Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Unappreciated Power of an Early Bedtime
December 12, 2022

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A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial. I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length. This is a reference book. Read only the topic of interest to you.

Blog 109Unappreciated Power of an Early Bedtime

I will share with you 4 unpublished findings that emphasize the importance of early bedtimes. I asked the authors of 4 different published studies to reanalyze their data and now I will share with you their findings.

  1. Published studies have shown that the more often that a bedtime routine is practiced, the longer the child sleeps at night. This means that mothers who practiced a bedtime routine 1-2, or 3-4 or 5-6 or 7 times per week had progressively longer night sleep durations. However, I asked the authors whether longer night sleep durations were more associated with frequent bedtime routines or early bedtimes. Answer: “the biggest driver of nighttime sleep is what time a child goes to sleep.”
  2. Published studies have shown that the more consistent a bedtime routine is practiced, the longer the child sleeps at night. This means that mothers who followed the same sequence of events for a bedtime routine had children who slept longer at night. I asked the authors whether longer night sleep durations were more associated with consistent bedtime routines or early bedtimes. Answer: “Early bedtime is a more direct and stronger predictor of longer concurrent sleep durations from 3 to 24 months, above and beyond bedtime routine”
  3. Published studies have shown that maternal sleep-related cognitive biases about whether the night waking child is or is not going to feel abandoned or neglected at night, if unattended, affects sleep durations. I asked the authors whether longer night sleep durations were more associated with maternal sleep-related cognitions or early bedtimes.  Answer: “Early bedtime is more strongly correlated with long sleep durations than maternal cognitions.”  
  4. Published studies have shown sleep quality was worse in infants with slow development of sleep-wake rhythms. At 3 and 8 months, infants in the ‘Slow sleep-wake rhythm development’ group had longer naps, more difficulties in settling to sleep, longer times required to fall asleep (sleep-onset latency), shorter night sleep, and bedtimes that were about one hour later than the comparison group. Nowhere in the paper did the authors discuss the possibility that instead of a within-the-child problem called ‘slow sleep-wake rhythm development’, the actual problem was that the parents were putting their child to bed too late. In fact, in their discussion, the bedtime was not mentioned. I asked an author whether the sleep problems might be due to a parent-created late bedtime instead of a biological development delay within the child. Answer: It is true that when we examined the circadian rhythm development in this paper, we did not examine the effect that the bedtime had on this circadian rhythm development and/or control for bedtime. If the parents put their children late to bed, this would of course affect the sleep duration, and consequently our measure of circadian rhythm development. 

I asked the author (item 4): Please correct me if I am wrong, but I think all of your results could occur from a parent putting her child to bed too late. Late bedtimes are associated with increased latency to sleep, more night wakings, longer night wakings, (more Wake After Sleep Onset), less night and total sleep duration, plus sleep problems such as bedtime resistance and signaled night awakenings. If true, then slow maturation of sleep-wake circadian rhythms is not the problem. In addition, the good news is that there is a simple message to parents: move the bedtime earlier!

The author’s response: Yes, I totally agree with you! And I think this is one of the main “problems” in the sleep research in early childhood. Most of the child sleep patterns are directly dependent on the parents at these early stages, and as you mention here, the time the parents decide to put their child to sleep, might affect most of the sleep-wake patterns. We found that maternal eveningness was associated with most of the sleep problems in early childhood (Blog Post 70). And this makes a lot of sense; in our case, when Vera was born and I started noticing the relevance of early bedtime (and especially after having the discussions with you) my husband and I had first to change our schedules and start doing everything earlier (we started earlier our work schedule, earlier walks with Vera, and earlier dinner), in order to be able to start with earlier bedtimes (Blog Post 61). So basically, I would say that it should be a change in the organization of the family structure/organization of schedules. So yes, I agree that the sleep problems would improve if the bedtime becomes earlier, but for that, in many cases, the parents would need to become “early birds”, instead of “night owls”, which was more common in their lifestyles before the baby was born (now I do not know what is on TV after 10PM ????).

Taken together, these 4 observations emphasize the importance of early bedtimes. The four published papers discussed in detail the importance of bedtime frequency, bedtime consistency, maternal sleep-related cognitive biases, and biological maturation of the baby’s circadian sleep-wake rhythm. But none of these papers actually discussed the importance of early bedtimes.  However, all four authors, when they reanalyzed their data at my request, observed that early bedtimes were a strong or the strongest factor promoting longer nighttime sleep.

Additionally, here are three more published studies where I asked the authors about the importance of an early bedtime:

  • Dr. Miaobing Zheng (Blog Post 75) observed, in 2021, that in 315 Danish children between 2-6 years of age who were followed for 15 months, those children who showed an increase in sleep durations had better mental health outcomes compared to those who had the no change or a decrease in their sleep durations. I asked her whether the quality of night sleep (Blog Post 15) might be more important than the duration of sleep. Specifically, on the importance of an early bedtime as a contributor to better quality sleep? Her response: “This is a great point and I couldn’t agree more.”
  • A 2022 paper concluded that “Our study found that night waking frequency associates with higher number of mental health problems in adolescents at the ages of 13-14 years old. I asked an author to analyze the relationship between night waking frequency and the bedtime and she observed that they were correlated with each other. I then asked her if the correlations had been presented and discussed in the paper, would the ‘Conclusion’ in the abstract have included ‘the bedtime’ as in “Further special attention should be given to gender differences and the bedtime when addressing sleep and mental health’? She responded: “Yes, I agree that for future research it would be good to pay further attention to the role of the bedtime.” 
  • A 2022 paper observed “An interaction between bedtime and preschool depression severity, indicating that children with the earliest bedtimes and the lowest level of depression showed the largest grey matter volume (representing the concentration of nerve cell bodies in the brain).” In the context of multiple comparisons, this association did not reach statistical significance. However, early bedtimes were significantly associated with more sleep regularity and longer sleep durations. I asked the lead author, given these correlations, how to view the clinical importance of early bedtimes? She answered, “I think these results generally underscore the importance of early bedtimes in young children. We know exposures/experiences in early childhood can have long term effect on neurodevelopment, and late bedtimes may be one pathway through which maladaptive neurodevelopmental trajectories emerge.”

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  1. Hello,
    I have been reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and am finding it very informative. My son is currently 21 weeks old (born 2 and a half weeks early) and I am having trouble with his naps as well as nighttime sleep. He goes to bed between 9-10pm and since he turned 4 months, he will wake up 2-3 times a night, the first wake up beginning anywhere from midnight to 3am. His daytime naps are all over the place. I have to rock him to sleep for each nap and they only last 30 minutes each. I would say that he doesn’t get more that an hour and a half to two hours of cumulative nap time a day.
    I really want to start the extinction method as soon as possible but I’m not sure where to start. What time should I make his new bedtime? Or do I start the extinction method with his usual bedtime of 9pm? Do I use extinction for bedtime and naps at the same time?

    1. Because fathers are usually not as sleep-deprived as mothers, make your husband read the section ‘Extinction’ in my book to fine-tune your efforts. Also, read Blog Posts #7 and 74.
      Extinction will work well in just a few days if, and only if, he does not get a second wind from a bedtime that is too late.
      Because naps only begin to develop into predictable patterns between 4-6 months, the bedtime will vary from night to night for a while but 9pm is definitely too late. Blog Posts 9 and 83 describe how and when to choose a bedtime. Also read ‘Parents’ Reports’ section ‘Bedtime’. It is possible that you will do soothing and night feeding and leave the room for the night as early as 5:30pm.
      If you are too sleepy to do any more reading, make your husband do the reading. Let me know if he is not supportive.
      Keep a detailed record regarding day time and night time onset of sleep and duration of sleep periods as well as number and duration of crying episodes at night .
      Be optimistic and expect to see improvement in 2-3 nights.
      How does this sound to you?

  2. Hi Dr. Weissbluth,
    Thank you so much for your response. This sounds great, I will speak to my husband about the reading and I myself will try to get the reading done as soon as possible so we can start the training.
    I appreciate your advice!

  3. Hi Dr. Weissbluth,
    I have been doing the extinction method for just over a week now. We went from a 9pm bedtime gradually down to a 7-7:30pm bedtime.
    On night 3 (Wednesday night) of sleep training, he slept from 7:50pm-5:15am. Had a quick feeding and went back to bed until 7am. On Wednesday during the day, he slept a total of two hours (split between three naps).
    On night 4, he slept from 7:30pm-4:25am. Fed and went back to sleep from 4:55am-7am. Total nap time on Thursday was 2 hours (split between four naps)
    From then on, he has started going to bed between 7-7:30pm and will wake up again between midnight to 2am for a feeding and then will sleep until 6am-6:30am.
    I’m not sure why he would initially sleep for so many consecutive hours on nights 3 and 4 and now wakes up for feedings earlier. Do you think I should move the bedtime to a little later? In addition, is it normal that he is still waking up for a night feeding at five months? His last feeding before bed is between 5-5:30pm. Thank you.

    1. Is he breast-fed or bottle-fed?
      Currently, what is usual the timing of the 2 naps?
      Currently, how does he behave and look when by himself (not soothed, unattended, no screens) between 6-7PM?

  4. He is breast-fed and bottle fed.
    Because he is waking up earlier, the first nap is usually around 8:20am. After that the naps are all over the place – sometimes he will have another half hour nap at 10am, another half hour nap at around 2pm and another around 4pm. (All only half an hour)
    The last 2 days however, he has only had 2 naps – one at 8:20am that lasted approximately an hour and fifteen minutes and the second nap at about 2:30pm that also lasted an hour and fifteen minutes. He did get tired today at noon and again at 5:30-6pm. At 6pm I started feeding him and he started dozing off so I kept trying to keep him awake to finish his feeding. He caught a second wind halfway through his feeding. He finished his feeding at 6:30 and then had quite a bit of energy between 6:30-7 pm where he was playing on his own with a toy. He got quiet at 7 where I begin his bedtime routine.

    1. On 12/17: “His daytime naps are all over the place. I have to rock him to sleep for each nap and they only last 30 minutes each. I would say that he doesn’t get more that an hour and a half to two hours of cumulative nap time a day.”
      You moved the bedtime earlier from 9-10pm then to 7-7:30pm and, although not every night, some nights had very long sleep periods. This is a dramatic improvement!
      Also, now, on 12/29 “The last 2 days however, he has only had 2 naps – one at 8:20am that lasted approximately an hour and fifteen minutes and the second nap at about 2:30pm that also lasted an hour and fifteen minutes.”
      The sometimes very long sleep periods and consolidation of naps is because you moved the bedtime earlier. You asked, “Do you think I should move the bedtime to a little later?”
      But, “He did get tired today…at 5:30-6pm. At 6pm I started feeding him and he started dozing off…He caught a second wind halfway through his feeding…and then had quite a bit of energy between 6:30-7 pm where he was playing on his own with a toy”. These observations tell you that, although he was helped by moving the bedtime 7-7:30, sometimes he will need a bedtime much earlier. As early as 5:30pm based on drowsy signs and how he naps during the day.
      Please read the section on ‘Cumulative Sleepiness’ in my book to better understand why the improvement that you now see will disappear in the future if you fail to sometimes move the bedtime much earlier. This is temporary! As the brain and naps mature, he will no longer appear tired at 5:30-6pm and the bedtime will be around 7ish. The more you can protect his naps and maintain a super-early bedtime, the faster this will occur.
      Regarding night feedings, please have your husband bottle feed at night for 3 consecutive nights and try to determine whether he is truly hungry by observing how much he takes and how quickly. For example, you might decide to always go to him around 4-5 am because he is definitely hungry, wet, or soiled and needs attention but not feed him before then. Alternatively, maybe on some occasions when you breast feed at bedtime, if occasionally your breast milk supply is sometimes low then, he might really be hungry around 2am. Based on your observations and your desire to breast-feed, there might, or might not, be a benefit in a lactation consultation.
      How do you feel about all of this?

  5. Hi Dr. Weissbluth,
    As always, thank you very much for your thorough and informative responses. I’ve read the ‘Cumulative Sleepiness’ section in your book and it makes sense that the accumulation of sleep deficits can have negative long-term effects. You mentioned that I should temporarily move his bedtime to 5:30pm and to protect his naps. Should I be moving his bedtime to 5:30pm until his naps become more regular? And what do you mean by protecting his naps? Was the 8:30am and 2:30pm of an hour and fifteen minutes each normal?
    Regarding the night feedings, I will have my husband do the feedings the next three nights and observe whether my son really is hungry or not and then go from there.
    Thank you!

    1. Your son is about 5 months of age, so it is normal for naps to vary from day to day. The key is to watch for drowsy signs and try to provide nap opportunities when drowsy (‘protect naps’). Naps will become more predictable (time of day and duration) after 6 months of age and there will be occasions when a needed nap has to be skipped due to some unavoidable issue. Some parents, however, skip naps for their own convenience, and if done too often, this leads to sleeping problems. Your son is becoming a great sleeper and the more careful you are now to make sure he gets the naps he needs (‘protect naps’) the faster he will develop healthy sleep habits. When he is a little older and totally well-rested (after 6 months of age), skipping or missing a nap occasionally will probably not be a big deal.
      Now, because of his age, there is more variability in his naps (time of day and duration) so there is more variability in his bedtime.
      Does this help?

  6. Hi Dr. Weissbluth – thanks for all of your insights on your blog and in your book, which we are reading now. Our 3-month old daughter has really benefitted from your practices, she is going down between 645-715pm (based on last nap end time and period of wakefulness) with no crying, and she sleeps for several hours. Per advice from our pediatrician we dropped from 2 night feeds (roughly midnight and 4 / 5 am) to 1 feed. She is doing really well with this too. However the past few nights she has woken around 10:45/11pm and cried for 15-30 mins. These are not just whimpers but louder cries. Both nights we have let her cry (after checking her diaper and knowing she is OK), and she soothes herself to sleep. Based on her pre-bed feed time, I don’t believe she is hungry already when she wakes up at this time. Additionally, once she does soothe herself, she sleeps until 3 or 4 am happily, and is a happy baby when we get her up for the day at 730. Is there anything we can be doing differently in the naps or bedtime routine to help ease her into the first part of the night and prevent the 10:45pm wake-up? I know it important for infants to get very good sleep particularly at the beginning of the night. thanks so much!

    1. Perhaps she has developed cumulative sleepiness (Blog Post 84) from a bedtime that is slightly too late. Pay more attention to drowsy signs (Blog Post 9) between 4-6pm and experiment with an earlier bedtime (6-6:30pm) for 2-3 nights only. If she falls asleep earlier, that’s proof that her old bedtime was too late. If so, the night wakings will disappear. How does this sound?

  7. Hi Dr. Weissbluth, thank you for your input. I have been focusing on protecting his naps and they’ve been going fairly well. Night sleep has also been going well, but there is such variation in the duration of uninterrupted sleep – sometimes he will sleep six hours straight and other times will sleep nine hours straight. Whether he sleeps for six hours or nine hours, he seems to be hungry. The majority of the time, he sleeps for six uninterrupted hours and then gets up for a feeding. Is this normal/okay that he is not sleeping for longer uninterrupted periods? I’m afraid of this causing a sleep debt – is there anything I can try to help him sleep for longer stretches?
    I would also like your advice on morning wake up. I usually wake him up between 7:00-7:30am. If he wants to sleep for longer, should I let him or should I continue to wake him up at the same time each morning (that said, there are still many mornings that he will wake up between 6am-7am on his own).

    1. Please enjoy the 6 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep and do not worry about night to night variability, as long as he appears well rested most of the time.
      Why do you awaken him at 7:00 to 7:30am?
      is there an association between his early wake ups (6 to 7am) and his sleeping later with the bedtime?

  8. I read from a few sources that they should start the day at the same time each morning. Should I be letting him sleep until he wakes up on his own?
    The earlier 6-7am wake up versus him wanting to sleep later seem to be more associated with how he sleeps during the night and if he wakes up in the middle of the night and takes a while to fall back to sleep.

    1. What sources?
      I suggest that you let him wake up spontaneously and adjust the mid morning nap earlier or later based on drowsy signs.

  9. I Googled it and found from multiple sources saying that waking baby up at the same time each morning help provide baby with a consistent routine. I decided to ask for your opinion because I realized that it might take sleep away from my son by doing that if he didn’t have a great night sleep. I appreciate your input, I will definitely let him sleep until he wakes up on his own.

  10. Hi Dr Weissbluth – We have a 6 mos old who has been sleeping terribly since 4 months. We feel like we’ve tried everything and we’re unsure what to do at this point. Like clockwork at 4 months Ada started waking up frequently throughout the night, not to eat, just to cry out and sometimes cry for prolonged periods (30-50 minutes with breaks) but isn’t hungry. This happens at any time during the night; there’s no pattern, sometimes it’s the first half, sometimes it’s the second; can be six or more times a night. I nurse her once a night. Aside from that, we’ve done full extinction, but it didn’t help. We put her down around 5 PM; she’s too tired to even do a full feed. She wakes up around 5 or 6 AM. She’s clearly at a sleep deficit. Her naps never consolidated and she takes 2-3 30-50-minute naps a day, wakes up crying and will not go back to sleep unless we let her cry hard for 40-plus minutes, and sometimes not even then. So we’ve tried cry it out; we’ve tried going into sooth but don’t pick up; we’ve tried early bedtime. Our next move is to try to shift the timing of her naps more towards 9 AM and 12-2 PM but it’s very hard when she wakes up so early. Her wake windows are 1.5-2 hours; she doesn’t really give drowsy cues, but goes straight to fatigue. Thank you for your thoughts!

    1. Thank you.
      With the early bedtime in place, for how many nights have you done extinction? What was the date that you started extinction? Were you 100% consistent in ignoring all her cries except for the single feeding during all those nights? When she cries out at night, is the crying usually mild, moderate, intense, or a mixture with no pattern?
      Regarding the wake up time: Previously (1/17) you wrote, “We started waking her to start the day at about 6 the past two mornings because we worried if she slept too much at night it would impede napping. Otherwise she’ll sleep to between 6:30-7:30.” Now you state, “She wakes up around 5 or 6 AM.” Please clarify.
      For how many days have you attempted to nap her at about 9am and 12-2pm?
      During the day, I know that she is not sleeping well, but have you seen any improvement in her behavior or mood since you went to a much earlier bedtime?
      I am sorry to have to ask you all these questions but sometimes small details make a big difference.

  11. Hi – We started an earlier bedtime (5:30-6 PM) in January, but that was with 2 feeds, one around 9-10 PM and one around 1-3 AM. Other than those feeds, we did not ever go in when she cried. On 1/14 we pushed bedtime back to 5-5:30 PM and did only one night feed around 1-3 AM. There were 2X since then when we went in to try to comfort her besides the feeds because she was crying very, very hard for a long time. Other than that, we have only gone in for the feeds. In general her cries are moderate, but there are times when they’re intense; she cried once for 50 minutes very hard two weeks ago and her voice is still very hoarse when she vocalizes. That’s why we went in those 2X since to try to avoid her screaming herself hoarse further.

    We woke her twice because she had slept till 6:30-7:30 a couple of times, but she hasn’t done that since. She wakes up sometimes at 4:30-5:30, which is when we started the day. But generally it’s around 5:30-6. But there is a bit of variability; she’s very inconsistent with sleep in general. We haven’t been able to try the 9 and 12-2 nap schedule because she is so exhausted 1.5 hours after waking that we can’t make it to 9 AM. We have not seen an improvement in her mood during the day. She is fussy and tired in a way she wasn’t a month or so ago.

    Here’s the notes from last night if they’re helpful: Fed at 5 and down at 5:12. Up at 7:30 and crying moderately until 7:47. Asleep until 7:53 then up until 8:35. Up again at 11:10 briefly. Up at 2:46 to nurse. Down at 3:10. Up at 4:29 to 4:47 crying moderately. Up at 6:05 to nurse, slept on me a bit while nursing then very wide awake. I don’t think we’ll be able to get her to 9 AM for a nap.

    Thank you

    1. Since 1/14 you have had a super-early bedtime, extinction, and one feeding at night; does she appear any better well-rested upon awakening in the morning compared to before 1/14?
      With a monitor or checking on her at night, does she snore or mouth breathe while asleep at night?
      Would it be possible for you and your husband to abandon past nap attempts (in crib on a schedule) for 3-4 days and instead, do whatever it takes to get more sleep during the day (holding her, strollers, swings, car rides, etc). The idea is to temporarily (3-4 days) try to get more day sleep without a schedule to see if her night sleep improves. If successful, after the trial, with improved night sleep (this might take more than the 3-4 day trial), she will wake up in the morning better rested. If so, then an attempt at the ‘nap drill’ might be successful.
      If this does not seem like a good idea or it fails, a community sleep consultant, for example (Family Sleep Institute) might discover something that I am missing and be more helpful.

  12. Hi – No, the early bedtime doesn’t seem to have corresponded with indications that she’s better rested. She does not sleep with her mouth open or snore. We can do a nap drill today and tomorrow but Ada starts daycare Monday (and I go back to work), which is terrible timing.

    1. With the added variables of Daycare and you returning to work, I guess my suggestion of maximizing day sleep as mentioned previously is undoable. If the nap drill fails, please consider a consultation with a community sleep consultant.

  13. If we are maximizing sleep today, should we wake her if she takes an extra long nap? Instead of the car, we put her back in the SNOO, where she slept well for the first 3 months. She’s been asleep from 9:10 AM. Thank you

    1. The idea is that the more well rested she is during the day, the more deep and consolidated her sleep might be at night. So please do not wake her from a nap. My understanding is that it is sometimes very difficult to wean a child from a Snoo. Do you think that using the Snoo when she was younger both helped her sleep well when younger but then may have contributed to her nap difficulties later?

  14. Hi – We had a period when we had weaned out of the SNOO and was sleeping as well as when she was in it, but it stopped around 4 months. We got the snoo because she refused to be put down when she was born and we had to hold her or she wouldn’t sleep. The snoo helped with that. It seems like at 4 months she just forgot how to stay asleep…

  15. Hi – Just wondering if the details of our transition from SNOO lead to any further thoughts. In late November (the 24th) we had her in the SNOO but stopped using the motion/sound features, so were using it as a regular bassinet. It went very well initially and we were even able to drop a night feeding 3 days into the change.

    Following indications of solid sleep (went to bed between 6:30-7:00pm, one night waking between 1-2:30am, slept until 6:30-7:30am) we moved her into her crib and a transition swaddle and continued to have decent sleep for a few nights.

    But about a week after that, the major sleep problems began, which we thought must be the 4-month sleep regression. At that point we read that it would not be possible for her to sleep through the night and we should do what was necessary to give her comfort. So we would attempt to soothe her as much as 4-5x per night.

    By mid-December, we realized that wasn’t working at all so we stopped going in to soothe and let her cry every time she woke up (frequently throughout the night as previously shared with you) and just went in to feed her. That also didn’t seem to go anywhere.

    In mid-January, we did go in a couple of times to soothe because she had cried herself hoarse and we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere (maybe 3x in two weeks).

    Do you think that is enough to undermine extinction? She would go back and do a full extinction protocol? Any further thoughts based on this information are appreciated; I also reached out to a sleep consultant but I am weary they’ll have anything to add. Thank you

    1. Cumulative sleepiness from a bedtime that was too late may have triggered “the major sleep problems.” Also, extinction rarely works when the bedtime is too late. The combination of an early bedtime plus extinction seemed to also not work well these past several nights. I have heard that Snoo might be associated with difficulties in ‘weaning’ off the Snoo but you seem to have initially made an easy transition, so I am perplexed. In discussing the Snoo with the director of the Family Sleep Institute, she indicated that some of her certified sleep consultants have worked with families who had previously used the Snoo, so perhaps reach out to her to see if she has a certified sleep consultant near you (or not because this can often be handled remotely) that she would recommend. I sincerely wish that I could have been more helpful. Please give me a follow up report.

  16. Hi Dr. Weissbluth,
    To be honest I didn’t look that much into it (re data from the sources) but I have been letting my son wake up on his own in the mornings and protecting his naps and it has made a world of difference so I really appreciate your advice! He has begun to have two naps during the day of an hour and a half each (previously his naps were no more than 30-40 minutes). And he’s been sleeping a full 10 hours most nights. The only issue I have now is if he goes to sleep at 7, he will wake up at 5am.
    Thank you again!

    1. You might experiment with a bedtime that is 15-20 minutes earlier for 3 nights followed by a bedtime that is 15-20 minutes later for 3 nights to see if one of these changes cause you son to wake up later…or temporarily, just go to bed earlier yourself to cope with his 5am wake-ups.

  17. Dear Mr. Weissbluth,

    I am so sorry if I ask too much, probably you receive ton of questions anyway, so I don’t know if my message will find you. Anyway, I need to ask because I am in an impossible early wake up situation that comes and goes for months and 3 sleep consultants told me that I don’t have any solutions just to wait.

    Thank you for all the wonderful advice on your profile and also for the insightful book that I read. I’ve read the solution is early bedtime at night but I believe this did not work for us.

    Right now my son is 1y4m old and the early wake up between 5-6 am started around two weeks ago. We have transitioned to one nap, started from 11:30 and went up until 12.
    There are days with 2 naps (they only were 2 days in 1 month of transition because we started Kineto therapy for a leg problem and at 10 when we get back he is asleep in the car, because it’s just the two of us and no one can entertain him).

    The first 2 weeks of the transition was perfect. He was sleeping 11-12 hours and woke up between 6:30-7 am, but after that he went again to early wakings for 2 weeks.

    The last week program looks like this :

    NAP 1 (CAR):10:06-10:51
    NAP 2: 13:55-15:37
    NS: 20:02 – 5:25


    NS: 18:47-5:36

    NAP: 12-14:39
    NS: 19:30-5:50


    NS: 19:50-5:37

    NAP: 2:01-14:06
    NS: 18:50-5:03

    More info:
    – My son is falling asleep on his own, using a toy and sucking his tooth.
    – My responses to the early wakings were not to go there for 45 min – 1 hour since he woke up, but there were cases when he was ill (like 1 week ago when I needed to go to check his temperature and I also breastfeeded because he was crying for it). The early waking period this time started previous to the illness.
    – For the one nap it takes around 5 minutes to fall asleep because he is extremely tired by 12 pm. At night around 20-30 minutes. Longer when his nap was short and I put him to bed 18 pm.
    – Usually he is cheerful, but because of the transition he really has mood swings. If something is not happening as he wants, he immediately goes into cranky phase.

    We had early waking as a sign of the transition for almost a month and also he started refusing the first nap for a few days so I decided it’s time at 15 months of age. Previously, we had other such periods at 9 months, then at 12 months regression for about 1 and a half months. We’ve been, as I said, on and off this periods so I could not conclude that this is genetic early wake up.

    Thanks a lot for your help in advance!

    1. What is your specific question?
      How is his mood and behavior during the hour before bedtime at night when he is alone with toys (no screens or parental interaction)?

  18. My specific question is how can I get rid of the early waking?

    One hour prior to bedtime he is usually Happy, he has a lot of parental interraction, no screens.

    1. How is his mood and behavior during the hour before bedtime at night when he is alone with toys (no screens or parental interaction)?

      Leave him alone during that hour and tell me how he behaves and his mood.

  19. He is quite different from when he had 2 naps and he was ok with them. He is slower, more chaotic and usually wants to confort with His toy (maybe too much).

    1. Most likely, his current bedtime(s), which might have been fine when he regularly took 2 naps, are too late.

  20. Hello again Dr. Weissbluth! Our son is almost a year old and is doing so well. Everyone who meets him remarks what a happy baby he is, and I always respond “because he’s a well-rested baby”!
    Occasionally I feel he may benefit from a slightly earlier bedtime, based on his mood or previous sleep disruption due to travel, etc.
    Currently, last bottle aroun 6:00pm, in crib by 6:30, generally asleep by 7.
    However when his second nap ends at 3:30 or 4, due to start time or duration, he is not willing to fall asleep earlier. He seems to pretty consistently fall asleep for night at about 3.5 hours after waking from his last nap. Any suggestions about how to move bedtime up if it seems necessary?
    Thank you!

    1. Congratulations Beth!
      A variable bedtime is to be expected due to variable naps, physical activity, and special events. My only suggestion is to get in the habit of watching his mood and behavior between 4-5pm and mentally noting how he napped that day. Then, make a determination whether the bedtime might be a little earlier or later.
      Also, as he begins a transition to a single nap, temporarily, he might need an even earlier bedtime then you are accustomed to.

    2. Hi Beth,
      Would you be able to write a narrative report reflecting on your current sleep adventure that I would post (anonymously, if you wish) on my Blog?

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