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Why Your Baby Isn’t Sleeping:
Sleep is a Skill You Need to Teach

February 1    Written by Sophia Duhela

If you’ve found yourself googling, “Why won’t my baby sleep through the night?”, first, you’re not

alone, and second, this is THE POST for you to read. Right here. Right now.

When my youngest daughter was close to seven months, I began researching and learning about sleep training. Surprisingly, I’m not here to tell you that’s the answer (although, for some children it is).

Prior to this, I would have this mom guilt just eating me up inside. Anytime she made a sound from her crib, I would think to myself, “Oh, she needs me!” and in I would go to save her.

But the more I learned, the more I realized I wasn’t saving her from anything. In fact, I was hindering her from getting the quality sleep she really needed.

In this post we’re going to dive into the science behind why your baby isn’t sleeping through the night, isn’t taking naps longer than 30 minutes unless you’re holding them, or is waking super early in the morning…earlier than anyone in their right mind would start their day.

Mostly, it all comes down to the science behind human behavior and how your little one is falling asleep at bedtime.

Sleep Science: The Onset of Sleep and Why it’s So Important

Your baby was only born with two stages of sleep – light sleep (REM) and deep sleep (NREM). This lasts for the first few months, and then their sleep cycles mature.

After 4 months old (3.5-5 months is the range for when this development occurs), your baby’s first stage of sleep is now drowsiness. You know when you’re about to fall asleep and something suddenly brings you back to the real world? Yeah, technically, you were asleep. That’s stage one.

And it’s the same for your baby.

When we think about how babies usually fall asleep – nursing to sleep, rocking to sleep, etc. – we can identify why, over time, this becomes a problem. Whatever was happening in the first stage of sleep, drowsiness, will need to happen anytime your baby awakens at night.

Think of it this way…

You are all snuggled up in your moms arms, and she’s rocking you, and singing you a song. Your eyelids start to get heavy. Before you know it, you’re in Lala Land. Suddenly, you wake up, and your mom is no where to be found and you’re in your crib. How did that happen?! Cue the crying. Translation = “MOM! Where are you?! Where did you go?? COME BAAAAAACK! I want to go back to sleep. I need your help!”

Mom comes back. Gets all snug with you in her arms again. She starts to rock and sing again. BOOM. You’re asleep, and she puts you back in the crib.

Only for you to awaken and call out for her help again. And again. And again.
Because that’s how sleep works. In cycles. It keeps going around and around and around.

However your little one falls asleep initially (or however you’re getting them into that first stage of sleep, drowsiness) is what they’re going to need to fall back asleep when they awaken between sleep cycles at night or after a short nap, which really just means they’re not getting into another sleep cycle without external assistance.

Because how we fall asleep is habitual, your baby becomes dependent on that “thing” – whatever it may be – in order to fall back asleep.

Why Independent Sleep is Important

Here’s the big argument: Why is it so crucial that a child learns to fall asleep independently?

For starters, when a little one knows how to put themselves to sleep at bedtime, this means they know how to get into the first stage of sleep on their own. Which means they will know how to connect sleep cycles throughout the night, resulting in consolidated sleep.

And why is consolidated sleep so important??

Because this is when all the magic happens!

During quality, consolidated sleep, we see the following benefits:

●  memory pruning and consolidation from the day → learning new skills and retaining important information! In short, improved cognition.
●  Enhanced cardiovascular health
●  LITERAL growth and development (when children sleep, growth hormones are released!)
●  Improved mental health
●  Better immune support
●  Overall feelings of being refreshed and energized

Why would we want this for our child? Why wouldn’t we want this for ourselves?

In opposition, what are the risks of continued, fragmented sleep?

●  Poor memory and loss of cognitive function
●  Reduced cardiovascular health
●  Not meeting growth potential
●  Slowed development
●  Decline of mental health
●  Continued sickness due to a weakened immune system
●  Feeling irritable, cranky, and crabby due to over-tiredness

How can we help our little one attain independent, consolidated sleep?

Helping Your Baby Learn to Self-Soothe

There are plenty of ways you can work towards sleep independence and learning to self-soothe. Keep reading and let’s dive in.

The Environment

One easy way you can help your little one sleep better is by setting the stage for quality sleep by providing the best environment possible. This is one of the things you have full control over when it comes to sleep, so take advantage of it!

Make sure you include the following in your baby’s sleep environment:

●  A blacked out room – it should be level 10/10 darkness. If you must use a nightlight for a toddler or big kid, make sure it’s a red bulb or red frequency, as this won’t hinder sleep like a white or blue spectrum would.
●  Enhanced cardiovascular health
●  White noise playing in the background – stagnant white noise is ideal, playing around 55-60 dB about 6 feet from where your child is sleeping. Lullaby music actually stimulates brain activity, so the more boring the better.
●  An empty, safe sleep space – your baby needs to sleep in a bassinet, crib, or play yard – alone. Blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals are unnecessary and unsafe. Just your baby, in a sleep sack, on top of a tightly fitted sheet. Once they’re over a year old, it would be safe to place a small blanket or lovey in the crib with them.

That’s it! Pretty simple, right? When it comes to the sleep environment, less is more.

Appropriate Schedules

Making sure your little one is on an age-appropriate schedule is key in making sure they’re getting the right amount of daytime sleep that promotes quality nighttime sleep, and vice versa.

Email me and I’ll send you my FREE Sleep Needs Chart to help you find the perfect schedule for your baby.

Soothing Routines

Routines, over time, become a string of habits. And, since we know that the onset of falling asleep is habitual, a bedtime routine can be a strong cue to your child’s brain and body that it’s time to sleep.

Read all about bedtime routines, by age, here.

Supporting Circadian Rhythm

Waking your child at the same time each day, getting outside, and napping at appropriate, consistent times each day supports a healthy circadian rhythm. A healthy circadian rhythm yields a good little sleeper!

Teaching the Skill with Sleep Training

If you’ve optimized all of the above and your little one is still struggling with connecting their sleep cycles, it may be time to look into sleep training.

In a nutshell, sleep training is the response you provide (or don’t provide) when your child wakes at night, early in the morning, or after a short nap to help them learn to connect sleep cycles on their own.

If you need help with any or all of this, that’s what I do, in three simple steps:

  1. Set up a FREE Discovery Call with me.

  2. Invest in your sleep package.

  3. Everyone sleeps!

Click the link above to get started, and I can’t wait to help you help your little one sleep all night long!

Kind words from clients