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.
To better understand the importance of sleep timing (when your child falls asleep), appreciate the fact that there is a genetically controlled and automatic circadian sleep rhythm (Blog Post 112). This 24-hour rhythm of brain output is for sleep and wakefulness; it develops in infancy, and changes as the child develops. Parents cannot change this rhythm. Parents can guarantee high-quality sleep when they soothe their child to sleep as the brain shifts into the sleep mode. Chronic late bedtimes cause sleep deprivation, and this causes increased pressure to sleep so that the overtired child can actually sleep when the brain is in a more wakeful mode. But the result is poor-quality sleep.
• Late or irregular bedtimes cause lower academic test scores and are more harmful than short sleep durations.
A 2022 study of teen-agers between 15-16 years showed that staying up late at night and having more variable night-to-night bedtimes was associated with lower academic test scores. This study is notable because it used objective recordings of sleep measurements (actigraphy) and nationally standardized academic test scores. “The relationship between academic performance and sleep timing and consistency were more pronounced than that for sleep duration.” This means that it might be more important when your child falls asleep than how long your child sleeps.
• Children are larks, not owls. Children’s brains crave an early bedtime; they are ‘larks’, not ‘owls’ (Blog Post 70).
• Late bedtimes with normal sleep durations (due to later wake-up times, longer naps, or both) causes obesity in children (Blog Post 81), a shorter child (Blog Post 23), and behavioral problems (Blog post 69).
• Late bedtimes have become more common (Blog Post 69). This creates the false impression that it is ‘normal’ for children to fall asleep later. For example:
Bedtime (PM) by age:
• Late bedtimes cause sleep problems (Blog Post 7).
• Irregular bedtimes are harmful (Blog Post 12).
Why early bedtimes are important for children (Blog Posts 91 and 109) and their mothers (Blog Post 109).
Problems associated with late bedtimes are not widely appreciated (Blog Post 38 and 109).
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Dear Dr Weissbluth,
I hope you are well.
My family and I are from Cape Town South Africa.
I have read your book and we have applied all the principles, including the exctinction method to our baby since she was 3.5 months old. She is now 6 months old and is such a happy chap now that she is sleeping well!
I hope you don’t mind me asking you some questions regarding her sleep.
I wanted to know if it is seen as a bad thing if it takes her sometimes over 30mins to fall asleep on her own in her cot. Is there a way I can encourage this time to become shorter?
Another question I have is regarding her day naps. She sleeps through the night, usually from 6pm-4am, then has a quick feed and goes right back to sleep until about 7 or 7.30am. So her night time sleep is very good, but her day naps are always short. (30min -45min). She will always take all three naps (9am, 12pm and 3pm with bedtime at 6pm), but even though she takes them, they are short. Should I be concerned, if so, how can I encourage longer naps during the day?
I really appreciate all your help and resources. It has really given us such a happy home environment. She was a colic back for the first 2.5months, which caused a lot of tension in our marriage, but now that she is sleeping well everyone is so much happier for it.
“it takes her sometimes over 30mins to fall asleep on her own in her cot”; How is her mood and behavior during the hour before bedtime when she is unattended and not in front of a screen? What is the usual time when you begin a bedtime routine? What time at night does she usually fall asleep? Your answers will inform my response to your question about naps.
Hi Dr Marc, thanks for your response.
When she is in her cot, she no longer cries like she used to, but just excitedly shrieks and coos for about 30mins before all naps until she eventually falls asleep. Before her naps she usually plays with her toys in the living area, but no screens are involved. At bedtime however we do a bedtime routine and she often falls asleep much quicker. This is usually around 6 or 6.15pm, we like to start the routine around 5.30pm.
Please review Blog Post 9 and view Blog Post 115A to see if subtle drowsy signs are developing before your customary nap times and/or consider shortening the usual interval of wakefulness between her naps by 10-20 minutes for 4-5 days to see is she is less “frustrated in between naps.” Maybe the total tap time will increase. How does this sound? Let me know how it goes.
She is often frustrated in between naps, when we feed her she seems to be in a better mood.
Thank you! Sounds great; I will give this a try and will have a look at those blog posts. Appreciate the response.