How many times have you been watching your little one (especially a toddler) smile and play and even entertain an entire room with their charm? All while thinking to yourself that there’s no way they are ready for bed even though it’s 8pm. But then…bedtime is a HUGE struggle and you’ve got a bedtime battle on your hands.
If there’s anything that can send your child’s sleep off the rails, if there’s an arch-enemy for sleep training, it is, without a doubt, the dreaded condition of overtiredness.
Kids, as with all people, have a natural rhythm when it comes to sleep. Our bodies secrete hormones to keep us up and running during the day, and different ones to help us rest at night. They’re dependent on a variety of factors, but timing is the most prevalent.
So what happens when your little one stays awake past the time when these natural cues to sleep are activated? Well, the body assumes there’s a reason that it hasn’t been allowed to get to sleep, assumes there’s a need to stay awake, and fires up those daytime hormones again.
And that’s when the trouble starts.
Because once those signals to stay awake get fired up, they’re tough to shut down, and baby’s already tired. So less sleep leads to more daytime hormones, and the cycle perpetuates itself.
So the best way to prevent this situation is to get baby to sleep before they get past that window of opportunity. But babies, especially newborns, are a little bit cryptic when it comes to signaling when they’re ready for bed. However, if you know what to look for, it can work wonders in assessing the right time to put baby down.
Some good signs to watch for include tugging at their ears, or rubbing their eyes and nose, arching their back, red eyes and turning their face into your chest.
Now, those are all strong signs that your baby’s ready for bed, but they’re also easily mistaken for signs that your baby’s hungry, so it’s best to combine your keen eye for signals with a keen eye on the clock.
Newborns can usually only handle about an hour of awake time in a stretch, so make a note of the time when they wake up and set a reminder or make a mental note that they need to be headed down for a nap around 60 short minutes after that.
They’ll be able to stay awake for longer stretches as they get older, but even babies who are 3-5 months should only be awake for around an hour and a half to two hours at a time, so stay aware of the schedule and error on the side of more sleep, not less.
I know that this schedule can sound a little rigid for parents who aren’t used to it. After all, an hour at a time is barely enough time to get a diaper changed, a feed in, and a little bit of playtime before baby’s got to get back into their crib and down for another nap. But I can assure you, no client I’ve ever worked with has ever come back to me after implementing it and said, “I have a feeling that baby’s getting too much sleep.”
So give it a try for a couple of weeks and see how it works. I can almost guarantee you’ll be seeing a happier baby