Understanding the Big 4 H’s That Lead to a Hot Mess Express Around Sleep 

Sep 30, 2021

Greetings! My name is Tiffany Hilgenber and I am a proud sleep consultant with Tiny Transitions. I work locally and privately with clients in Des Moines, IA, but also remotely with those all around the U.S.  I am here to talk about one of the most important educational topics around understanding your child’s sleep patterns. After all, you can’t fix something, if you don’t know what or why you’re fixing it. 

“No Mommmmyyy. One more book. More Water. I am thirsty. I need a hug. I am cold.”

We’ve all heard these famous ‘needs’ at least once from our children, as they so innocently and sweetly protest and stall the bedtime routine. Or perhaps it flashes you back to an earlier time in history where those unspoken words were expressed through endless tears, kicks, and screams. You may have read all the blogs, and all the self-guided child sleep resources out there, and throw in the towel by saying “We are a Hot Mess Express.” 

The thing about a child’s unspoken words at their specifically innocent development period is that it so easily wraps us into instant ‘mommy guilt’ and wanting to fulfill those needs every way we can, rocking, holding, feeding, nursing, etc. Leading to commonly known unhealthy sleep habits, much to the point  that we’ve googled every option and resource out there, and realize that we know we should be doing something different, but just aren’t sure how, and don’t understand why “My child just won’t sleep easily.” 

I am here to tell you Mommas, “You are doing a great job!”

Sleep is extremely complex, it’s a giant jigsaw puzzle, not only a jigsaw puzzle, but one of those awesome 3-D jigsaw puzzle, that your child just had to have at the store, and you bought thinking it would be GREAT quality time, and even peaceful self-time for you to work on by yourself, only to find your sweet ray of sunshine has misplaced pieces, or the dog took a piece, and your masterpiece of a puzzle is no more. 

One of the most important aspects I share with my private sleep clients through my customized sleep coaching programs is first and foremost knowledge around sleep. I am a firm believer that if you are putting in efforts to make changes, you need to be informed, and educated on the reasons why you are making the changes, to make them last, and truly be committed to the changes. 

Although your ‘Mommy guilt’ may still be strong, and the sleep habits currently developed aren’t the best of sleep hygiene practices, I am here to share a glimmer of hope, by understanding four key hormones that are the guiding principle and foundation of sleep. Like any other bodily function, system, and organ function, if there’s an imbalance in one area, there will be an overall lack of full function. Think Homeostasis. The same is true for sleep, and understanding the four hormones that balance, regulate and guide our sleeping pattern, is the foundation of which we will start our education journey on the sleep around, and turn your ‘mommy guilt’ into ‘mommy guidance’! 

The four key sleep hormones are Adenosine, Melatonin, Cortisol, and Adrenaline. The body is controlled by an internal clock, known as a circadian rhythm. (If you thought it only affects young and elders who know exactly when to eat when the sun is at the exact point on the horizon, think again…, this is your scientific education, that a body clock truly exists, and you should listen a little closer to your body’s needs through this clock.) The circadian rhythm is the 24-hour body clock, let’s take a closer look at what happens over those hours. When you awake each morning your body starts to produce the following four sleep hormones in these orders:

  • Adenosine (sleep pressure hormone) – Rises when awake, lessens as you sleep. In adults, it’s easier to have more balanced levels, because they tend to have a more consistent routine and timing in their day, with a set wake and bedtime schedule. With kids, they build that pressure up to between naps, based on their age. They NEED to sleep, to bring the adenosine hormone levels down
  • Melatonin (sleep-inducing/ PREPARING hormone) – It is the hormone that PREPARES the body to sleep, it’s NOT a sleep aid. This is triggered by natural light/darkness. Melatonin levels rise at bedtime and fall during our sleep. Again, Melatonin is Not a sleep aid- it’s a hormone of darkness. 
  • Cortisol – (stimulant hormone) – this hormone is triggered when your brain goes into stress response mode. Cortisol levels can be affected by many conditions, such as physical or emotional stress, strenuous activity, infection, or injury. Normally, cortisol levels rise during the early morning hours and are highest at about 7 a.m. They drop very low in the evening and during the early phase of sleep.
  • Adrenaline – (fight or flight hormone) An adrenaline rush begins in the brain when you perceive a dangerous or stressful situation, it triggers in the amygdala and prefrontal cortex- two parts of the brain affected by sleep depression- they trigger the behavioral and emotional balance mechanisms 

In your next bedtime, or nap time self-reflection moment screaming “Hot Mess Express!” I encourage you to reflect on the “Hot Hormones Express!”  See where your child’s hormones may be off, what may be triggered it {usually timing}, and dial back, or forward to progress in that specific hormonal imbalance. This is the key to a child settling without tears for bedtime, sleeping through the night, and sleeping in until a ‘reasonable hour – no, 4 am isn’t reasonable. As a sleep consultant, I support you through the learning process and provide you coaching every step of the way on your quest from rest, and offer free preliminary discovery calls & the chance to learn more about Tiffany if you are ready to leave the hot-mess express for a lifetime worth of rest. 

About the Author: Tiffany Hilgenberg is a Child Sleep Consultant based in Iowa, supporting parents not only in the midwest but around the world to bring healthy sleep habits to families who are tired and overwhelmed. As a Certified Sleep Coach, she brings her years of training, background, and education to transform how well your child sleeps. She resides in Adel, IA with her sweet son and husband.