Discover effective strategies to ensure your kids maintain healthy sleep habits during a move, and learn how to help them during this transitional period.
Moving to a new home in Alberta can be an exciting yet stressful time for families, especially when kids are involved. Amidst the chaos of packing, unpacking, and adjusting to a new environment, it's crucial not to overlook the significance of maintaining healthy sleep habits during the move. Sleep is pivotal in children's growth, development, and overall well-being. This article will explore practical ways to support your kids in getting the restful sleep they need while navigating the transition.
Establish a Familiar Sleep Environment and a Calming Bedtime Atmosphere
When moving to a new place, children can feel disoriented and uneasy due to the change in surroundings. To mitigate this, create a sleep environment that mirrors their previous setup. Set up their bed, blankets, and favorite stuffed animals in a similar arrangement. Familiarity in their sleeping space can provide a sense of comfort and security, promoting better sleep during the move.
Set the stage for a peaceful sleep environment. Consider using soft lighting, soothing colors, and calming scents in their bedroom. Creating a serene atmosphere can aid relaxation and help them unwind before bedtime.
A Consistent Bedtime Routine as You Adjust to the New Time Zone
Routines offer predictability, which is especially crucial when everything else feels uncertain. Stick to their usual bedtime routine as closely as possible. Whether reading a story, dimming the lights, or practicing relaxation techniques, these activities signal to their bodies that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Consistency in routine can help mitigate the disruptions caused by the move.
If the move involves crossing different time zones, gradual adjustment can help prevent jet lag and ensure smoother sleep transitions. Gradually shift their bedtime and wake-up time in the days leading up to the move so the change isn't abrupt and disruptive.
Prioritize Physical Activity
Engaging in physical activities during the day can help expend excess energy, making it easier for kids to fall asleep at night. Allocate time for outdoor play or indoor games that encourage movement. Physical exertion contributes to a healthier sleep cycle and reduces any stress or anxiety associated with the move.
By incorporating active play into their daily routine, you can promote a more balanced emotional state, allowing them to approach bedtime with a calmer and more relaxed mindset. Additionally, physical exertion can enhance the quality of their sleep by promoting deeper restorative sleep cycles. This means that even amid the changes and uncertainties of moving, their bodies have the opportunity to recover and recharge through the night, supporting their overall health during this transitional period.
Children may have questions or concerns about the move that could affect their sleep. Encourage open communication and create an environment where they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts. Addressing their worries and providing reassurance can alleviate any bedtime anxiety they might be experiencing.
Involving them in the moving process, such as allowing them to pack a special box of their belongings or choose the color of their new room, can give them a sense of control and involvement. This empowerment can boost their confidence and reduce feelings of uncertainty, contributing positively to their overall sleep quality. If you have hired movers for your long distance move in Alberta, Canada, long distance movers can make it easy on the kids too. They can suggest safe ways for kids to get involved, which can help calm their anxieties. Remember, their emotional well-being and sleep patterns are closely intertwined, making it crucial to tend to their feelings during this significant life transition.
Unpack Comfort Items First
During the moving process, certain items may take longer to unpack than others. However, they prioritize unpacking comfort items like their favorite pajamas, blankets, and bedtime books. Having these items readily available can offer a sense of normalcy and help them feel more at ease in their new surroundings.
Remember that small gestures can make a big difference. Before their first night in the new home, consider engaging in a soothing bedtime routine together. Reading a beloved storybook, sharing a quiet conversation, or practicing deep breathing exercises can help them relax and ease into sleep. These moments of connection can be reassuring during a time when everything else seems uncertain.
Limit Screen Time Before Bed
Screens emit blue light that can interfere with the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. Especially during the move, when sleep might already be disrupted, limiting screen time in the hour leading up to bedtime is essential. Encourage quieter activities like reading or drawing instead.
Be Patient and Understanding
It's normal for sleep disruptions to occur during a move. Children might take some time to acclimate to the new environment and routines. Patience and understanding are key during this period of adjustment. Recognize that occasional sleep challenges are part of the process and focus on consistently reinforcing those healthy sleep habits during the move.
Each child is unique, and their reactions to the move can vary. Some may adapt quickly, while others might require more time to feel comfortable in their new surroundings. As a parent, being attuned to your child's emotions and behaviors can guide you in providing the necessary support. Remember that maintaining healthy sleep habits during the move is not just about the immediate adjustment period but about setting the stage for their ongoing well-being. By approaching sleep disruptions with a proactive and patient attitude, you can help your children build resilience and adaptability, skills that will serve them well beyond the move. So, as you navigate this transition, remember that while challenges may arise, your dedication to their sleep routine is a valuable investment in their overall health and happiness.
Seek Routine Amidst Change
Change can be unsettling for children, but establishing a routine can provide a sense of stability. Even amidst the move, incorporating elements of their regular routine can help anchor them and promote better sleep. These familiar practices can make a significant difference, whether it's a special pre-sleep ritual or a favorite lullaby.
Help Kids Maintain Healthy Sleep Habits During the Move
Moving to a new home with kids requires careful consideration of their sleep needs. While the transition can be demanding, prioritizing healthy sleep habits during the move is essential for their well-being. By creating a consistent sleep environment, maintaining routines, and fostering open communication, you can help your children navigate the move while ensuring they continue to get the restful sleep they need. Remember, patience and understanding go a long way in making this transitional period smoother for the entire family.
Photo via Pexels
Quick, without looking it up, what’s the opposite of “nocturnal?”
We all know what nocturnal means, right? Animals that sleep in the day and do most of their activities at night, bats, owls, and raccoons being some familiar examples.
It always surprises me that we’re not nearly as familiar with the term diurnal (that’s the answer, in case you didn’t know.) since, as humans, that’s what we are.
Our eyes don’t adapt to the dark all that well, we don’t have the echolocation skills of the bat, and we rely on the sun for our vitamin D. Since evolution is a painfully slow process, that’s the way it’s going to be for another couple million years, at least.
But there are some really sweet benefits that come with being daytime creatures, and one of my favourites is a little thing called the circadian rhythm.
The circadian rhythm, as you may already know, is the internal clock in the human body that prompts us to wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night, and much like a clock, it has a LOT of moving parts, only instead of gears and springs, it’s made up of stimuli and hormones.
Two of these hormones are going to play the starring roles in our story, and those are melatonin and cortisol. If you’ve got a baby having a hard time sleeping, you have undoubtedly heard a lot about both of these guys.
Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland of the brain, and its role is to help the body relax, both mentally and physically, and help us get to sleep and stay asleep. So when your baby gets an 11-12 hour stretch of glorious sleep, you can thank their pineal gland for firing up those melatonin pumps.
But you can also thank the daylight because exposure to the sun stimulates melatonin production. Production, mind you. Not secretion. We’ll talk about that in a second, but the buildup of the hormone itself is stimulated by exposure to sunlight. So it’s not just an old wives tale. Getting your baby outside during the day really does help them sleep better at night!
Once nighttime rolls around, the sun goes down, and our eyes stop taking in light, the brain responds by releasing those stores of melatonin that it built up during the day. That signals our muscles to relax, tells the brain to ease back on the thinking, and allows us to drift peacefully off to sleep, hopefully for a long, restful night.
Come morning, the blue light from the sun starts to permeate the thin skin of our closed eyelids, signalling the brain that it’s time to get back into gear. After all, we’ve got hunting and gathering to do!
So now our brain will help us get out of bed, shake off those cobwebs, and get on with our tasks for the day, and it will do that, in part, by telling our adrenal glands to pump out some cortisol.
Now, cortisol gets a bad rap, in my opinion, because people associate it with stress. This is especially true if you have a baby at home because crying, stress, and cortisol all get packaged together in many modern conversations. “Baby’s crying? That’s because their cortisol levels are elevated, and it’s causing them stress. Or maybe it’s the other way around. They’re stressed, and that makes them cry, and that spikes their cortisol levels. Some combination of stress, cortisol, and crying. That’s your baby’s issue.”
The truth is cortisol is a very beneficial hormone. It regulates metabolism, blood pressure, blood sugar, suppresses inflammation, and regulates the body’s stress response. It’s not some toxic stimulant that causes us to freak out. It has many benefits: it perks us up and keeps us alert during the day.
This whole intricate dance between light and dark, cortisol and melatonin, awake and asleep, evolved over an incredibly long time, and it worked like magic up until, relatively speaking, very recently, when we discovered that we could pass an electric current along a filament and “artificially” illuminate our surroundings. Before that, we relied exclusively on fire, which emits very little blue light.
Depending on their hue, light bulbs emit quite a bit of it. And TVs, LEDs, computer monitors, iPads, smartphones, and all of those other screens that surround us today, absolutely flood our eyes with it. Unfortunately, all of that blue light coming at us in hours when we would normally be enveloped in darkness signals the brain that it’s still daytime and inhibits the release of melatonin, making it harder to get to sleep.
Since we can’t reasonably get rid of all of the sources of blue light around us, the best thing to do for our little ones’ sleep is to turn off those really intense sources, like TVs and smartphones, a couple of hours before they go to bed, and make sure their sleeping area is as dark as we can get it. I’m talking real dark. Like, can’t see your hand in front of your face, kind of dark. Some blackout blinds can be a game changer, especially if you live somewhere where the days get exceptionally long in the summer.
So that’s the story of the circadian rhythm and its daily heroic effort to keep us running at peak performance. It really is a fascinating little piece of our physiology, and with just a little support from our side, it can work wonders in getting us out of bed with energy and enthusiasm and helping us feel relaxed and peaceful when it’s time to sleep. Work with it instead of resisting it, and I guarantee you’ll start seeing and feeling the results immediately.
It’s common knowledge that sleep deprivation is part of the new-parent package. Everyone teases new parents about the myth that they’ll never sleep again. Many people have come to accept feeling tired day after day as just one of the burdens of parenthood, but did you know that lack of sleep can impact your cognitive functions, including emotional processing and perception? Today, we will delve into some scientific findings that underline the importance of adequate sleep and how it can transform your parenting experience.
Research has established a link between sleep deprivation and emotional processing, particularly how we perceive and respond to negative emotional stimuli. While no studies specifically focus on the effects of sleep deprivation on parents’ reactions to a child’s cries, extrapolating from current research offers some interesting insights.
In 2007, a study conducted by Yoo et al. revealed that sleep deprivation results in the amygdala—the area of the brain involved in processing emotions—reacting more to negative emotional stimuli.
What does this mean for you as a new parent? With the sleep deprivation that often accompanies this phase of life, your emotional responses could be heightened, potentially causing you to perceive your baby’s cries as more distressing than they might be under-rested conditions.
Further emphasizing the effect of sleep deprivation on emotional regulation, a study by van der Helm et al. in 2010 showed that sleep deprivation could impair emotional regulation by disrupting the connectivity between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex plays an essential role in controlling emotional responses, implying that sleep deprivation might exacerbate negative or distressing perceptions, such as the sound of your baby crying.
These studies suggest that sleep deprivation might lead to amplified emotional reactivity and altered perception of emotionally taxing stimuli. In a nutshell, you may be overreacting.
This is where my role as a Sleep Sense Consultant comes into play. I am here to help ensure your family transitions smoothly into this new phase of life, with everyone achieving healthier, more restful sleep.
By implementing tailored, gentle strategies, we can work together to help your baby (and you!) get the sleep needed to thrive.
But why does this matter? A well-rested parent is more likely to have balanced emotional reactions, making it easier to respond to your child’s needs effectively. Adequate sleep not only aids in maintaining emotional balance but also helps to improve overall mental and physical health. The result? A more serene and enjoyable parenting experience.
Sleep deprivation is not an inevitable part of parenthood. With the proper guidance and a little patience, you can enjoy these precious early days with your newborn without the burden of chronic fatigue.
As a Sleep Sense Consultant, my mission is to support you in this journey, using evidence-based techniques to promote healthy sleep habits for your whole family.
Yoo, S. S., Gujar, N., Hu, P., Jolesz, F. A., & Walker, M. P. (2007). The human emotional brain without sleep — a prefrontal amygdala disconnect. Current Biology, 17(20), R877–R878. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2007.08.007
van der Helm, E., Gujar, N.,
Congratulations, you! If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve either just welcomed a new addition to your family or are planning on doing so pretty soon.
Welcoming a new baby into the family is an exciting time. Still, it can also bring about a mix of emotions for your older child, especially toddlers. It’s essential to navigate this transition with care and consideration to ensure a smooth adjustment for everyone involved, so today, let’s explore some strategies for introducing your new baby to your toddler and prepare you for some potential challenges that may lay in store.
Embrace a Little Bit of Jealousy:
Accepting that your toddler may experience feelings of jealousy is the first step toward fostering understanding and empathy. Don’t attempt to stifle or suppress these emotions. Acknowledge, validate, and reassure your toddler that their love and importance within your family unit haven’t diminished. Encourage open communication and be available to listen, really listen, to their concerns.
Set Clear Expectations:
Maintaining boundaries is essential during this transition period. Clearly communicate your expectations to your toddler, explaining the new dynamics and what is expected of them as an older sibling. Frame these expectations positively, emphasizing the importance of their role in welcoming and caring for the new baby. Encourage them to participate in age-appropriate activities, such as helping with diaper changes or selecting a toy for their sibling. Toddlers typically love the feeling of responsibility and maturity that comes from helping their parents with a new baby, so do what you can to nurture that older sibling relationship.
Prepare for Regression:
As your toddler adjusts to their new sibling, it’s common to witness some regression in sleep patterns, behaviour, and even potty training. Be patient and understanding during this phase, reinforce positive habits gently, and provide reassurance when setbacks occur, but remember, you set some expectations and communicated them to your toddler, so while it may be tempting to let them slide back into familiar routines, such as using diapers or sleeping in the crib, it’s important to maintain consistency and encourage growth.
Consistency is key when it comes to maintaining boundaries. While it may be tempting to give in to your toddler’s demands during this time of change, it’s essential to stand firm. Resist reverting to previous practices, such as allowing them to sleep in the crib or returning to diapers. Upholding these boundaries reinforces their role as an older sibling and helps create a sense of stability and routine.
Create Special One-on-One Time:
I get it; free time isn’t exactly in abundance after you bring a new baby into the house. But it’s essential to carve out moments of individual attention for your toddler. Set aside a little time every day for your older child to engage in activities they enjoy, such as reading a book together, going for a walk, playing a game, or whatever makes them happy. These shared experiences will help strengthen the bond between you and your toddler, reaffirming their importance in your life and reassuring them that the new baby isn’t a replacement for them. This is probably the single most important tip I can give you for preventing feelings of jealousy and resentment, so again, I know you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed, but make this a priority.
Obviously, introducing a sibling is a significant milestone for your family, but it’s particularly uncharted waters for your older child. It will require patience, understanding, and a lot of conscious effort on your part. But by familiarizing yourself with potential challenges, setting clear boundaries, and nurturing a positive sibling relationship, you can create an environment that fosters love, support, and harmony within your growing family.
Remember, with time, patience, and consistency, your toddler and new baby will forge a special bond that will last a lifetime.
So, you want to know how to help your little one get better naps.
We will start with the sleep environment and ensure it's set up for optimal sleep.
Darkness plays a vital role in the quality and quantity of our sleep. So, I always start with the room's darkness and ensure it's blacked out! And I mean blacked out, like CAVE DARK, can't see anything black. If you want to see what I mean when I say cave dark, email me, and I'll send you my Black Out Chart to give you a really good visual of what's dark in my world.
Good quality blackout curtains will help darken the room, obviously, but they also help regulate the temperature in the room and block out environmental noises from waking Baby. SleepOut Portable Blackout Curtains are the ones I recommend to families (Discount Code: TOTHEMOONSLEEP10).
Make sure Baby is not too hot and not too cold. Use sleep sacs once Baby is out of the swaddle. Baby's room should be between 19-21 Degrees Celsius.
Next, I would ensure that all safe sleep guidelines are followed and that there is nothing in the crib but Baby and their sleep sack (under 12 months of age). There should be nothing hanging from the crib either, no mobiles.
I have already touched on safe baby sleep guidelines on the blog, but they must be mentioned here again. If you need clarification on the most up-to-date guidelines, email me, and I'll send you the guide my one-on-one parents receive from me.
Next, I suggest parents use a white noise machine for all sleep situations, not just naps. White noise can help babies connect sleep cycles and drown out environmental noises from waking baby. You want to make sure that you are using white, pink or brown noise. Not music or whale calls or lake scenes with wild birds chirping. These things will be to stimulating and wake up Baby's brain.
Another suggestion along those lines is using an Ok-to-Wake device like the Hatch Rested+. These will give you light when you must attend to Baby at night. You want to have it set on a dim red for sleep time as this helps the brain during the night to produce melatonin.
The other thing these Ok-to-Wake Devices or Toddler Clocks do is to give Baby something tangible to look for to know when it's time to wake up in the morning or from a nap. When it hasn't changed to green to signal that it's morning or the end of nap time, they can roll over and go back to sleep between sleep cycles.
Ok-to-Wake Devices can also cut down on early morning wakings and crying in the morning. They learn that someone will come and get them up when the clock changes to yellow or green. They don't have to cry to signal that they are awake.
In my experience, it's never too early to start teaching babies how to recognize the Ok-to-Wake Device changes. Babies are way smarter and more capable than we realize. The earlier, the better.
All naps should take place in the crib or bassinet. This is the safest place for Baby. Plus, since you have blacked out Baby's room and followed all of the other suggestions above, it's probably the only appropriate sleep place for her to nap.
Now, let's move on to following an Eat, Play, Sleep Routine. This means what it sounds like. When baby wakes in the morning from a full night's rest, we want to feed baby. Now because baby just had a 12-hour sleep, she should not be sleepy during this feed.
Then it's time for learning, connection and playtime. Now depending on Baby's age and wake windows, they should not need another feed before going back down to sleep. And if they do, chances are they are old enough for a solid's snack to top them off before nap time. Ensure you are not feeding Baby breast or bottle at least 1 hour before going down for a sleep.
Yes, this means Baby will go down in the crib awake; wide awake is best. Following this schedule, babies are not fed to sleep; they use independent sleep skills. They are in control of their sleep and nap like champs.
Next, let's talk about wake windows. You want to make sure that you are following age-appropriate wake windows. These are going to vary and increase as Baby gets older. There are ranges in these wake windows, so it's up to parents to help Baby find that sweet spot.
Check out this blog post here to learn more about age-appropriate wake windows. To help find that sweet spot and make sure baby isn't overtired. Put baby down awake 10-mins before the end of the awake window.
This gives Baby time to roll around, get comfortable and calm into sleep. If you are seeing a lot of sleepy cues from your baby, then you are likely missing their window.
Baby is going into the crib overtired, and you are likely hearing about it. Try this 10 minutes before the end of the awake window trick, and you may have found your baby's sweet spot.
Now that you have found your Baby's sweet spot for sleep, it's time to let him get to sleep. Baby drifts off happily into sleep and doesn't make a peep.
My final tip is going to be for those catnappers out there. Do not assume that Baby is done sleeping after only 20-30-mins of sleep. This is generally not enough sleep, and they require more. But it can be hard to connect sleep cycles during the day. Babies need the time and the space to learn this skill.
After Baby wakes up, give them some time and space to get back to sleep. Institute crib hour and keep baby in their dark sleep space for up to 1 hr "of sleep."
Now I know that this sounds easier than it is to implement, and several other factors come into play when helping Baby learn to sleep well independently and get back to sleep from a short nap. So, if you are struggling with your baby's sleep or lack of sleep skills, please book a Free 20-minute Sleep Evaluation. We can discuss how I can help your baby learn to nap like a champ and sleep through the night (11-12 hrs).
Erin Neri - Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Owner of To The Moon and Back Sleep Consulting since 2016.
Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar…
Your baby wakes up in the morning after a solid night’s sleep. You feed her, change her, play with her for a little bit, take her for a little walk outside, then rock her to sleep and put her gently into her crib for her morning nap.
And then, 30 minutes later, she wakes up fussy and irritable and, despite your pleading, bargaining, and offers of riches, refuses to go back to sleep.
So, after half an hour of trying to put her back down, you finally give in, hoping she’ll be that much more tired when her afternoon nap rolls around, only to have the exact same scenario play out again, and baby is a cranky ball of unhappiness for the rest of the day.
Sleep, like food, is one of those elements where baby has the final say on whether or not they’re going to cooperate, so there’s no sense trying to force the issue. If they’re not sleeping, just leaving them in their room usually won’t fix things.
So, here’s what’s going on, and how to fix it.
Don’t we all just adore the beautiful faces of our babies when we first wake up in the morning? Nothing starts the day off on such a high note as the look in the eyes of your little one when they’re first getting up for the day.
But when that moment hits at 5:00 in the morning, it can undoubtedly take the blissful nature out of the situation.
An early morning wake-up is rough on everyone. Your little one is likely not adequately rested and may have a rough day, and you, as the parent, could certainly use an extra hour or two of sleep!
Suppose you find yourself struggling to cope with those early wake-ups. In that case, I’m happy to tell you that there’s almost always an explanation for why it’s happening, as well as a solution close at hand.
Check out the following tips and see if anything applies to your baby’s situation, then make the appropriate changes. Then, you should start seeing a turn toward those blissful mornings you’ve been striving for.
Babies are more likely to wake up early if they’re too hot or cold, so ensure they’re dressed comfortably. (Typically, one layer more than an adult would wear while sleeping in the same environment.)
Use white noise machines to drown out any disruptive sounds. Dim the lights in the room during nighttime and invest in blackout curtains to block out early morning sunlight.
It could include activities like a warm bath (which is my personal preference as the “first step.”), gentle massage, lullabies, or reading a bedtime story. Consistency is critical here, as it helps your baby anticipate sleep and prepares their body for a nice, long snooze.
Strike a balance between appropriate nap durations and an age-appropriate schedule. Observe your baby’s sleep patterns and gradually adjust nap times and lengths as needed to find the sweet spot.
Try a slightly earlier bedtime to ensure your little one is well-rested but not overtired. A well-rested baby is more likely to sleep longer and wake up at a reasonable hour.
Give them a chance to settle themselves back to sleep before intervening. Then, if they cry, wait a few minutes to see if they can self-soothe. Over time, they’ll become more skilled at drifting off to dreamland independently.
When baby wakes up at 5:00 as opposed to 3:00 AM, we’re more likely to give in and assume that they’re just not tired anymore, but if you’re shooting for a 7:00 wake up as “the norm,” then you should treat anything earlier than that as a nighttime wake-up and respond the same way you usually do if baby wakes up in the middle of the night.
Early morning wake-ups in babies can be challenging, but you can improve their sleep patterns with patience and a few tweaks to their sleep routine.
Remember, each baby is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. So be consistent, observe your baby’s cues, and be flexible in your approach.
Before you know it, those early wake-up calls will become a thing of the past, and you’ll all be enjoying a few more blissful hours of sleep in the morning!
Erin Neri - Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Owner of To The Moon and Back Sleep Consulting since 2016.
Is your little one waking up in the middle of the night?
No, no, not like that. I mean, like really waking up. Waking up and staying up. For, like… hours.
If you’re the parent of a baby who’s dealing with segmented sleep, you know exactly what I’m talking about. This isn’t the middle of the night. “Go in and comfort baby for ten minutes until he gets back to sleep” wake up. This is a full-blown 3:00 a.m. dance party.
It’s got a few names. Segmented sleep, bifurcated sleep, split nights, and it describes a situation where your little one sleeps for a long stretch, then wakes up happy and energetic in the middle of the night and stays that way for an hour or more.
Slit Nights aren’t a new or unnatural phenomenon. Back before the widespread use of the electric light bulb, people would regularly sleep for a few hours, wake up for another hour or two, then go back to sleep.
They’d use the time to read, smoke, pray, and have sex (not necessarily all at once), and then after an hour or two, they’d get back into bed and sleep until morning. (Apparently, it was also a typical time for visiting one’s neighbours. Not to hate on the old days, but if my neighbours came over unannounced at three in the morning, oooohhh, things would get biblical.)
Nowadays, however, the vast majority of us go to sleep at night and, hopefully, close our eyes and sleep straight through until morning.
But let me guess… your baby didn’t get the memo?
Split nights are actually a pretty common issue. Baby goes down at 7:30 at night, wakes up at 3:00 in the morning, parties her ass off for an hour and a half, then goes back to sleep, apparently careless about the groggy, miserable day she’s set her parents up for.
So let’s take a quick look at why this happens, and then we’ll learn how to solve the problem.
Why Do Split Nights Happen?
There are two major drivers when it comes to sleep. First, there’s our circadian rhythm, which is our natural tendency to fall asleep when it’s dark and wake up when it’s light. Then there’s our homeostatic sleep drive, commonly known as sleep pressure, which builds up over the time we’re awake.
So ideally, over the course of the day, sleep pressure builds up, then at bedtime, when the pressure hits the sweet spot, baby puts her head down and goes to sleep. Then, as that sleep pressure begins to subside, circadian rhythm takes over, and baby stays asleep until morning.
In the case of a split night, we could be looking at one of two reasons why they’re waking up.
● Baby’s not getting to bed early enough, OR…
● Baby’s going to bed too early.
Now before you pitch your phone out the window at that seemingly paradoxical explanation, check this out.
How to Fix Split Nights?
If baby’s getting to bed too late, if too much sleep pressure has built up, the brain has this instinctive response that says, “Hey, you’re tired, but you’re not sleeping. I’m guessing that’s because there’s a carnivorous apex predator around, so we’d better get ready to make a break for it,” and then starts upping the cortisol levels.
The brain means well, but it’s a little behind the times on our need for lion alerts.
So this can make it tough for baby to get to sleep at bedtime since that cortisol’s got them a little bit jacked. It can also cause a full wake-up at the end of a sleep cycle, which commonly happens around 2 or 3 in the morning. Ugh.
If this is the case, you’re one of the lucky ones. Treat this like any other nighttime wake-up, reassure baby that it’s still bedtime, comfort her and let her get back to sleep on her own, and consider moving bedtime up a bit over the course of a few nights.
But then there’s the alternate scenario. What if baby gets to bed too early?
In a situation where baby’s getting lots of quality daytime sleep and going to bed early, it’s possible that there’s not enough sleep pressure built up to keep baby sleeping until their circadian rhythm takes over and helps them sleep through the rest of the night, so up they get.
And now that there isn’t as much sleep pressure, and their circadian rhythm doesn’t have the horsepower to get them to sleep on their own, suddenly they’re up and active for an hour (or three!) while that pressure builds back up.
Now, I’m all about early bedtimes. Too little sleep is a much bigger problem than too much. But suppose your baby’s experiencing this kind of split-night sleep. In that case, it’s worth looking at their schedule and doing a little fine-tuning to ensure that you’re hitting the optimum sleep pressure right at the same time that baby’s going to bed for the night.
I know plenty of situations can arise where you’ll want to get baby to bed a little early. For example, if she had a day of lousy naps and is clearly tired half an hour before bedtime, it’s the right move to get her to bed ahead of schedule.
But try to avoid putting baby to bed early, more than one or two nights in a row. We want to prevent over-tiredness, but we also don’t want them in the crib at night for more time than they’re actually capable of sleeping.
So if baby’s had a tough day and didn’t nap well, it’s fine to get her to bed a little early since that sleep pressure is likely already built up, but try to get her back onto the regular schedule starting the next morning, including her wake-up time.
I know that this can all start to sound like an immaculately choreographed ballet. In some ways, it can be pretty complicated. Still, the more you understand the nuances and know where to make those minor adjustments, the better your baby will sleep. The less they’ll run into these regressions, setbacks, and interruptions.
One final thing to consider if you’re getting ready to tackle this situation. This is not likely to be an overnight fix. Once baby has gotten into this habit, getting them out of it can take some time.
Like any attachment or dependency, overcoming it is an incremental process, and it’s likely to meet with some pushback, so if and when things get tough, remember your goal.
You’re giving your little one the skills they need to sleep soundly through the night, and that contributes to their well-being in so many different ways. So stay consistent, be patient, and before too long, you and your baby will both be enjoying full nights of deep, restful sleep.
Erin Neri - Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Owner of To The Moon and Back Sleep Consulting since 2016.
One of the most interesting aspects of my job is that I get to work so closely with such a wide variety of people and personalities. Coming into people’s lives, especially at a time when they’re vulnerable and emotional, lets you get to know them in a hurry.
I can honestly say that I’ve never really had two families that reminded me of one another. The difference between every family I’ve worked with is simply astonishing.
And obviously, as the demographics that define the traditional “nuclear family” have shifted over time, those differences have become much more varied and fascinating.
One thing that seems to remain somewhat constant is that there’s usually one parent I would define as the primary caregiver.
I’ve seen families where parents split the childcare duties 51-49. I’ve seen others where one parent tackles the feeding, bathing, supervision, education, and doctor visits, and the other reads their bedtime stories.
Both of these scenarios and everything in between is absolutely fine by me, of course. Any two people who can reach an agreement on what works for them in terms of raising their family deserve a medal, as far as I’m concerned.
But let’s not kid each other; sleep training is a tough slog. You’re obviously sleep deprived by the time you decide to take action. You have a few nights ahead of you that will probably test your patience and determination. If only one person’s involved, it will be that much more of a challenge.
So I am writing this post to you today, dear secondary caregiver. If you’re feeling left out of the child-rearing process and wishing you had more of an opportunity to bond with your baby and take some of the parenting stress off your partner’s shoulders, this is your moment.
And let me tell you something... no dinner at a five-star restaurant, no front-row concert tickets, no trip to a tropical paradise, is going to solidify your place as your partner’s hero quite like taking a leading role in getting your baby sleeping through the night. I am not even slightly exaggerating here.
If you’re reading this, I would guess there’s a decent chance you’re already feeling the effects of at least a few nights of sleep deprivation, so you don’t need to be told how serious the effects really are. The thought of months or even years of this seems like an impossible situation, and your partner undoubtedly feels the same way.
So when you jump out in front of the problem and tell your partner, “I’m here, and I’m ready to tackle this situation alongside you,” it may well result in one of the most passionate, heartfelt smooching sessions of your life. Nothing is sexier than waking up exhausted in the middle of the night and seeing your partner already getting out of bed, telling you to lie down and go back to sleep with those three magic words... “I got this.”
Is it easy? No, not particularly. Sleep training can be challenging. There’s likely to be some crying, some moments of doubt, and a few trying nights, but everyone I’ve guided through the process has told me unreservedly that they would do it all over again in a heartbeat now that they’ve got their child sleeping through the night.
So now that you’re ready to take the reins on this horse, I’d like to speak to the primary caregiver again. Call them into the room, hand them your tablet, pass them your phone, whatever the situation warrants.
Are you there? OK, good. So check this out, you lucky duck. Your partner is awesome. They recognize your efforts in raising your baby and want to pull a little extra weight to make up for all your hard work. In addition, they want to take an active role in helping you get your baby sleeping through the night. So congratulations on your excellent choice of a partner.
So what’s the catch? Well, you have one very simple but difficult task here. You have to let them do it.
As the chair of the parenting department, that might not be easy. You’re probably used to having veto power when it comes to baby-centred decisions. Still, I want you to relinquish that for a while.
Sleep training requires consistency, and you and your partner should have a well-established plan you’re both comfortable with. Still, there’s room for each of you to have a different style within that framework.
So please resist the urge to hover over your partner as they figure out their own approach. It’s vital that they know you’re confident in their parenting abilities. Micromanaging someone else’s parenting will likely result in them just throwing their hands up and saying, “Fine, you do it.” Then you’re on your own again, and your partner probably ends up harbouring a hint of resentment.
Don’t undervalue what you’ve got here. This is someone with a deep and genuine love for your child who’s available and eager to help you with one of the most daunting challenges of early parenting. Moreover, they’re willing to do it for nothing! There are a lot of single parents out there who would literally step over their own mothers for that kind of an offer. So be cool.
Let your partner do their thing. You might be pleasantly surprised at their results, and you enjoy the rather sublime experience of watching them build their own little set of inside jokes, routines, and nuances. It’s like the sweetest thing in the world.
So now, bring your partner back into the room, would you? I want to talk to both of you together here. So go ahead; I’ll wait.
Are both of you there? Alright, good. Listen, what you’re about to do is really going to do amazing things for your little family unit. You’re going to get your baby sleeping through the night, which means you’ll both be sleeping through the night again. But you’re also committing to doing it together, making this endeavour even sweeter.
You’re going to learn how supportive you can both be in some challenging moments, how much stronger the two of you make each other, and how unstoppable you are when you parent as a team.
You’re taking a problem that could seriously deteriorate your relationship and agreeing to tackle it together. I think you should both be very proud of that.
I hope it goes smoothly from the jump, but remember, if it doesn’t, I’m always here to help. Two parents presenting a united front is a mighty force. Still, those same parents armed with an expert to help them through this process, well, that’s practically unstoppable.
To The Moon and Back Sleep Consulting
Providing families the tools & support they need to get their little ones sleeping through the night and napping like champs! Everyone has more fun when they are well rested!
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