Sleep Pressure: What it is, and why it matters for your baby!
Updated: Aug 1, 2022
In the last year, we were so fortunate to be able to help a physician on the front lines of Covid-19 and her husband who’s in law enforcement, working nights. Their 6-month-old daughter was NOT sleeping and these tired parents reached a breaking point. I’m happy to report that this beautiful girl slept through the night on night TWO of our plan. YESSSSS!!!! Night freaking TWO!
Mom said today, “I feel like a new person!”
This is so our “WHY” every day.
Do you wonder…
Why your baby HATES his crib?
How long it’s going to take you to get your baby to sleep at bedtime?
When is your baby suddenly going to start sleeping because you’re so stinking TIRED?
It’s not teething, regression, a leap, a growth spurt, or any other “reason” you’ve been telling yourself for your child’s terrible sleep!
My hunch is that sleep pressure is to blame, and here’s why. I’m going to “sleep geek” out on you for a minute, so bear with me!
What Is Sleep Pressure?
Sleep pressure is one of the most important elements of anyone’s sleep, and that includes your child’s.
According to Sleepio, “sleep pressure can be thought of as the brain’s pressure and need for sleep, becoming greater with increasing amounts of time spent awake. In this way, the pressure to sleep is directly related to the amount of time that we have been awake.”
How Does Sleep Pressure Affect Our Baby’s Sleep?
For us, adults, as the day progresses, our need for sleep builds until we climb into bed at night and fall asleep.
For babies, they can only handle a certain amount of awake time depending on their age before they need to sleep, so they end up with one or more naps each day.
If you rock, bounce, or feed your baby to “almost” sleep and then put them down. Guess what? You’ve taken off baby’s sleep pressure, and your baby is going to let you know about it by protesting in a big way!
If your baby CAN get themselves to sleep after you’ve put them into their crib “almost” asleep, chances are, your baby is going to wake 30 minutes later because…..You guessed it! You took off baby’s sleep pressure, and he doesn’t have enough of it to keep him asleep!
Chronic, short naps are one of the biggest challenges my clients have before we work together. I LOVE teaching babies to take long, restful naps! It’s possible for EVERY baby (YES, even yours!).
Want Your Baby To Sleep Like A Champ?
One of the best ways to keep your baby’s sleep pressure where it needs to be is to be consistent about a WAKE-EAT-PLAY-SLEEP routine. What this means is you always offer baby a good, full feed (either bottle or breast) AFTER they wake and NOT before they sleep. Baby wakes in the morning, has a good, full feed, then some awake time that’s appropriate for their age, then right into their crib for nap – awake. Allowing baby to make the entire journey from awake to asleep on their own is the key to teaching him to sleep without “help” from you, and it’s the foundation of what I teach my clients.
Baby can have a sippy cup of water and solid snacks right up to nap time, but you want to keep bottle and breastfeeding to after baby wakes.
A WAKE-EAT-PLAY-SLEEP routine keeps your baby’s sleep pressure up, which helps them in a big way when it comes to falling asleep at nap time and bedtime. Sound Familiar?
I’m sure you’ve experienced this…You’re out for an errand and baby’s getting tired and falls asleep for 1-minute just as you’re getting home. His eyes pop open just as soon as the car engine stops, and since you know, he’s tired you put him into his crib when you get into the house.
And, massive protest, no nap happens, and there you are with an over-tired tiny human. That short, 1-minute nap was enough to take off sleep pressure and leave you wondering why a tired baby won’t sleep? Now you know.
Another place where sleep pressure is often taken off is during the bedtime routine. The bedtime routine should be about giving baby signs that sleep is coming and NOT about “helping” them on their journey to sleep.
If you follow a WAKE-EAT-PLAY-SLEEP routine consistently, give your baby enough awake time, and create a sleep sanctuary for your little one, you’re well on your way to a baby that sleeps like a champ.
Want Help With Your Baby’s Sleep?
We’re here if you need some additional help with your baby’s sleep. Our complimentary sleep evaluation is the best place to start. You can tell us more about your baby’s sleep (or lack thereof!), and we can share exactly how we can help.
We’re looking forward to hearing from you soon!
Here’s to a well-rested family,