I don’t know about you, but I love sleeping during a heavy rain. I’m thankfully a pretty heavy sleeper and don’t often wake to storms, but sometimes thunder is just so loud it startles me out of my sleep. As an adult, it may keep me up for a few minutes, but I’m always able to fall back asleep. For young kiddos, however, a loud sound like thunder or fireworks can not only wake them but also scare them, making it much harder to fall back asleep! So how do we handle loud noises while also keeping our child’s sleep in tact?
For children of any age, if a loud sound wakes them up, first wait! If they have independent sleep skills, there is a good chance they will fall back asleep. And if that’s the case, yay! You get to roll over and go back to sleep, as well. If you’ve waited a few minutes and your child is still upset (or in your room, of course), it’s time to respond.
First…Sound machines are a beautiful invention for so many reasons, one being they often drown out or greatly minimize the loudness of outside noise like thunder or fireworks. I highly recommend families have white noise in their child’s bedrooms for this reason. It may help your independent sleeper sleep through all of the noise, or it can greatly minimize the extra noise, helping him fall back asleep more easily.
The good news is, more often than not, I’ve noticed that babies often sleep right through storms and other loud noises outdoors. However, if your babe does wake up, go into his room and try to use your voice and touch to reassure him. If he’s still upset, pick him up to provide him with some extra comfort, and then lay him back down to fall back asleep. If he is still upset after soothing him, you can also back track to the last few steps of your bedtime routine – turn on a dim light, read a book, sing your song, and lay him down.
Toddlers and Older Children
Go into your child’s room (or walk him back to his room), turn on a low light if necessary, talk to him, and give him some extra cuddles if he wants! You can affirm that he’s safe and that everything’s okay, and that it’s time for sleep. You can explain what thunder is, talk about how he’s safe, and practice some calming strategies you’ve used with him during the day. If he’s woken by something like fireworks, you can even let him peak out the window and watch them! Once he’s calm, remind him of bedtime expectations and leave so he can drift back to sleep. (You could even give your child an extra lovey for the night, or something that belongs to you (i.e. one of our shirts), to hug extra tight as he’s falling back to sleep.)
***If your child is still really worked up and you feel as though you should stay longer, THAT’S OKAY! Sure, in a perfect world your child would receive your comfort and drift back into sleep, and that may very well happen. But some kiddos will simply need more comfort, and as parents, it’s our job to provide that comfort! So if you need to hold your child or sit with him until the storm is over, that’s okay. If you need to sit in his room until your child is back asleep, that’s also okay! We don’t want that to become your norm, but thunderstorms or fireworks every night is not the norm. [Notice I’m not suggesting you pull your child into bed with you. Making sure he still sleeps in his own bed will help encourage his independent sleep skills.]
The good news is, whatever happens, this one “off night” shouldn’t drastically or forever change your child’s sleep habits. So the next night, go right back to the same bedtime expectations you’ve had in the past, and respond to your child like you would on a normal night. And if for whatever reason you need help getting back on track, I’m here for you!