13 07, 2016

Wake Time Per Age; From Newborn to Toddler

July 13th, 2016|Categories: Sleep Training, Wake Times For Children|

Wake Time; Are You Keeping Your Child Up Too Long?

“What is a good wake time for my 5 month old?”

“How long should my child be staying up between naps?”

“Once my child transitions to one nap, how long should they be awake for before bedtime”

I hear these types of questions all the time from concerned parents, and for good reason.  Getting the timing of sleep right can mean the difference between struggling for an hour or having your child quickly drift off.

We know kids need their sleep, and a lot of it.

For small children two years and younger, sleep is a critical part of their development process and it’s important to develop healthy sleeping and napping patterns in order to help them grow and develop at a safe and healthy rate.

For parents? Well, it maintains your sanity. 😉  It gives you some much needed down time.

But let’s be honest here; for some parents, having a child that sleeps well, without a lot of fussing, is akin to having a unicorn. They hear about it, but they don’t think it really exists. Having a child that goes down for their nap or bedtime quickly, easily and sleeps long stretches without having to rock, bounce, feed, drive around or lay down with, seems like a mythical creature.

But I’m here to tell you that this isn’t the case. Your child wants to sleep and they want to sleep well. But part of the success comes from understanding your child’s biological processes.

Why do babies and children need naps?

It’s not uncommon for a well-meaning relative or friend to advise the parents I talk with to skip a nap in the hopes that it will make the child sleep better. However it is a myth that skipping naps results in a better night’s sleep. In fact, the opposite is true.  Poor quality or non-existent naps will result in a child that is overtired, cranky, prone to more crying and night wakings.

When your baby or toddler is napping their brains are processing and making sense of all of the physical and mental inputs they received while awake, and since our tissue regeneration and growth happens while we sleep it’s important to help babies settle into a healthy cycle where these processes can occur.

This is why babies need to nap often: their bodies are growing and processing a high level of external inputs.

Homeo-What?

As a result of all the learning your child’s brain is going though, the feeling of needing to sleep builds up throughout the day. This need to sleep, or sleep “pressure” builds up quickly, requiring the need for frequent naps. This pressure is known as the homeostastic sleep drive.

The homeostatic sleep drive is basically how long the body can stay up before it starts to feel sleepy. Another way to think of it is as wake time; how long your child can stay awake before needing a nap or bedtime.

However the sleep drive is not the only component that comes into play. Otherwise we would likely be taking short naps all day long. For babies, this is common in the first 3-4 months, but after that point, a child’s sleep matures and other factors come into play.

Tick-Tock Goes The Circadian Clock

Your child’s sleep drive is also influenced by their sleep/wake circadian rhythms which controls the release of melatonin (the sleep hormone) and cortisol (the awake hormone, among other functions) over the course of 24 hours.

The circadian rhythm influences the timing of when your child’s body is biologically ready to sleep.  It is regulated by the brain based on the amount of light that the brain receives. The daylight signals the brain to keep releasing cortisol. At certain points in the day however, other circadian rhythms begin to prepare the body to sleep by lowering core body temperature and releasing melatonin.

Then, as evening approaches and the sunlight diminishes, the brain begins to release melatonin and allows your child to really feel the pressure to sleep. This is why bedtime tends to be the easiest sleep period to get a child to fall asleep.

To summarize, in children, the sleep drive creates the need to sleep, but the circadian rhythms influence the timing of sleep.

The trick to having a well-rested child is not only to time their nap with the sleep pressure building up *just enough*, AKA their wake time, (not so much that they are overtired which results in a super short nap and a lot of crankiness) but to also match the timing of the circadian rhythm.

Signs That Your Child is Getting Tired

To help you determine what your child’s wake time may be, look for subtle sleepy cues:

  • Staring into space and seeming disconnected from the surrounding environment
  • Turning away from you or another caregiver
  • Rejecting toys and food
  • Jerky, sporadic limb movements
  • Periods of quiet rest followed by vocal fussiness as they become overtired

The Downfalls of Being Overtired

If your baby or young child is being kept up too late, or is frequently missing nap periods, they may become overtired. This means they are in a state where they are sleepy and feeling fatigued, but are unable to sleep. Some of the issues which can arise from overtiredness are:

  • Waking up often throughout the night
  • Waking up very early
  • Short, or broken naps
  • Resisting naptime and exhibiting crying or giddiness
  • Night terrors
  • Battles at bedtime surrounding getting the child to sleep

Guidelines for Wake Times

Therefore, to avoid a multitude of sleep issues mentioned above, timing your child’s nap or bedtime just right can help to not only have them go to sleep easily, but also have a deep, long and restful sleep period.

One way to help this to occur is to follow wake times. Recommended wake time by age are:

 

BS101-WakeTimes-v2 (2)

Tips For Wake Time

  • Calculate wake time from eyes open to eyes closed, especially in the young babies.
  • If your child is overtired, begin with the shorter amount listed and slowly increase it as needed.
  • Requiring shorter intervals of wake time in the morning but a little longer in the afternoon is common.
  • Newborns naps will naturally be erratic and unpredictable, even with the same wake period.

 

Examining the amount of wake time your child is experiencing between naps and bedtime is a great step to take in solving their sleep issues.  It can take some trial and error to find your child’s sweet spot, but when you do, you will find that those unicorn children really do exist.  😉

For more tips and advice on how to help your child sleep better, download my FREE sleep guide.

Have a sleep question? Join me Wednesday nights for my free, live Q and A session on Facebook.

29 09, 2014

Sleep Associations; What You Need To Know Before Sleep Training

September 29th, 2014|Categories: Baby Sleep, Sleep Training|

Sleep Associations; How do they Impact Sleep Training?

“Why sleep train?”

The term “sleep training” is a common one in the vernacular of new parents. It’s frequently discussed when parents talk about how tired they are and usually, everyone has an opinion about it, one way or another.

However, what is often overlooked in the discussion, is what caused the sleep issues to developed, triggering a parent to consider sleep training.

I have had clients tell me that they had friends, family and even strangers tell them that “this time passes so quickly”, or “they’re only young once, just enjoy it”, when they started to share their sleep struggles.

While these sentiments are usually well-intended, it can make a tired parent feel guilty or shameful for reaching out for help. Instead of reassuring  the parent, it can come across as trying to minimize the difficulties of sleep deprivation.

The good news  is that exceptional sleep habits can be introduced, but sometimes those well-meaning friends and family just don’t understand what causes the problem (and neither may you), and therefore don’t realize that “just wait and it’ll pass” isn’t always true.

Where Problems Usually Start

The need to help change sleep habits is usually born out of one or both of the following issues;

1. Lack of ,or ill-timed routine causing overtiredness

and/or

2. Sleep associations.

Both of these issues can be tackled after four months of age when a child’s circadian rhythms begin to mature. Prior to that you can follow the suggestions here and here.

To understand sleep associations (also called sleep props or crutches) one needs to have a basic understanding about the science of sleep and what happens to a baby’s sleep patterns around four months of age.

The Fourth Month Sleep “Regression”

Around four months of age, (in reality it could be anywhere from three to five months), parents may notice their child beginning to wake up more frequently at night and only catnap throughout the day. Often whatever “tools” used to work for the parents stop working or loose their efficiency. This time period is so common with parents around the world that the term “fourth month sleep regression” is a popular one.

However, this stage is not a regression at all, but rather an exciting and large cognitive development! (If you’re going through this right now, stay with me. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. 😉 )

The reason for these changes are all due to your child’s brain and the organization of sleep in the human body.

Prior to that fourth month mark, a baby’s sleep was quite immature and undeveloped. But after they move through the four month time frame, their sleep, in particular, their NREM sleep begins to develop into more of an adult-like cycle.

Sleep Cycles

Mature sleep patterns consist of both REM (active sleep) and Non-REM (deep sleep) patterns.Within the NREM sleep, after four months of age, children begin to cycle through four stages  like adults do, multiple times.  In the early months, one cycle is about 45 minutes in length and later matures to around 90 minutes.

A child will fall asleep in stage one, proceed through stages two, three and four (all getting progressively deeper stages of sleep) and then exit out of stage four. At this point they come to a transition point and have a partial awakening and either go back to sleep or wake up completely. For more information, see this awesome diagram here. It is at this transition point that many sleep issues begin to rear their head.

Why does this happen?

Two words: (cue the Jaws theme music here 😉 )

Sleep Associations

When that cognitive growth happened around the fourth month, a baby began to associate stage one (the falling asleep point) with certain conditions or environments. After every complete cycle, they then again needed those same conditions or environments to be present so they could fall back asleep. This is a normal part of human sleep. We all have sleep associations whether it be cool pillows, side sleeping or wanting blankets on or off.

But problems sometimes occur when the sleep association is something the parent must do for the child, instead of the child doing for themselves.

For example; if a child was rocked to sleep and then laid down in the crib,  they would have fallen asleep in stage one associating falling asleep with being rocked. Perhaps when they were three months old, it wasn’t an issue, but after their sleep patterns mature, each time they come out of stage four and try to re-enter into stage one, they will want to be rocked again to fall back asleep. If they aren’t, then that child would likely wake completely up and call for their parents.

Sleep Associations and Sleep Training

Since this association is reinforced repeatedly day and night, the child doesn’t learn how to transition independently. It is therefore inaccurate to say that this is a phase that will pass. Falling asleep unassisted is a learnt skill. If the sleep association doesn’t transfer from being parent-controlled to child-controlled, then it is likely to continue to interfere with sleep.

For some parents this isn’t a problem and for other families it is.

Sleep training would be an option for those families who would want to change those associations from something the parent is doing, to something the child can do for themselves.

Why Sleep Training Won’t Work

Sleep training does not work however, when a child is on a poor routine, being kept up too long and has a bedtime that is too late.

When children are overtired, they don’t go to sleep easily, nor do they have solid, deep and restorative sleep. Instead, multiple night wakings and short naps are present. Unfortunately these can also easily be confused with sleep association issues and often will lead people to say sleep training doesn’t work.

Sleep training also doesn’t mean that your child will never wake again at night. Sickness makes kids feel awful (just like in adults) and they tend to not sleep as well. Physical and cognitive milestones, and some even say teething, may also cause some bumps in the road of sleep. However, a well-rested and independent sleeper handles those bumps efficiently and quickly returns to sleeping solidly again after those events have passed.

When You’re Ready

Once you’re ready and are sure that you’re child’s night wakings or short naps are due to sleep associations, then it would be time to pick the sleep training method that you’re comfortable with and concentrate on changing those associations.  Changing sleep habits takes some time so it’s best to do it when you have a block of time to focus on it, but if you’re consistent your child can learn to get themselves to sleep and transition through sleep cycles independently!

Overtired or sleep associations? If you are confused about why your child is waking at night or taking short naps, Baby Sleep 101 can help with our FREE sleep guide.

13 05, 2014

Sleep Training Series Part 7: Extinction

May 13th, 2014|Categories: Baby Sleep, Sleep Training|

Sleep Training with the Extinction Method

Welcome to Part 7 in this sleep training series. The conclusion of this topic  brings us to by far the most talked about method of sleep training; Extinction or as many (incorrectly) refer to it ; ” Cry It Out”.

I have covered various techniques to help parents change their child’s sleep associations, and clearly, Extinction is only one of many methods, but this option is definitely the most well-known and most controversial. Part of the controversy stems from the misunderstanding of not only this method, but of sleep training in general.

Sleep training, and especially Extinction, is not about putting a child down, closing the door and ignoring them until morning. Sleep training is only about removing learned habits, and Extinction has guidelines around it.

Like all techniques, there are certain steps that are vital to helping you see success quickly. If you don’t do the preliminary work, set up a great routine, keep bedtime early in relation to the naps, then it will fail.

Want to help your child sleep better? Download the FREE Sleeping Through the Night Guide.

So if you haven’t read how to set yourself up for success yet, please start at the beginning of this series  and read through them. If you’ve already done so, then let’s move on to a more in depth look at the Extinction Sleep Training Method.

Love it or hate it, Extinction usually evokes strong opinions. Advocates testify to its quick success rate and ease of process, while critics feel it’s a harsh option. Some go so far as to state that it can cause life-long biological and neurological negative changes.

For an in-depth discussion on this, please see: Helping Babies Cope with Stress and Learn to Sleep

The Method

If choosing Extinction, there is very little you have to “do” for this once you begin. It’s more about what you do prior to starting.

Set up a quality daytime routine with restorative naps and early bedtimes and pre-select your child’s night feed time, if they still require one. If you were choosing this method for a toddler or preschool-aged child, it would be important to child proof the room for any safety issues ahead of time if they were in a toddler bed.

At bedtime, you would do your wind down routine with your child. This would be the time for kisses, cuddles and snuggles.

Then, making sure your child was still wide awake, (hopefully relaxed, but not so much that their eyes are closing, or getting heavy), you would lay them down, and then leave the room.

When Do I Go Back Into The Room?

When using Extinction, the general practice is that you stay out of the room until it’s time for a feed. If no feeds are being offered, then you may choose to stay completely out until morning.

****HOWEVER****

Just because you choose Extinction, it doesn’t mean that you need to ignore your baby, your parenting instincts or common sense. 

If, for any reason, you want to check on your child, then please, go do it.

The overall goal of Extinction is that, most of the time, you are giving your child time and space to get themselves to sleep. If you briefly interact with them here and there, it isn’t going to set their progress back.

Crying When Using Extinction

You wouldn’t put a time limit on their crying for the night time (except if it was time for a feed) but for naps you would limit it if they didn’t sleep. Depending on their age, you may choose to end the nap after an hour of trying.

Many parents often very understandably worry about the amount of crying that their child may do, but it has been my experience that the child often fusses less than the parent anticipated. This is in no doubt due to having a predictable and age appropriate routine in place ahead of time.

It’s important to note that children cry out of frustration from having sleep props and associations removed, but they also cry when they’re overtired. By keeping bedtime early and having restorative naps, overtired crying is greatly reduced, allowing sleep associations to change rather quickly.

 A Few Tips For Success

1. Your child needs to be on a great daytime routine ahead of time to help minimize the amout of crying. This is will impact success significantly.

2. If your child still requires a night feed, have an idea of what time it is happens at, so you know when to enter the room.

3. Ensure your child’s sleep environment is comfortably cool and dark to encourage sleep.

4. Have a good support system in place to help you remain consistent in your approach.

5. A video monitor can be a useful tool to help parents remain consistent as they can see what is going on without entering the room

How Long Does It Take to Work?

Extinction tends to work the quickest of all methods, *if* the child’s daytime routine is on track  with well timed naps and an early bedtime (I’m not sure if I mentioned that yet. 😉 ). Often in as little as 4 nights, parents can see changes. Again as always, naps will take longer to notice progress.

Pros and Cons Of Extinction

Pros

  • Usually works the quickest of all the sleep training methods
  • Is the ‘easiest’ to do in terms of parental involvement
  • One of the few select methods that is successful for multiple age groups
  • Can result in less crying overall in comparison to other methods because the child begins sleeping more solidly after only a few nights

Cons

  • A lot of misinformation and shaming on the internet in regards to choosing this method
  • Can be challenging for some parents to maintain long enough to see the success
  • A parent’s mindset can quickly hinder progress
  • A successful daytime routine is vital for seeing changes quickly

 

Although Extinction or Cry It Out can be very difficult for some parents, it is often the quickest technique to see changes. But like every method, it has its advantages and disadvantages and each family needs to evaluate them according to their own parenting philosophy.

Are you  unsure if Extinction is right for your child? Contact Baby Sleep 101 today and we can help determine what is right for your family and put together a customized sleep plan.

Remember to pick up your free Sleeping Through the Night Guide, here.

 

 

 

8 05, 2014

Sleep Training Series Part 6: Timed Intervals

May 8th, 2014|Categories: Baby Sleep, Sleep Training|

Sleep Training with Timed Intervals

Welcome to Part 6 of our sleep training series in which we have covered many aspects shaping a child’s sleep routine that can help families become well-rested and happy. If you haven’t already, please start from the beginning of this series for some very important information.

Today’s article explores another method of sleep training that can work for some families called Timed Intervals. This method goes by many names such as check and console, graduated extinction,  and most often; “Ferberizing” after Richard Ferber’s use of this method in his book “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems”.

How To Minimize Crying

Timed Intervals is a process that would be considered more of a crying method, however as I have stated through out all of these articles, each child is different and will respond uniquely from that of another. Even though it is a crying method, you can definitely minimize the amount of tears when you set your child up with a great daytime routine. I can not emphasize that enough ; if you want to see as little crying as possible, regardless of the method, then your child must have these two elements in place.

The Method

After helping families for over 5 years, I have to say this is one of the most popular choices that parents pick. It provides the child with some support, while also allowing them to settle relatively quickly.

In a nutshell, to use the Timed Interval method, you would do your wind down routine and then lay your child down (awake) in their crib. Then, you would then leave the room whether your child was content or fussing.

Want to reduce the amount of tears before they even start? Download the FREE Sleeping Through the Night Guide.

At this point you would begin a series of check ins that would increase in length from check to check and from day to day. When the interval was up, you would only enter their room for a brief period of time. You may begin with shorter or longer intervals, but keep increasing the amount of time between checks for maximum success.

Understanding Responsibilities

If you choose to use the Timed Intervals method then it is important to understand what both you and your child are responsible for.  Your responsibility is to provide your child with a consistent routine and your child’s job is to get themselves to sleep.

Falling asleep is a learnt skill and it does take practice over many sleep cycles, therefore it is unrealistic to expect your child to master independent sleep after one nap or night.

The point of going into the room is not to stop the fussing, but rather just to offer some words or touches of comfort and then leave. The responses used will vary with the age of the child as to not overstimulate them and make the situation worse. Remember with this approach, your job is to provide the consistent opportunity for rest and your child’s role is to get themselves to sleep.

A Few Tips For Success

1. Have a consistent wind down routine in place before starting so that your child begins to understand that a sleep period is approaching.

2. Lie your child down while they’re still awake and their eyes are open.

3. Keep your check-ins short and sweet; only a few minutes to offer some soothing words or touches.

4. When you check on your child, if you choose to use your voice to soothe them, speak calmly and confidently.

5. Increase the interval lengths every 1-2 days, especially if you start with very brief wait periods.

How Long Does It Take To Work?

On average, you will start to see improvements with night time sleep with Timed Intervals within a week. If your child is older and/or you have tried sleep training before and stopped, then often this method will take longer, so remember to give it time. As always, naps usually take a few weeks to solidify.

 Pros and Cons of Timed Intervals

Pros:

  • A middle-of-the road approach
  • This method is an equal blend of being in and out of the room
  • Gradually allows both parents and child to get used to going longer intervals of time without intervening

Cons:

  • For some children, going in and out of the room overstimulates them (A.K.A annoys the heck out of them) and prolongs any crying that may be happening
  • It can be difficult to watch the clock for the next check in the middle of the night
  • Older children often benefit from longer intervals of time, but this might not be comfortable for the parents

 

Timed Intervals can be a nice balance between being in and out of the room, but not every child will respond well to this method. If you’re unsure if this method is right for your child, contact Baby Sleep 101 today so we can determine what is right for your family and put together a customized sleep plan.

Have you ever tried Timed Intervals? Share your experience in the comments below. Or, if you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends.

 

29 04, 2014

Sleep Training Series Part 5: Chair Method

April 29th, 2014|Categories: Baby Sleep, Sleep Training|

The chair method is the next option in our sleep training series.

It is considered gentle or gradual, but yet more structured than a no-cry method or Pick Up/Put Down. Before you begin implementing any sleep training technique, it is important to have the fundamentals in place so that you have success, so please read over all the tips and suggestions in Part One.

If you’re worried about the amount of crying your child is going to do, then reading Part Two will also be important.

What is The Chair Method?

The Chair Method is a great technique for parents who want to be present with their child as they’re learning independent sleep skills, while still having structure. However, it does have its drawbacks and isn’t for everyone. Let’s examine it more closely.

This method consists of gradually weaning your presence from your child’s side by initially sitting right beside them and then slowly lessening your involvement and distancing yourself from their crib or bed.

Depending on your child’s age, temperament, previous sleeping location etc., you would begin this method with either sitting in a chair beside your child or on their bed until they fell asleep. Every few nights you would move further away.

Get more tips for your baby’s sleep with the FREE Sleeping Through The Night Guide.

If your child woke during the night and they didn’t need a feed, you would return to the chair until they once again fell asleep.  The same idea would be repeated for naps as well.

It seems simple enough on paper, but like any sleep training method, it is important to be disciplined with yourself and keep going, even when there are bumps in the road.

This method is definitely not for every parent (or child), but can be successful for those that are committed to seeing it through.

A Few Tips For Success:

1. Write out your plan ahead of time so you know which nights will be the night that you will move further away.

2. Be prepared! Get a comfortable chair as you might be sitting in it for awhile.

3. As the days progress, minimize the amount of soothing that you do. Respect’s your child’s need for time and space to get back to sleep on their own.

4. Keep moving your chair every few nights, don’t get stuck at one spot for too long as it will set progress back when you do move.

5. Try to use your voice before touch to soothe. When you do speak, be calm and confident.

How Long Does It Take To Work?

As with all sleep training, progress will likely be evident sooner at night and naps will take longer to change. On average, this method takes about two weeks to complete, but nap lengths may still fluctuate. The more consistent you are with this method and stick to your plan, the quicker you will see positive changes.

Pros and Cons of The Chair Method

Pros

  • You are with your child as they fall asleep each sleep period and every night waking
  • This method is structured and follows a set sequence
  • This method is simple and uncomplicated

Cons

  • It can be difficult to be in the room with your child and not interact with them
  • If you have other children to tend to,  this method isn’t always suitable, especially  for naps
  • It can be hard to remain consistent during long night wakings

 

The chair method is a great sleep training method for those parents who wish to remain in the room with their child as they learn how to sleep independently. To be successful with this method it’s important to have a solid routine, remain consistent and to keep progressively moving your chair further away.

If  you’re not sure if this method is right for you, contact Baby Sleep 101 today and we can help you determine what is best for your family and put together a customized sleep plan.

To read about the next method, please continue onto Part Six.

Have you ever tried the Chair Method for sleep training? Share your experience in the comments below.