Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

5th Edition: 
A Step-by-Step Program for a Good Night's Sleep

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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

5th Edition: 
A Step-by-Step Program for a Good Night's Sleep

Buy now

Report 4Reset

Introduction

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.

I would consider a 5:30 reset once a month to be a completely normal variation. I have three kids, and one of them (my oldest) is like that. The other two make up the missed sleep from a cold or trip themselves. My oldest does not! About the only thing that gets him extra sleep is an earlier bedtime. We do travel a lot (we live at least five hours from all family) and have visitors a lot (one or the other at least once a month). If you are using the reset because of illness, travel, et cetera, you are just doing your job.

We do this when our son skips a nap or when his naps are way too short (thirty minutes) and he is getting overtired. Last week he went to bed at 5:15 p.m. and woke up at 6:30 the next morning, with two or three night feeds. We have noticed that this reset seems to work but with a delayed effect. His naps get longer the morning after the early bedtime, but they are out of sync (8:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m.). It usually takes one more day of a 6:00 p.m. bedtime for him to be on the proper schedule (9:00 a.m., noon). Then we go back to our regular schedule, with bedtime between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m., depending on if he gets a third nap. No matter when bedtime is, he wakes up at 6:20 a.m. on the dot. Knowing he won’t wake up earlier (or later, for that matter) encourages us to put him to bed early for his sake.

Comments

  1. Hi Dr. Weisbluth,

    I’m wondering if I “over-did it” with our “reset.” My 17 month old was overtired and adjusting from messed up sleep on a 4 day long vacation to Hawaii (4 hour time difference from home). To remedy this, for the past almost 2 weeks, we put her down for an earlier bedtime — she now reliably falls asleep between 6-7pm on our time zone. I’ve also been attentive to her sleepy cues (which leads to a single nap starting at 11-11:30am).

    However, her naps are only 1-1.5 hrs (rather than the 2-3 hours she was consistently getting before our trip). She wakes up from her nap screaming and very unhappy (overtired sign?) whereas previously her wake ups were much more peaceful. She’s also waking up between 5-6am, which is earlier than I’d like. (I would prefer at least an hour of awake time for myself before she wakes up.) Before our trip she awoke between 6:30-7am.

    Is the short nap possibly a symptom of an 18 month sleep regression and not related to the recent travel?
    She has a younger sibling arriving in a couple of months, and it seems that sometimes she understands that and may be anxious about it.

    Are we putting her down for the night too early (“overdoing it” re: the reset) causing the early morning rising?

    Thanks.

    1. Please describe her mood and behavior between 5-6pm when alone with toys (no screens or parental interaction).

  2. Usually we eat dinner together between 5-6pm, which usually involves significant engagement with parents. But today I fed her earlier so I could observe her alone with her toys. For most of the hour she kept wanting to engage with me. Brought me books to read to her. Brought me a puzzle to do with her. Continuously looked at me to see my reaction to certain things she was doing. When she didn’t do that she was somewhat calm and focused on her toys. She got excited and talkative from time to time depending on what she was doing. She rubbed her eyes for the first time at 5:45pm, after which she became a bit more clingy to me (her mother). Soon after asked for a bottle and became attached to that for a short while.

    I tried to start her evening routine at 6:10pm. When the lights went dim and I took her to our chair to read a book, she whined and fought me a bit. She allowed me to read part of her bedtime book before wriggling away to keep playing, so I let her. At 6:20pm she crawled back to the chair, showing that she was amendable to reading / cuddling / winding down again. She was asleep at 6:33pm in crib w/ no crying.

    She slept through the night (except for a brief waking at 9pm; she soothed herself quickly) and woke up at 5:20am.

    1. “She rubbed her eyes for the first time at 5:45pm, after which she became a bit more clingy to me (her mother)…I tried to start her evening routine at 6:10pm. When the lights went dim and I took her to our chair to read a book, she whined and fought me a bit.” Please read Blog Post 9 and watch the video at Blog Post 115X to better understand why she temporarily needs a 5:30pm falling asleep time. That is, you are doing everything you presently do, but earlier, so that you are leaving her room (lights out) at 5:30pm. Monitor her sleep and how she awakens from her nap. Try this for 3 nights and then let me know how it goes. This super early bedtime is temporary to repay an accumulated sleep debt. Later, her bedtime might be 6-6:30 but probably not 7. How do you feel about this?

  3. Thank you! Blog #9 is helpful — I see now how she could be skipping drowsy signs and going straight to fatigue signs. My only concern is that the very early bedtime will not cause later morning wake-ups, leading to a continued cycle of too-early days. However, we are desperate — she took about a half-hour to stop wailing upon waking from her nap today (only 1 hr 10 min again). I will try the 5:30pm bedtime (starting her evening routine at 5pm) and report back.

  4. I just put her down at 5:25pm and she was quiet in her crib for 6 min until she started crying. Is there a certain time period that you recommend letting a kid cry it out during a “reset”? She woke up from her nap at 1:52pm so she only had about 3.5 hours of awake time before bed.

    She is / was sleep-trained using the extinction method at 6 months old, but her schedule has been so off recently that even though we always put her down “drowsy” (or so I thought) but awake, I think she’s used to being soothed more, and may cry for awhile.

  5. Sorry to bother you again, one additional question if you have time: how do I know when to put her down for a nap if she’s not showing drowsy signs?

    1. Drowsy signs indicate that her brain is shifting into sleep mode. Because of your past experience, you may know when your daughter needs to nap and you begin a wind-down or soothing to sleep for nap time based on the duration of her prior wakefulness and the quality of her previous sleep period. Trust your instincts! Because you have learned a lot to ‘know’ when she needs to sleep, you might have perfect timing and not see drowsy signs. Does this make sense?

  6. UPDATE – “reset” for chronic fatigue

    Day 1 – Sunday 8/6
    Morning: Woke 6:20am.
    Nap: 12:42pm – 1:52pm. 1 hr 10 min. She sobbed uncontrollably again for ~15 min upon waking. Inconsolable.
    Evening: Went in crib at 5:25pm surprisingly w/ no crying. 6:31pm started crying. Not very hard crying; soothed herself in less than 10 min. Awoke and cried again at 9pm; I soothed her with rocking and a bottle for ~10min. Slept thru the night after that!

    Day 2 – Monday 8/7
    Morning: Woke 5:55am.
    Nap: 11:35-12:40pm. 1 hr 5 min. She fought going down pretty hard. Cried after nap but not as long as usual.
    Evening: Down for night at 5:18pm w/ no crying. Started crying at 5:20pm very hard; let her cry for a little over 10 min. Then dad soothed her w/ bottle until falling asleep at 5:40pm. (She first rubbed eyes and yawned at 4:40pm – I think since her nap was earlier today, I waited a bit too long to turn lights off & soothe her to sleep – may have been slightly overtired this evening).

    Day 3 – Tues 8/8
    Morning: Slept thru night and awoke at 6:14am.
    Nap: 12:22-2:45pm. Nearly 2.5 hours, the longest nap in weeks. Woke up happy w/ NO crying! Incredible.
    Evening: Started trying to put her down around 5:30pm; fought bedtime HARD, I think b/c her nap lasted so long. Perhaps I should’ve woken her up? After struggling for awhile, Mom let Dad takeover – He held and rocked her with the lights off from 6:20-6:40pm. Woke up twice during night (11pm & 4am) – let cry a bit but needed parental soothing both times.

    Wed 8/9, Thurs 8/10
    Both days woke up around 6:50am; went down for a nap a little after 12pm. Wed napped 1.5 hrs; only a bit irritable upon waking. Thurs napped 2 hrs 20 min; happy / content upon waking. Slept through night both nights.

    Overall I think it was a success and she’s caught up on sleep, indicated by her improved mood, especially upon waking from naps. Goal for the future is to aim for 6-6:30pm bedtime (adjusted earlier for a short nap, and realistically realizing she may not fall sleep until 6:45/7pm if the nap is longer. Planning to wake her from naps if they exceed 2.5 hours).

    Thank you, Dr. Weissbluth, for your help!!

    1. You are welcome. Please consider writing a narrative report on your experience with a ‘reset’. Some parents are afraid to try it because they fear that their child will get up to start the day too early. Or a parent returning home from work will not allow their child to be put to bed so early because they might not see their child. If you write a narrative report, let me know if it is to be anonymous or not because I will publish it as a Blog Post on my website.

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Real life events will occasionally disrupt your child’s sleep and cause a sleep debt to occur. A reset is an extremely early bedtime (for example, 5:30 PM) that is strictly enforced (Extinction) for only one night to pay back a sleep debt.
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