Saturday, April 14, 2012

It's About the Hormones!

This is a little about the biological way that baby sleep works to help you unlock your own child's ability to sleep.  This is not about method, it's about arming you with knowledge.

Sleep is controlled by the brain (not the stomach!).  Melatonin is released when it's time for babies to fall asleep.  Think of it as a wave of sleepiness.  Babies have waves of sleep windows that occur throughout a 24 hour period.  So when they are kept up past that wave of tired, their bodies release cortisol from the stress of being fatigued.  (Excessive cortisol from being frequently tired does a lot of bad stuff, look it up if you're interested.)  So what you want to do is catch the wave!  Put your baby to sleep when he or she first shows sleepy signs.  Keeping them up will make it harder for them to fall and stay asleep.

999 out of 1000 times (yes this is a rough estimation), keeping your baby up later, swaddling, pacifiers, more food before bedtime, etc. will NOT fix the root of the problem (it can actually make it worse).  Whether you have a short napper, nighttime sleep troubles, difficulty getting your child to sleep, or an early waker, the answer is almost always MORE SLEEP  (Yes it sounds too good to be true, but it isn't).  The more sleep your child gets, the less the melatonin secretion is being suppressed by the cortisol and your child will start to play catch up and the sleepy signs will become more noticeable.  Once your child starts getting more sleep, you should see a dramatic difference in the length, quality, and ease of falling asleep within 4-5 days, if not sooner.

Now that you know that, maybe you can start figuring it out on your own with your method of choice.  Sometimes habits need to be broken, or schedules need to be changed, and if you still have questions or need help, please feel free to ask! 

8-10 hours of sleep a night for a baby may sound good but it is not ideal!  Your baby is more than likely capable of getting 11-12 hours in addition to one to two 1 hour+ long nap(s) - depending on the age, and probably needs that much!  I acknowledge that there are exceptions to this, but your baby is probably not it!

Other sleep posts:
Sleep for Newborns - 6 Weeks
Is Your Baby Overtired?
Sleeping Through The Night?
4-8 Month Old Naps
Crashing II

I am not a sleep consultant.  I just want to collect and organize my reading and experience with my own child to help myself and others find solutions to help their child sleep.  I have a passion for seeing a family enjoying life together because they are rested.  I think that when a person is relieved from the burden of fatigue, they are able to function in a way that is truer to their very best. 

Imagine how much more that means to a baby

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