We get contacted by many desperately tired parents every day who are at their wits ends and are looking for a miracle to solve their child’s sleep problem. When we ask them on their intake questionnaire what they have already tried to fix the problem at least 90% say that they have attempted some form of sleep training with no results. Often they are at a loss as to where they went wrong and honestly can’t see how their situation can be improved. In this special series, The Baby Sleep Company is revealing the common pitfalls of DIY sleep training.
Sleep training mistake #2 – starting with naps!
Whenever our baby sleep consultants work with a family whose child’s sleep is a hot mess around the clock (sometimes bad napping, evenings, overnight wakings AND early mornings!) we generally recommend they start with the evenings and overnight wakings first then move on to the naps and early mornings. Often people who are DIYing sleep training tentatively start with naps because they think it will be easier to see through than nights so then when it doesn’t work (and it often doesn’t), they get put off the whole thing and don’t even try to tackle nights because if they can’t do naps, they won’t be able to do nights, right? WRONG! Like I said, we always start with nights and here’s why:
Night sleep training works more quickly
Your baby’s drive for sleep is much higher at night time because their circadian rhythm (body clock) knows they *should* be asleep. Their body’s physiological desire for sleep is much stronger at night time so it is much easier for them to switch from awake to asleep at night. Daytime is much more stimulating and sunlight actually interferes with your little one’s secretion of melatonin (natural sleepy hormone) so your baby can fight day sleep much longer and stronger!
Night sleep training has the most effect on us as parents
Let’s face it – if we can get the nights sorted and everyone is getting more sleep overnight the whole situation is looking a lot rosier, right? Sorting naps is all well and good but when sleep deprivation is leeching into every facet of family life, getting the overnight sleeps right is obviously going to have the biggest impact on us as parents and therefore the whole family unit. It doesn’t mean we’re selfish! Chronic sleep deprivation can affect our health, relationships and even our jobs! It’s important that we sleep overnight and by starting with night sleep training we get there more quickly.
Bad naps can be a symptom of an overtired child
Often when we see a child with bad sleep habits around the clock their naps just organically improve once their nights improve and that’s simply because their poor napping was a symptom of being overtired. Remove the constant state of being overtired and sometimes it’s ‘Hey presto! Look who’s a star napper now!’ You have probably heard the old chestnut that ‘sleep begets sleep’ or ‘sleep breeds sleep’. Basically it’s saying that the more a child sleeps, they more their body will crave sleep so it gets easier to have them sleep more and more (to a point obviously, no one is getting to Rip Van Winkle stage).
Application of new skills
When a child is unable to self-settle for any sleep starts self-settling at every bedtime and self-settling through the night as well it often isn’t a huge leap for them to apply those skills to their naps as well if we give them a couple of weeks as practice. If we start with night sleep training then give the baby a few weeks to really solidify those self-settling skills and sleep like a little star then we often see them just naturally apply those new found mad sleep skills to their naps as well.
You’ll be in a better frame of mind
If all else fails and you try night sleep training, have success and after a couple of weeks your little one STILL isn’t sleeping any better during the day and needs to be fed/rocked/bounced/patted/driven to sleep during the day we will probably have to do sleep training for naps as well. The thing is though, when we tackle the nap training we will be coming off a good fortnight’s worth of better night sleep AND we will be going in with the confidence that we know the technique will work. Being on sleep training duty 24/7 can be hell for a desperately sleep deprived person and honestly, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to see it through without a LOT of support. Breaking the problem into smaller more achievable chunks is far better and means that we’re more likely to see success.
Say! You might also be interested in reading one of these equally enthralling articles:
Common sleep training mistakes: part one
If you would like personalised help with any sleep issue for a child, newborn to 5 years, contact The Baby Sleep Company today on 0457 473 725 or click here to send us an email.