Sleep problems are common in babies, but understanding and knowing how to deal with them enables parents to get a better night’s sleep for themselves, which in turn, enables them to provide loving, patient and consistent care for their baby. Read this article to know how to establish a routine that will help your baby sleep better through the night.
Most babies wake up at the end of a sleep cycle if they are hungry, uncomfortable or if their breathing is obstructed. Research suggests waking up between sleep cycles to be a vital survival mechanism. If baby’s sleep state was so deep that she could not communicate her needs, then her wellbeing could be threatened. Therefore, parents should not feel pressured trying to get their newborn baby to sleep too long, too deeply, too soon. Between three and six months of age, a sleep pattern usually begins to emerge and baby may sleep for five hours or more.
For most parents, the two main problems are getting their baby to fall asleep and to stay asleep. Some babies fall asleep easily and stay asleep while others fall asleep easily, but wake up frequently. Some babies go to sleep with difficulty, but stay asleep, while others do not want to go to sleep or stay asleep. Babies that were good sleepers at six months of age may develop sleeping difficulties as they grow older and vice versa. There are all sorts of reasons why babies experience sleep difficulties, but knowing something about the different stages of sleep and what to do if your baby wakes up in the night can be helpful.
Babies experience five cycles of sleep, with each one lasting about one hour. They spend twice as much time in light and active sleep than deep sleep. During the first stage of light sleep, baby’s muscles relax and her eyelids flutter. She may twitch, grimace, suck intermittently and breathe irregularly. If baby is put in her cot at this stage, she may wake up. During deep sleep, baby’s limbs relax, her fists unfold and her breathing becomes shallow and regular. After deep sleep, babies enter the frenzied period of active sleep. During this stage, they grimace and fuss, the muscles tighten and jerk involuntarily, the eyes dart about in all directions and breathing and heart rate become irregular. However, the period between the end of active sleep and the next cycle of sleep is the most vulnerable one.
Most babies whimper and fuss when they wake up after a sleep cycle. However, if undisturbed, they may drift back to sleep again. If your baby should need feeding or a nappy change, keep this as low-key as possible and put her in her crib or cot as soon as her needs have been met. If your baby is not hungry or uncomfortable, do not pick her up, speak to her, make eye contact, put on music or lights or interact with her in any way or she will expect the same treatment every time that she wakes up. Simply place your hand on your baby to comfort her until she falls asleep again. After a few days, she will get used to the new routine and will settle back to sleep again on her own. If you reward your baby with too much attention, waking and play at odd hours may be prolonged into late childhood.
The one thing that the sleep experts all agree on is the need for a consistent, predictable, regular bedtime routine. It doesn’t matter what the routine consists of providing the same things happen every night. Your baby will soon learn to associate certain events and situations with bedtime, although it may take a week or two for her to develop new sleep habits. Once a routine has been established, stick with it consistently every night.
To begin with, try giving your baby a bath before bedtime as this will help your baby to relax. Babies love the sensation of warm water, which reminds them of the comforting conditions of the womb. Parents can use the association to calm a fretful or colicky baby or just to help them to unwind after a busy day. Even as adults, we love the feeling of being immersed in warm water. For newborns that find it hard to latch on to the breast, getting in the bath with baby can help her to relax. The close physical contact between the mother and baby reduces tension and improves feeding and bonding.
In addition, a warm bath will raise the core body temperature of your baby which will help your baby to sleep. This is because the warm water helps blood to circulate to baby’s hands and feet. When baby’s hands and feet are warm, her core body temperature drops. When baby gets out of the bath, the cooling surrounding air increases the effect and will help trigger the brain’s sleep mechanism. A drop in core body temperature is one of the most important sleep triggers. That’s why it is hard for babies to get to sleep if they are too hot.
After bath time, put your baby in special clothes that are only used at bedtime. As you dress your baby positively reinforce the idea of sleep by using key words such a ‘Bedtime’ or ‘Night-night’ so that your baby associates them with sleep. Once your baby is ready for her crib or cot, put her down and try massaging your baby or reading your baby a bedtime story as this will both comfort baby and help baby to unwind and relax. It is important that when you put your baby down to sleep that you put her in her crib or cot (as opposed to letting her sleep on you) so that it becomes a regular habit and your baby associates the action with bedtime. However, remember to put your baby down after winding and before she is fully asleep, otherwise she may be startled to find that your comforting arms are not there when she wakes up! Finally, make sure the room is dark and quiet. This helps to establish the difference between night and day. For your own sleep routine, ensuring your child understands the difference between night and day will become even more important as your baby grows into a toddler!
Everyone has a period of sleep latency before going to sleep, so don’t expect your baby to fall asleep the moment that she is in her cot. Crying for no apparent reason before sleep is also normal for most babies. Sometimes, your baby just needs to unwind after a busy day and crying makes her sleepy.
Written by Lucy Day; owner of http://www.insomniastore.co.uk and http://baby-sleep.co.uk. We offer advice and sleeping aids / products for adult insomnia and baby sleeping. If you or your baby cannot sleep then this is the store for you. We offer products for Insomnia, Baby Sleeping, Sleep Deprivation, Stress, Restlessness and Sleeplessness. Products for baby sleep include swaddle blankets, sleeping bags and lambswool baby sanitized sheepskins to comforters, sleep positioners, slumber bears and lavender wheat bags plus much more!
Please visit http://www.insomniastore.co.uk and http://baby-sleep.co.uk for all your sleeping needs.