This is probably one of the most common phrases you will hear once you have a child. Before understanding so much about sleep, there is no way I’d ever have believed that waking up a sleeping child could make sense!
Whilst it may seem counterintuitive, there are actually three situations in which I would recommend waking your sleeping child - if you have a sleepy newborn, if your child is having too much daytime sleep or if your child is napping too late in the day.
If you have a very sleepy little newborn, you may need to wake them every 2-3 hours to feed. Regular feeds are essential for your little one’s growth, especially in these early days, so please check with a medical professional if you are unsure.
If your child is having too much daytime sleep, they may simply not be tired enough to sleep well overnight.
If you find that your little one is having long daytime naps but is then up partying all night, you may need to limit the total amount of daytime sleep they are getting so that their days and nights become more balanced.
Depending on your child’s age, this could mean shortening, or even eliminating, one or more of your child’s naps.
If your child’s last nap of the day finishes too late it can lead to bedtime battles and/or evening and overnight wake-ups. Often this is simply because your child is not tired enough by the time they go to bed.
Many parents find the knock-on effect of a late nap is that their child’s bedtime needs to be pushed later. This, in itself, can cause issues because your child is going to bed much later than they ‘should’ be.
Your child’s circadian rhythm (or body clock), which develops around 4 months of age, means that their hormone levels and body temperature are naturally dipping in the early evening, between 6pm and 7pm, preparing their body for sleep.
If you get your child to bed within this 6-7pm window, they will generally settle much easier and sleep for longer. Pushing past this window means that your child effectively becomes out of sync with their internal body clock, which is when we see many sleep issues.
To make sure that your child is tired enough to go to bed within this 6-7pm window, it is important to keep an eye on their final nap and make sure it does not finish too late in the day.
Stay tuned for the third part of this blog series, where I will discuss the sleep myth - ‘Keeping your child awake makes them sleep better at night’…
In case you missed it, here is part one of this common myths series: Always nap your child in a light room.