How To Help Baby Connect Sleep Cycles

How To Help Baby Connect Sleep Cycles? Sleep is vitally important for your baby. It can help them stay healthy and happy and support their development. But, the demands of a busy modern life can interfere with your little one’s sleep cycles and make it difficult to get back on a regular schedule.

how to help baby connect sleep cycles
how to help baby connect sleep cycles

What are baby sleep cycles?

Baby sleep cycles are the periods that each day your baby spends asleep. These periods run around every 24 hours and are different for each baby. Generally, they will run at the same time as you would expect – at night, but sometimes they will be a bit earlier or later. They may also vary due to illness or the times of day your baby has been awake.

So, How To Help Baby Connect Sleep Cycles?

The first thing to do is to help the baby achieve a better night’s sleep. Sleep is vital for your infant’s health and development, but busy lives can get in the way of establishing healthy sleep habits. The following article offers some strategies that have been proven to work:

  • Keep naps short and frequent, with a focus on morning naps. Keeping an eye out for signs that it may be time for bed will also help you notice when it’s going overboard with too many activities before bedtime.
  • Try providing a calming environment before bedtime (i.e., dimming the lights, lowering the volume on TV or music, and reading a book together). Minimize exposure to light from technology at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Make sure the baby gets adequate exposure to sunlight each day. If possible, go for walks in the fresh air with your baby during the day. You may wish to install a ceiling fan or put a wind chime in your baby’s room to encourage air circulation. Both these strategies have proven effective in helping babies sleep better.
  • If your baby has trouble sleeping, set aside time specifically for them to nap in a safe and subdued environment that is free of stimulation (no TV).
  • Consistently enforce the “no screen” rule for the first year. Screen time encourages a lack of daytime sleep, which can affect nighttime sleep and cause babies to wake more often at night.
  • Try to create a daily routine that includes naps for babies who do not nap well. Create a bedtime box with calming rituals (see above) to prepare your baby for sleep (turn down lights, wind chimes, and sound machine).
  • For babies who have difficulty “going down,” try to set aside a small amount of time in their day just for naps so they do not miss out on too much rest at night. For example, you can keep bottles and pacifiers in the crib but use them only when the baby is ready for sleep. Don’t let them doze off before then.

A Useful Guide to Your Baby’s Sleep Cycles:

Infants and young babies (up to 8 months)

  1. Are sleepy during the day, but more alert at night
  2. Have predictable daily rhythms with sleep cycles of about 60 minutes in length
  3. Can fall asleep anywhere, any time, especially in contact with a parent.
  4. Have a hard time going to sleep in the system (i.e., crib) at night
  5. Sleep between 10-14 hours per day
  6. Are still breastfed or are supplemented with breast milk or formula in the evening before bed
  7. I usually nap in the morning and early afternoon, and I often take an afternoon nap if awake for a long stretch during the day (often two naps of about 90 minutes each).
  8. At about eight months, start to want to sleep in the exact location each night (bed) and take longer naps of 1-2 hours.
  9. 9. Begin to fuss in their sleep at night (screaming, thrashing, etc.)
  10. 10. Sleep less and less during the day.

Toddlers (8 to 18 months)

  1. Are less sleepy during the day and more alert at night.
  2. They May have their days and nights mixed up, putting them to bed too late or getting up too soon.
  3. They Can fall asleep alone for a few nights in a row and may even fall asleep on their own during the day, even when in the sight of a parent.
  4. Sleep between 11-14 hours per day
  5. Still breastfed or are supplemented with breast milk or formula in the evening before bed
  6. Usually, nap during the day and take an afternoon nap if awake for a long stretch (often two naps of 90 minutes each).
  7. At about ten months, begin to want to sleep in the exact location each night (bed) and take longer naps of 1-2 hours.
  8. I May still be quite fussy when falling asleep.
  9. May start having night wakings (sleeping in the morning), sometimes for just a few minutes, but other times for the duration of an entire night.
  10. Sleep less and less during the day.

Preschoolers (18 to 36 months)

  1. They have their days and nights mixed up, so you may need to help them get to sleep or wake them up at night.
  2. Have predictable daily rhythms with sleep cycles of about 90 minutes in length
  3. They can fall asleep independently at night and probably on their own during the day, even when in the sight of a parent.
  4. Sleep between 10-13 hours per day
  5. I May still be quite fussy when falling asleep.
  6. Take longer naps of 1-2 hours, and take an afternoon nap if they have been awake for a long stretch during the day (sometimes two down).
  7. May still wake frequently in the night, sometimes for just a few minutes, but other times for the duration of an entire night.
  8. Sleep less and less during the day with fewer daytime naps.
  9. Can follow a pattern of “waking up” in the evening and falling back to sleep, then alternating into and out of daytime sleep.
  10. They may have a pattern of night wakings that last for several hours.

Preschoolers (36 to 48 months)

  1. Are ready to experiment with different sleep locations (crib, sleeping bag, hammock, etc.)
  2. May have predictable daily rhythms with cycles between 90 minutes and 4 hours in length
  3. They can fall asleep independently at night and probably on their own during the day, even when in the sight of a parent.
  4. Sleep between 10-13 hours per day
  5. I May still be quite fussy when falling asleep.
  6. Take longer naps of 1-2 hours, and take an afternoon nap if they have been awake for a long stretch during the day (sometimes two down).
  7. May still wake frequently in the night, sometimes for just a few minutes, but other times for the duration of an entire night.
  8. Sleep less and less during the day with fewer daytime naps.
  9. Can follow a pattern of “waking up” in the evening and falling back to sleep, then alternating into and out of daytime sleep.
  10. They may have a pattern of night wakings that last for several hours, though they can better settle on their own without adult intervention.

Should you help the baby connect sleep cycles?

Sleep helps a healthy brain develop and grow. Despite popular belief, sleep patterns do not determine intelligence or academic skills later in life.

Even babies who sleep long stretches at night (12 hours) still have difficulty sleeping through the night. They sometimes need their parents or caregivers to help them settle down or fall asleep at night.

Babies with a hard time usually nap and are up and active during the day (infants).

As a parent, you can help your baby get into the habit of resting for long night periods. By helping your baby to connect sleep cycles and minimize the amount of time they spend awake, you can help them develop healthy sleeping habits as they grow and also avoid problems associated with sleep deprivation (such as irritability, hyperactivity, difficulty concentrating, or learning new things).

Here are some simple tips to help your baby get a good night’s sleep.

Find your baby’s sleep cycle. I’m sure you already know that it’s essential for your baby to be fed and clean before bedtime. But there’s more to getting little ones to sleep soundly than providing them. That’s why it’s essential to try and learn about their natural sleep cycles and habits.

1. Determining a baby’s sleep cycle

Studies have shown that babies each have their natural sleep cycles. Over time, these cycles become less important as your baby develops a more regular sleeping pattern, but it’s still helpful to know about them. It will also let you know if any issues need to be addressed.

2. Determining the first nap

Babies usually have a first nap about 2 hours after they wake up from their morning nap. If your baby sleeps for two or more hours, it’s likely because he has not yet gone back to sleep from his earlier nap.

3. The second nap

The second nap usually happens at about 5 hours past the first nap. A baby who sleeps for this long has not yet fully woken up from his earlier nap.

4. Determining the last nap

By around 10 hours, most babies will have slept for three consecutive cycles and will be ready to wake up for their previous sleep cycle, which usually lasts until the following day. Depending on the baby’s age and natural rhythm, these cycles may be longer or shorter.

5. Determining the first wake-up

Around 11 hours, most babies will have woken up from their night sleep cycle (no longer have their eyes closed) but will still be tired. This allows them to start their day feeling refreshed rather than tired.

6. Determining the last wake-up

By around 15 hours, most babies will have woken up from their night sleep cycle and are ready to start the day with minimal fussiness.

7. Determining the last nap

At around 17 hours, most babies will have woken up from their night sleep cycle and are ready to start the day with minimal fussiness.

8. Determining when to lay your baby down to sleep

During her second sleep cycle, your baby may want you by her side to fall back asleep or maybe needs a slight rocking for her coos to quiet down. After that, she’s likely ready for a good night’s rest.

9. Helping your baby fall back asleep

If your baby has trouble falling back asleep on her own, you can do a few simple things to help her.

10. Brushing your baby’s teeth

It may be surprising, but your baby may need some help with her teeth. After all, she was sleeping while they were developing. Brushing your baby’s teeth helps remove plaque that can cause cavities, helps prevent gum and bone loss, and relieve periodontal disease in adults.

Did you know?

Babies digest food at night as well as during the day. They can even digest food during their first nap. So, while you might be able to put your baby down and not worry about her not eating for a few hours, you should still check in on her every so often to make sure she’s eating when she should be.

Resettling & Linking Sleep Cycles with Chantal Murphy - Baby Sleep Magic

Bottom line:

It’s important to encourage your baby to sleep, even if they don’t seem to need it. It’s also important not to worry too much about when they will fall asleep or how long they’ll sleep. The amount of time any baby sleeps will become less and less as she grows older and becomes more active, so you don’t need to worry about these things too much.

The amount of time any baby sleeps will become less and less as she grows older and becomes more active, so you don’t need to worry about these things too much.

When your baby falls asleep, take notice of the natural sounds she makes to signal that she is dropping off. For example, if you hear a yawning noise followed by a breathy “ahh” sound, then it’s likely your baby is falling asleep.

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