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Episode 239: Trauma-Informed Sleep Principles (w/ Allison Ezell)

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Whether a child has experienced foster care or adoption, there is history and trauma to navigate. As you can imagine, this can spill over into eating habits, behavior issues, and affect children’s sleep. Many foster parents and caregivers experience the difficulty of seeking help from someone trained in both foster/adoptive backgrounds and sleep practices.

That was the case for my guest, Allison Ezell. When her first adopted son came home from China in 2016, she spent years unsuccessfully searching for sleep help that took into account his history. Today, she now gets to do for others what no one could do for her all those years ago: build a bridge between sleep science principles and trauma-informed care.

Allison is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and a mom of four through birth, foster care, and international adoption. She has a special passion for working with foster and adoptive families who are navigating sleep issues with their children.

In this episode, you’ll learn how isolating dealing with sleep issues in children who have experienced trauma can be, the importance of setting realistic expectations based on a child’s history and biology, navigating bedtime with multiple children, and so much more.


1. Sleep issues are common.

Sleep issues are all too common with children who have experienced trauma, displacement, and more. However, the advice to deal with these sleep issues is almost non-existent or will only serve to disconnect us from the child rather than connect.

“They had one line in the book about how sleep issues in foster and adoptive children are incredibly common and co-sleeping can help. That was the entire excerpt.

2. Sleep is the ultimate act of trust.

Sleep is when our children are at their most vulnerable. It is when they have the least control over their environment, body, and mind. For many of our children, nighttime can be a trigger for them for this very reason. It’s important to understand that when we ask our children to go to sleep, we are asking them to trust us to keep them safe.

“Sleep is vulnerable. Sleep is a complete and total loss of control and that is terrifying to a child who has already experienced another total loss of control.”

3. Work on building felt safety into sleeping habits.

How we address sleep issues will be slightly different for each child as we take into account their history. Some of the ways we can help our children feel safe is to make their schedule predictable, prioritize creating a sleep environment that feels safe to a child, and establish ourselves as safe adults.

“When there is no predictability, no consistency, and no structure, and we’ve just thrown so much spaghetti at the wall that nothing sticks anymore, our kids are rattled and disoriented.”


We hope this episode has helped you wherever you are on your foster care journey. That’s the goal! If so, will you tell others?

Share this post or rate the podcast on Apple Podcasts (or wherever you listen) and leave us a brief review

Meet Our Guest

Allison Ezell is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant, M.Ed, and mom of four through birth, foster care, and international adoption. She has a special passion for working with foster and adoptive families who are navigating sleep issues with their children after she spent many years navigating it with her first adopted son. Allison gets to build a bridge between sleep science principles and trauma-informed care through her business, Dwell Pediatric Sleep. She lives just north of Dallas, TX with her husband, Blake, and their children.

Foster Parents, check with your agency to see if listening to this podcast will count toward your foster care training hours!


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