One of the biggest myths about your child’s sleep is if you keep a baby or toddler awake in the day they will be so tired that they will sleep better at night. Nothing could be further from the truth. In actual fact, “sleep begets sleep” – in other words, a good day routine results in a rested baby who will sleep better at night.
So having debunked that myth, how do we go about establishing a good day sleep routine? The human brain goes through cycles of drowsiness during the day that is related to the amount of time a person can keep productively awake according to his age. When you reach a certain time of day, your brain releases neurotransmitters to prepare you for sleep – after childhood, this occurs after about 6 hours of being awake, which is why after lunch hour you could happily drift off to sleep.
Babies awake times are very short, only 45minutes to an hour for newborns, up to 4/5 hours for a toddler. So the first principle is to know your baby’s awake times and settle them to sleep during the day after that amount of time has passed. By watching awake times your baby will establish a healthy, age-appropriate day sleep routine.
- Awake times are the length of time between periods of sleep – the optimal time your baby can manage to be awake before needing a sleep.
- To measure your baby’s Awake Time, take note of the time she wakes from her sleep and settle her to sleep at the age-appropriate time
⭕ Make sure that your baby or toddler is having the appropriate awake time for his/her age:
➡ 0-6 weeks = 45 min
➡6-17 weeks = 45 – 90 min
➡4-7 months = 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 hours
➡7-12 months = 2-3 hours
➡14 months + = 1 day sleep
⭕ 15 minutes before her awake time is up, take your baby/toddler to the sleep zone and settle to drowsy before putting her down.
⭕ At certain cusp ages, you will find your child starts to fight day sleeps or fights going down at night or wakes very early in the morning. This usually indicates its time to drop a day sleep. These ages are as follows:
➡9 months = 3 to 2 sleeps
➡2-14 months = 2 to one sleep.
⭕ Toddlers drop their day sleep at different times – keep a set day sleep/rest time until 5 years old, even if your preschooler does not actually sleep.
⭕ Although we hardly ever wake a sleeping child, if your baby/toddler is sleeping too close to bedtime, you need to wake her:
➡6-17 weeks = 5pm
➡4-7 months = 4:30pm
➡7-12 months = 3pm
➡14 months + = 2pm
The second way to know when to put your baby down to sleep is to watch her signals. Your little one will signal when she is ready to sleep by rubbing her eyes, rubbing her ears and loosing attention. She may start to hiccup or become irritable if you miss the early warning signs of tiredness. If you miss the cues and awake times altogether, you may well end up with an overtired child who is impossible to get to sleep.
In a nutshell:
- Day sleeps are vital right into the preschool years
- Put your baby down to sleep according to her awake time for her age.
- Watch for early signals of tiredness before your little one becomes overtired.