Sometimes I have recommended to teenagers who are short on sleep that they take a five-day “sleep spa” treatment. No, that doesn’t mean having their parents book them into an expensive resort! It simply means dedicating five days to going to sleep earlier than usual.
Antonio was born two weeks early and without difficulty. I remember thinking several hours after his birth that he was going to be a very easy boy, since my pregnancy and delivery were both routine and relatively easy. Three days after we brought him home, however, I realized that my expectations might have been a little off.
Night waking may be associated with breastfeeding at night, a bedtime that is too late, or the failure of a child to learn self-soothing. Night waking is also a feature of babies with extreme fussiness/colic.
Don’t be a slave to a rigid bedtime hour or nap schedule. Once or twice a month, lighten up and enjoy holidays, family gatherings, or other special events. The well-rested child can easily tolerate infrequent missed naps or late bedtimes. But the sleep debt accumulated from the special event needs to be repaid! After the special event or illness, your child might be short on sleep and the strategy is a reset: A super-early bedtime for one night only and overnight, you might have to ignore protest crying. After a long holiday, especially if you cross multiple time zones, prepare yourself for one nasty re-entry night when you return home to fill up the now empty sleep tank.
Early bedtimes are based on drowsy signs (Blog Posts 7-9) because a late bedtime causes an increase in neurological arousal (a second wind) that interferes with falling asleep and staying asleep. Even a few minutes earlier might make a big difference (Blog Post 6). Better night sleep will cause better naps and as a result, and eventually, your child will be able to stay up later. A temporary, super-early bedtime might be needed to get things going. The wake-up time might be only a few minutes earlier or surprise, she might sleep in later! Sometimes, a slightly earlier bedtime alone, while responding to all crying, is an effective sleep solution for a parent that does not want to let her child cry.
Graduated Extinction and Extinction are safe and fast methods to help your child learn how to fall asleep at bedtime and return to sleep in the middle of the night unassisted (Blog Posts 24-27). Both methods work best when the bedtime is early, based on drowsy signs (Blog Posts 7-9) because a late bedtime causes an increase in neurological arousal (a second wind) that interferes with falling asleep. The younger the child is when you start, the better the outcome. Better night sleep will cause better naps and as a result, and eventually, your child will be able to stay up later. A temporary, super-early bedtime might be needed to get things going. When you establish an early bedtime, the wake-up time might be only a few minutes earlier or surprise, she might sleep in later!
Some statements are easy to understand and easy to study, for example: “teething causes sleep disruptions”. This popular myth, and others are clearly identified as false statements in scientific publications.
Cultural Differences in Maternal Sleep-Related Cognitive Biases
"Expectant mothers who strongly tended to interpret infant night-waking as a sign of infant distress that requires immediate intervention were more likely to get actively involved in settling their infants to sleep, and their infants had more night-wakings, compared to infants of mothers who were more likely to endorse cognitions emphasizing the importance of promoting infant self-soothing."