In this blog I am talking about all things baby naps, the routine behind them and why they’re important, we’ll be leaving no stone unturned!
When it comes to napping, why is it so important and why do so many of us get tripped up by these and spend our lives feeling like we are just trying to get the little one to go to sleep?
It feels exhausting just thinking about it, to be honest. First of all, let me just explain that all of us, but particularly babies, we can only be awake for a certain amount of time, in any one stretch, before we need to have a sleep again and top up the tank and replenish ourselves and be ready to go again. As adults, that’s usually in one block, in one chunk of the day, or in some cultures, napping is still a big part of life throughout adulthood as well. But babies, and particularly the younger they are, the shorter the amount of time they can go between sleeps and in between their sleeps, they need a nap. They need a chance to catch up and refresh.
Without having those naps what’s going to happen is a little one will get over tired and over tiredness is honestly the root of all evil when it comes to sleep, because being overtired actually causes a bigger deterioration in sleep as a whole. So we want to avoid them getting overtired, but also being overtired can cause crash out sleeps, so it can go two ways when you’re overtired. It can cause a crash out, zonk out and you think you’re winning. You think, “Oh, that is easy. My baby went to sleep easily and had a really good one.” Yeah, that’s an occasional big crash out catch up. But more often than not, what you see is more crankiness, more difficulty settling, more restless sleep, more disturbed sleep and more premature waking up from the sleep, so we need the naps.
How do you get into a good nap routine and how does it all work?
It’s always changing and that’s the thing. It’s an ever evolving thing as they grow, because as they grow, they can go longer stretches between the sleeps and the sleeps can change in their shape and length. They start smaller, they go up and they go down again, so a new baby, a young baby, will sleep little often, whereas an older one will have maybe one or two longer naps, until they start to drop it completely.
I’m going to be covering all of those stages in the next few blogs, so make sure you come back and check those out as I take you through the different stages. You might find that you are at one stage now and you want to come back and watch one of the other episodes a little later when your little one gets to that age.
For now though let’s think about nap rhythmicity and why is this important.
Right from the beginning, if you can tune in to when your little one needs to sleep and how long they can be awake, you’re going to help them to create that rhythmicity with their sleeps and with their naps. Knowledge is power with this. Knowing how long your little one is going to be optimally awake, before they need a sleep, is such a key bit of information because they don’t tell you and we can’t rely on them to show us and tell us. We talk about cues and signals, but usually with sleep, when we see the signals that they’re tired like eye rubbing, yawning, crankiness, it’s actually too late and we’ve missed the window.
The ideal sweet spot, there’s a 30 minute sweet spot, a 30 minute window where, if you can get your little one to settle to sleep in that 30 minutes, they’re more likely to settle with less difficulty and they’re more likely to sleep for longer, or for the length of time that they truly need. If you miss that 30 minute sweet spot, you may try too soon and they’re under tired. They’re not ready to go to sleep yet. But if you miss it the other way and you’re too late, they’re overtired and it looks the same. They fight it. They resist the sleep because they’ve gone past that sweet spot. They’ve released loads of cortisol. The adrenaline is flooding back through the system to keep them going. It’s the body’s natural reaction, and so then they’re like, “Oh, well I can’t go to sleep now because I’ve got all this adrenaline going around my system.”
You’ve got a 30 minute sweet spot. Now, it’s not always easy to find, but don’t give up. It’s a case of knowing, getting those rough approximate windows, so you know roughly where it’s going to be, and then just tweaking and trial and error to get it just right. But you will get it right and when you do, you’ll find that your little one will sleep better. Okay, so naps are crucial. They are absolutely vital. Please do not listen to any old fashioned myths about, “Oh, well, if you keep them awake more in the day and when you tire them out, then they’re going to sleep better at night.” It’s just not true and it’s actually really not healthy. They need that sleep for their brain development, their immune systems, their whole entire replenishment comes from those naps as well. So it’s very important to get them in there.
Next time, I’m going to go a little deeper on the new baby nap phase. The 0 to six months and what’s going on there.
In the meantime, you take care and sleep soundly.
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