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Too Tired To Sleep: How a Supported Cry Can Help


When I put Goldie to bed at around 7pm, I thought for sure that she would fall asleep and be out cold for the night… I mean, the kid was BEYOND exhausted after having a massive day out. She usually sleeps through the night every other night, but within a half an hour of me putting her to bed, she was up crying!

Ugh!” I thought! “What the FRICKING HELL! She is exhausted, why won’t she sleep!

I went in the bedroom to lay down with her so she would fall back to sleep. She kept dozing and then waking back up, whining, squirming and half hearted crying. I started getting so annoyed! Really! I knew she was exhausted, so why wasn’t she sleeping?!

Luckily, the lightbulb switched on for me. She hadn’t had a big cry in a very long time, maybe a couple months. I knew it was time.

I picked her up and held her close. She started to scream and writhe and arch her back and kick and sweat. She kept trying to stick her hand down my shirt to grab my boobs, and I gently blocked her every time. This got her even more enraged. After about 20 minutes of having a very deep emotional release, she said to me, “Mummy, I just cried…” Then, she settled in my arms, her body completely relaxed, her breath steady and a peaceful look on her face. We laid down on the bed together, where she found a comfortable position and she fell into a deep sleep for the rest of the night.

Often times we try to stop a child’s crying when it is happening, either through giving them distraction, punishment, or ignoring. But, I tell you, crying for emotional release is such a blessing! It’s a quick, yet natural way to take the emotional garbage out and to relieve the stress of an overstimulated child. Children naturally go to emotional crying as a way to eliminate stress from their system, but often, we don’t realize that this is what they are doing, so we start to try and ‘fix‘ their cry.

I don’t go looking for ways to get my kids to cry. In fact, I do everything I can to keep them happy and content by providing them with their physical needs as well as giving them plenty of connection time. I do my best to make sure that they feel safe and secure in my presence. But, even in the most loving and nurturing household, there are enough natural upsets and frustrations in the world to make kids cry.

An overtired child will be able to sleep more peacefully if they are allowed to release their stress through tears, but the benefits are not limited to just that! By allowing a child to fully release their emotions in the form of tears, you may start to notice many of the following behavior improvements:

  • A generally more contented child
  • Less whining (whining as in you keep trying to make a child happy, but nothing is working)
  • The child will sleep better sleep at night
  • More gentle behavior from the child/less aggression
  • Less public meltdowns as the need to release the big emotions will gradually start to happen more at home or in a place that the child knows it is safe to do so.

Next time your over exhausted child is ready for a crying fit or a tantrum, let them have it! Give them the loving support they need to release those emotions and observe the benefits that follow.

One thing to remember about tantrums is that a child should not be left alone, ignored or punished for crying. A child is not crying to manipulate you or to be ‘naughty‘. If you feel that you can’t deal with a tantrum at that moment, it’s ok to distract it until later, and know that there are still be plenty of chances for it to come out another time (often this happens in the car for babies and toddlers). Sitting with a raging child is not always pleasant, as it stirs up unpleasant feelings and emotions in our own self, so don’t feel bad if it’s hard for you to accept your child’s crying!

(Completely aside from the focus of my story, my older daughter, aged 4 1/2 was sleeping inches away from our crying session, and she didn’t even move a muscle. I have no idea how it happens but my kids have almost always slept through each other’s crying!)

For another more detailed post on how to deal with tantrums read a previous post on Why I Love Temper Tantrums


10 Responses »

  1. I have been feeling so guilty lately – like I am failing, because my youngest so often falls asleep crying. I hold her, and sometimes sing to her. But I feel like it’s something I did wrong that’s causing her to cry. I know this isn’t rational, as it’s her, and her emotions. But reading this makes me realise that maybe she just really needs that on a regular basis.

    • Oh no! Have you heard of Aware Parenting or read the book Tears and Tantrums by Aletha Solter? She talks so much about this. Little ones, say under the age of 2 or 3 generally need to have a good crying release almost every night! Even Margo needs at least one or two little cries a day to get it all out.

  2. I am so glad I found your blog! It is fantastic, well written, spot on.

  3. Pingback: This Kid is Taking FOREVER to Fall Asleep! Eight Reasons Why. |

  4. Meredith Parker

    How do you know when to comfort and when to let them release?

    • The thing is that you always offer comfort, as in your presence and your understanding. But, whether or not you offer the boob or the control pattern is where the difference lies. Does that make sense? You can usually tell, with a little observation and getting used to looking for signs, when they are truly hungry or have a need, as opposed to when they are needing a release.

      • Meredith Parker

        Thank you so much! Yes that clarifies it nicely. I guess I was confused about the different needs. But that is probably individual and changes every time. I.e. Does she need to vent and shake it off or does she need help self soothing and the control pattern as you call them…thank you so much!!

      • In aware parenting, there is no such thing as self soothe. So, there’s nothing for them to learn or anything. The crying and/or raging is sufficient to release the negative emotions. As long as a loving caregiver is there to facilitate those emotions, then it’s happening ok 🙂

  5. Hi Kate, how young would children need this emotional release? I feed my 9 month old to sleep when he wakes in the night. However he has started waking more (sleep regression, learning to walk). But, now when he wakes he cries out and is distressed. My boob is all that seems to soothe him (he’s not really eating but suckling). If I try sooth him by cuddling he doesn’t calm right away, perhaps he needs to ‘let it all out’ in my arms to sleep better? I don’t like him being distressed and upset as I’ve heard it increases cortisol in their little bodies. Are there any research findings on this emotional release

    • I highly recommend reading the book ‘Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter. The books is all researched based and she talks about the different types of crying. Babies who are left alone do have raised cortisol levels, but babies who cry in arms have a different chemical release!


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