Every parent has been given some unsolicited advice on sleep. Some of it was even true. Sleep myths abound and being a sleep consultant, let me tell you, I’ve heard almost all of them. The myths survive because in our tired stupor they sound reasonble. Today, we’re going to set the record straight on five common ones, so you can avoid them and help your little one get the restorative sleep that’s been lacking.
If baby is up later, he’ll sleep later.
Actually, it’s usually the exact opposite! A later bedtime may mean an earlier wake up. Sleep begets sleep! If you put an overtired baby down for the night, you will mess with his internal clock and he likely will wake earlier. Make sure you are staying on top of your baby’s sleep and putting him down by the time he would start showing signs of being sleepy. Wake windows grow with your baby.
Light the room during the day, so he’ll know a dark room equals night.
In the first months (between 0-3 months), it doesn’t really matter if the environment is light or dark. This is your time to lunch with baby in tow and gallivant around town (as much as you can on little sleep). Between 3-4 months, your baby’s circadian rhythm, or the body’s biological clock that regulates the timing of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day, begins to develop and mature. Circadian rhythm is largely cued by external sources of light and dark. One good way to help your baby fall asleep (and stay asleep) is to create an ideal room environment. This means one that is dark, cool and quiet. Try to have your baby’s room at an 8/9 on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being pitch black. You can use a low wattage nightlight in an outlet near the floor.
Never wake a sleeping baby.
So not true! Sometimes we must wake the beast despite every urge we have not to touch that peaceful, slumbering, quiet baby. You need to keep your baby on track even if that means waking him up. Try your best to avoid too much day sleep and/or stretches of sleep that last too long. If your baby is an amazing napper, first, way to go, but you want to make sure their day sleep isn’t robbing them of their (and your) precious night sleep.
He’ll sleep when he’s tired.
Ha, wouldn’t that be nice? Some babies (not nearly enough) will peacefully drift into a happy slumber when they are tired. However, more often than not, babies can (and will, if you let them) happily stay awake well past their age appropriate window. What does that get you? An overtired, fussy, sleep resistant baby, of course. To avoid this creature, make sure you prioritize your baby’s sleep and get him down before he becomes overtired.
Sleep training = Hours upon hours of crying
Absolutely not! Sleep training, or sleep teaching, as I prefer to call it, can have different meanings for different families. There is no right way to teach your baby to sleep. If you choose to sleep train (“choose” being the operative word), you can choose from a variety of methods, modifications of methods, or combinations of multiple methods. Always do what works best for you and your baby. This depends on myriad factors, including your baby’s age, temperament, and your parenting styles and goals. The most important thing to remember – do what works for your family and baby AND don’t worry. He won’t go to college without all the necessary sleep skills.
Every situation is unique, but you’ll be ahead of the curve now that these common myths have been debunked. Now get some sleep!