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Sleep Secrets

Updated: Jan 1, 2023

Time to let you in on some sleep secrets, shhhh...

1. Positive bedtime routines.

Regular and consistent bedtime routines are essential for children to learn healthy sleep habits. Routines help babies and children learn through relationships and repetition. When humans experience the same thing over and over, the connection pathways in the brain become stronger and more complex. Routines lead to predictability and less anxiety for young children and can improve behaviour.

2. Sleep is a learnt skill

Just like walking and talking, your baby isn't born knowing how to sleep independently. Your little one will learn how to sleep independently with your support and encouragement. Your baby needing your help to sleep is normal! They have just spend the better part of 9 months in your tummy, safe, secure and comfy unaware of the outside world. Once your baby is 3-4 months + you can begin to help teach them to sleep independently.

3. Circadian Rhythms help night time sleep

Our naturally occurring circadian rhythm (internal biological clock) is controlled by hormones and body temperature. At night there is a huge rise in Melatonin (the sleepy hormone) and a drop in Cortisol (the stress hormone), which creates a huge drive or pressure to sleep at night. So when implementing changes, start with bedtime, with melatonin on your side.

4. Circadian Rhythms make naps hard!

Due to the lack of melatonin during the day, you may find consolidating day naps much harder than night time sleep. Babies, infants and toddlers (up to 3-4 years of age) definitely need at least 1 nap a day longer than 45 minutes for restorative sleep. However, it is normal for your little one to need more props, associations or help than they do at night.

5. Overtired = Hyperactive

Much to many parents' disbelief, if you miss your baby's tired signs or sleep window, they don't become easier to settle and sleep longer, they actually become harder to settle and wake more frequently! As your little one becomes overtired, cortisol levels begin to rise. When cortisol levels are high, it is difficult to relax, unwind and prepare for sleep.

6. Temperament impacts sleep

Every baby is different! One baby may happily sleep in their capsule for 2 hours, while another will cry when exposed to new people or hate the capsule or car or is easily over-stimulated when out of routine. This doesn't mean there is anything wrong with your baby! Get to know your baby and their temperament. They may need to nap before you go out, they may prefer to be in the baby carrier, they may love lots of hands-on support or they may just want some time and space to sort it out themselves.

7. Biological Sleep Windows

From 4 months old babies have 3 biological sleep windows. These windows are natural dips in their energy levels and if you can manage to start a nap or their night sleep in these windows, they will be easier to settle. These windows are:

  • 9-10 am

  • 12-2pm

  • 6-7pm

8. Hungry babies won't sleep

As you baby continues to thrive and be healthy, whether they are on the 9th or 90th percentile, they need constant nourishment. If your little one is dropping weight or straight lining on their growth curve, this could be why they are not sleep well. Ensure your little one is getting plenty of daytime calories. If your little one is not tracking well in their growth and development, see your GP.

9. Sleep is a need not a luxury or want

Sleep is physiologically important for your child's wellbeing and development, just as important as food. You wouldn't make your baby wait for mum or dad to come home at 7pm to have dinner, so don't make them wait to go to sleep. The same applies to you as their parents, your physiological and psychological need to sleep is just as important! You don't need to go years of sleep deprivation.

10. Too Quick!

Trust me, I know the pressure parents put on themselves (and their baby) to get their baby "enough" sleep, particularly when they wake from a nap. When your baby wakes from a nap, if they are happy in their bed, or just grizzling/whinging on and off, don't rush in to them. See if they just need some time and space to try and self-settle. Babies are noisy sleepers, quite often they will cry out momentarily as they transition to the next sleep cycle. Wait and watch the monitor (if you have one), if the grizzle escalates to a cry, then attend to them and assist them back to sleep if they need it.

11. It is not a problem, unless it is a problem for you!

If you are rocking, feeding, holding to sleep, you are not ruining your baby's sleep! You are doing what is right for you and your baby for right now. When it is no longer working for you, your baby or your family, you can make the decision to change the situation. You can not spoil a newborn! Do not feel any guilt towards the way your baby falls asleep. Your baby (and hopefully you) have been getting sleep.

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