Why Your Baby Will Never Sleep Through The Night
Yes, you read it correctly. Not only will your baby never sleep through the night, but neither will you.
All humans, from their first night on earth to their last, actually wake up multiple times a night! These wakings are part of our natural human sleep cycle and happen even when there's no caffeine or stress.
I'm sure you've noticed times when you've been in a "deep sleep" and times when you felt like you were mildly awake already when you heard your baby or the garbage truck. Not all sleep is the same.
Sleep is Cyclical
When we fall asleep, we begin in a stage of light sleep, move into a deeper sleep and then slowly re-emerge into the lighter stage again. Each time we move back into that lighter stage, there's a chance we'll wake up.
What might surprise you is that this process happens several times during the night. Each cycle can take as little as 90-110 minutes.i We don't spend most of our night in a long stretch of deep sleep.
Luckily, this process is pretty seamless. While we may wake for a moment or two, we normally fall right back to sleep. This is when you might cover up or move your pillow. Many times, we never really break the surface and don't remember waking at all.
When all goes well, we cruise through these sleep cycles five or six times, wake refreshed and ready for the day.
So now that we know about grown-ups, let's talk about the little people in our lives.
Infants, despite their increased need for sleep, have a much shorter sleep cycle than adults. On average, an infant goes from light sleep to deep sleep and back again in an astounding 50 minutes. ii
Depending on your child's age, you might have noticed the plague of waking every hour or maybe every 45 minutes. If this is happening in your home, your baby is simply waking after each sleep cycle.
So, What’s The Answer?
There's no magic wand to help your child lengthen their sleep cycle. In fact, we don't aim to lengthen it at all! A child who "sleeps well" doesn't have longer sleep cycles, but instead has developed healthy sleep strategies. Teaching children to fall sleep independently actually teaches them how to fall back to sleep with ease. That's where the magic happens!
You see, when a baby is held to sleep and then wakes in a crib, it can be alarming for them. Where am I? Where is mom? What's going on? For some babies, there’s a fight or flight reaction.
On the other hand, if a baby falls asleep independently, over time, their brains simply signal them to go back to sleep. There's no middle of the night upset.
There are a few reasons why I feel it's so important for parents to understand this. First of all, I want you to know that teaching independent sleep does nothing that actually influences or alters your baby's natural sleep. You're just giving them the skills to fall asleep independently after they wake up, which, as you probably know by now, they're going to do multiple times a night.
Second, one of the biggest arguments you might hear from critics of sleep training is, "Babies are supposed to wake up at night!"
And that's absolutely, 100 percent correct. Babies, just like adults, are supposed to wake up at night. In fact, it would take some powerful sedatives to prevent it.
My methods help little ones stay calm and content when they do wake up, and giving them the ability to get back to sleep without any help from mom, a pacifier, or any other exterior source that might not be readily available in the middle of the night.
So if you're wondering whether or not sleep training is going to put your child at an increased risk for SIDS, or if it will somehow alter their natural sleep patterns, or make them nocturnal, or damage them in any way, I can assure you with the full support of the American Academy of Pediatrics, that it will not. iii
What it will do is keep them calm and assured when they wake up in the night, and help to ensure that they get the sleep they need to be happy and healthy.
So, although your little one is going to wake up numerous times a night, every night, they can quickly and easily learn the skills to get back to sleep on their own. It will only seem as though they're sleeping straight through the night.
That, I would imagine, is something we can all get behind.
i US National Library of Medicine - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072506/
ii US National Library of Medicine - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3439810/
iii American Academy of Pediatrics - https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/Infant-Sleep-Training-is-Effective-and-Safe-Study-Finds.aspx