Busting Sleep Myths

A lot of the things we hear about sleep are counter-intuitive, so in this post I’m going to do my best to bust some of these myths!

Here’s a quick reminder of the stats- 1 in 4 children will have a sleep challenge at some point in their young lives. And so, for all those sleep-deprived parents out there, there are the same number of family members and friends who’ll have lots of well-meaning advice to help.

So here are the top 5, most common sleep problems and the proper ways to go about fixing them:

1- 2 year old with bedtime battles- Cut out the nap to make sure they’re tired enough at bedtime!

If you have tried this, you might have found that your child would fall asleep easier at bedtime. But it would be a ‘crash out’ to sleep, meaning there was no self-settling involved. This then means that if they wake in the night, they may not know how to get back to sleep by themselves. It also commonly results in earlier morning wakeups due to overtiredness and their cortisol levels still being high. Things could also fall apart after a week or two.

All 2 year olds still need a nap of 2 hours. Cutting out the nap completely and you’ll have an even more overtired child and probably see more night wakings and early mornings!

So, cutting out naps is not the answer here! Instead, investigate the timing and length of the nap, bedtime and how your child is getting to sleep. This is where we’d normally find the answer instead!

2- Child is rising early (before 6am). They appear awake and ready to start the day. Maybe bedtime is too early and needs to be pushed back later?

To be honest, I’d be surprised if bedtime is too early! If your child is going to bed and falling asleep with about 20 minutes, I’d say bedtime is perfect! If it takes a lot longer, bedtime possibly isn’t early enough! This is because, when a child is ready for sleep and it doesn’t happen (they are often good at hiding their sleepy signs until it’s too late!), then the body releases cortisol to keep them going, which then makes sleep even harder.

So if your child is waking before 6am, maybe bedtime needs to be earlier as the main reason for early wakings is overtiredness!

3- My 2 year old keeps trying to climb out of her cot. She must be ready for a big bed?

Before the age of 2 ½ children do not cognitively understand the concept of staying in bed. So, it may seem like a good idea and may work initially, the chances are they will soon discover their freedom and then you’ll have a whole new set of challenges on your hands.

So, if you have a cot-climber, my advice is to explore all other options before resorting to a standard bed. Products like Gro-bags or Slumbersacks can be very helpful as they restrict the child from being able to get their leg over the side of the cot. Try and work out a way to keep your little one safely in their cot until as close to 3 years old as possible.

4- Newborns can/ should be able to sleep anywhere!

Newborns obviously have to be brought wherever you go and these places are often not quiet. Soft plays with older children, loud coffee shops, supermarkets etc. The baby is there and appears to be sleeping soundly despite all the background noise.

A newborn baby will nap a lot. But it is rather a light slumber rather than a deep sleep. So, while they seem to be sleeping through all the background noise, this isn’t recommended to be a regular feature.

Calmer days make for calmer nights. Even if your little one appears to be coping okay at the time, you can then find they are unsettled hours later. Generally, it’s best if the surrounding area around your baby’s sleep space is calm, quiet and relaxing as this is more conducive to a good sleep.

5- Some children just don’t need as much sleep as their peers so maybe my child is just a ‘bad sleeper’.

This is unlikely to be the case. Yes, all children are different but there are guidelines of how much recommended sleep a child of a certain age needs, and these guidelines apply to 95% of children. Whilst you might think your child falls into the other 5%, the chances are they don’t. They are just likely to be having some behavioural challenges that mean they aren’t getting the sleep they need. By ‘behavioural challenges’ I simply mean that there is no medical reason for the sleep issues, and that it’s just the actions or behaviour you are seeing at sleep times.

I hope this sleep myth busting has helped you! If you need any more tailored advice and 1-to-1 support, please get in touch today!

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