Many parents get so confused about why their baby is waking up multiple times a night and struggling to get back to sleep. What they don’t realise though, is the impact that day sleep has on those nights and the fact that if you nail those naps, night time sleep can quickly resolve itself.
Karen from Asleep at Last explains the link and what you can to get your baby sleep on track.
How Do Naps Impact Nights?
This is the science bit, where I have to talk a little about hormones. When we are tired our sleepy hormone, Melatonin starts to rise. When it’s high is the perfect time to go for a sleep, if however, we don’t go to sleep our brain signals for Melatonin to stop rising and the non sleepy hormone, Cortisol will begin to rise instead. Cortisol will wake you up and that is why you have a baby that may seem sleepy one minute, but by the time you try to get them down for a nap they’re now wide awake - essentially you have missed the sleepy window.
Why This Matters
If you have a baby that is fighting sleep all day, come bedtime you’re now on the back foot and any attempts to get baby to sleep will result in tears, sometimes for hours on end. The hormones are now all over the place and the baby is extremely overtired.
Eventually your baby will crash out but it is likely they will be restless and wake often in the night and take short naps.
What You Can Do About It
Getting them to sleep within that sleepy window is going to give them the best chance of falling asleep quickly and staying asleep for longer. Not only that, but if you keep on top of this overtired loop you’ll be in a really good place come bedtime to get them to sleep quickly.
All babies' sleepy windows are different depending on age so having a guide is key. I have a FREE guide for babies 4-12 months here. Put baby down within their window through the day and help them to link sleep cycles, so they get the total amount of day sleep for their age.
DARKNESS is key for babies to encourage the production of Melatonin, using SnoozeShade when out and about will help avoid babies being distracted by the outside world. When the baby only needs a short nap I do recommend going for a pram walk to get this in as motion will help. Longer naps are better in their own beds and using sleep bags and black out blinds will be key to encouraging more sleep as well.
How Many Naps Does My Baby Need?
Again this will differ depending on age, but as a guide this is what you can expect by age….
0-16 weeks 3-4 naps across the day.
4 - 7 months 3 naps across the day, 2 shorter ones and 1 longer one in the middle.
8-15 months 2 naps, 1 short and 1 longer middle of the day.
15 months + 1 nap in the middle of the day until 2.5-3 years old.
Keeping to a set nap time, helps to set an age appropriate bedtime as well. I recommend a bedtime of around 6.30pm for most little ones and this won’t mean an earlier wake up like most people think.
Consistency is KEY
Waking up at the same time each morning is also key, even if the baby has a bad night, in order to get the correct amount of day sleep in. You can do a 7-7 day or a 8-8 day but sticking to that will help to set the baby's circadian rhythm.
Of course there will be days you cannot stick to a structure if babies unwell or you’re on holiday. Flexing a routine for a baby who is already established and in healthy sleep habits is easier than one who isn’t and the odd day / week off schedule will not ruin everything.
To recap then, day sleep directly correlates to night sleep because babies only need so much sleep across a 24 hour period. Ensuring they get the right amount of this sleep during the day will allow them to sleep better at night.
Yes this may mean waking the baby up if they sleep past 7am, waking them up if the nap is too long or having to help them to go back to sleep if the nap is too short. But this consistency and commitment will pay off when they start to sleep better at night.
Naps is exactly where I start with my clients when we begin working together and getting on top of any sleep debt is a priority so baby is no longer overtired.
If you want to explore working with Karen, she works with newborns through the children age 5 on her 4 week programme ‘The Dream Sleep Solution’. You can find out more about it and book a call here. Also head over and follow on Instagram for information and tips directly from Karen.