tone will help your child feel secure in their bed without the anxiety of being left alone.

Little by little, move further away from the bed each night. Eventually, you’ll be sitting in the hallway with the door open, and finally you can say goodnight and go downstairs.

This technique will help your child get used to sleeping alone in a bed. It will also make it easier for you to gain a period of blissful independence each evening before you, too, head for dreamland.

We'd love to hear whether this approach worked for you. Leave us a comment below or post your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Related links

  • TV Clip - Sleep Separation Technique: Creating a relaxing bedtime routine, then having mom move gradually further from the crib meant Ryland was able to sleep by himself for the first time… eventually!
  • TV Clip - Stay in Bed Technique: Whilst this technique really tested these parents’ stamina, Ashlin eventually stops calling for mom to get into her bed and lets mom and dad have an evening alone.
  • Bedtime Routine: The Bedtime Routine, as seen on the show, ensures your child gets enough sleep, while you get time to yourself…
  • Getting Toddlers to Stay in Bed: Learning to stay in bed can take time, and even good sleepers can change their habits overnight. The Stay in Bed Technique is a method used in the Supernanny show to help families get an uninterrupted evening and a good night's sleep.

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