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Is Your Little One Getting Enough Sleep?

The easiest way in which to answer this question is to ask yourself what they are like during the day. If they seem to struggle in the daytime, more often than not they are in need of some more sleep. One of the expectations we can have when we become parents is that our infants will sleep when they are tired, however this is not always the case. As a result we need to be able to recognise 'sleepy cues' & give them opportunities for sleep.


It is important to differentiate between the early signs of tiredness and the late ones so that you can put your child down for a nap before they become quickly overtired. Timing can sometimes be key in preventing a scenario of an inconsolable child. Early signs would include things like yawning, fussing, losing interest whereas late signs would be crying or becoming inconsolable, rubbing eyes, back arching (sometimes misdiagnosed as reflux) & looking for comfort through feeding.


Throughout the day there is a build up of homeostatic sleep pressure (HSP) which is the drive to fall asleep during waking hours & can only be relieved by getting some sleep. When the pressure is high it is easy to fall asleep, however, with excessive pressure it's more difficult as we become overtired and restless.


As parents we often make the mistake of thinking our little ones are okay because they appear to be so full of energy. But are they really? Chances are if they haven't been been put down within the wake maintenance zone and given an opportunity to relieve some of the pressure through age appropriate naps or consolidated night time sleep, they unfortunately will have missed the window leading to increased fussiness and difficulty with settling.

 

Have you ever heard the term "good sleep breeds more sleep?"

 

A child who is having consolidated naps during the day should have overall mood improvement and this can also help when it comes to night time wakings. Overtiredness can manifest itself it many different ways and one of the most common issues is frequent night waking. An overtired child runs on adrenaline & cortisol which is what makes them appear to be hyperactive and this in turn causes difficulty with settling. When they finally get to sleep in the evening their brain prioritises rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and skips stages of deep sleep (NREM) sometimes resulting in them waking every 30 minutes until they have 'caught up.'


What if I told you that it didn't have to be like that?


Depending on their age, children need a certain amount of sleep over a 24 hour period in order to feel well rested. Please use this as a guide only. Every child has slightly different sleep needs. You will be able to judge accordingly which spectrum of the scale your child sits on, depending on their mood & behaviour.


 

AGE: Newborn

NUMBER OF NAPS: Evenly spread throughout day & night

TOTAL HRS DAYTIME SLEEP: Varies

NIGHT TIME HRS OF SLEEP: Varies

TOTAL HOURS OF SLEEP 24 HRS: 14-17


 


AGE: 3 months

NUMBER OF NAPS: 3-4

TOTAL HRS DAYTIME SLEEP: 4-6hrs

NIGHT TIME HRS OF SLEEP: 8-10hrs

TOTAL HOURS OF SLEEP 24 HRS:14-16hrs


 

AGE: 6 months

NUMBER OF NAPS: 3

TOTAL HRS DAYTIME SLEEP: 3-4hrs

NIGHT TIME HRS OF SLEEP:10-11hrs

TOTAL HOURS OF SLEEP 24 HRS: 13-15hrs


 

AGE: 9 months

NUMBER OF NAPS: 2

TOTAL HRS DAYTIME SLEEP: 2-3hrs

NIGHT TIME HRS OF SLEEP:10-11hrs

TOTAL HOURS OF SLEEP 24 HRS: 12-14hrs


 

AGE:12 months

NUMBER OF NAPS: 2

TOTAL HRS DAYTIME SLEEP: 2-3hrs

NIGHT TIME HRS OF SLEEP:10-11hrs

TOTAL HOURS OF SLEEP 24 HRS: 12-14hrs


 

AGE:18 months

NUMBER OF NAPS:1

TOTAL HRS DAYTIME SLEEP: 2-3hrs

NIGHT TIME HRS OF SLEEP:10-11hrs

TOTAL HOURS OF SLEEP 24 HRS: 12-14hrs


 

AGE: 2 years

NUMBER OF NAPS:1

TOTAL HRS DAYTIME SLEEP: Can be up tp to 2hrs

NIGHT TIME HRS OF SLEEP:10-12hrs

TOTAL HOURS OF SLEEP 24 HRS: 12-14hrs


 

AGE: 3 years

NUMBER OF NAPS: 0-1

TOTAL HRS DAYTIME SLEEP: Can be up tp to 1hr

NIGHT TIME HRS OF SLEEP:10-12hrs

TOTAL HOURS OF SLEEP 24 HRS: 11-13hrs


 

AGE: 4 years +

NUMBER OF NAPS: Usually, 0

TOTAL HOURS OF SLEEP 24 HRS: 10-12hrs


 

Usually by the age of 6 months, naps are consolidated into 3 specific times during the day.


  • Morning nap (usually dropped around 15-18 months)

  • Lunchtime nap (usually dropped around 3-3.5 years)

  • Afternoon nap (usually dropped around 7-9 months)


It should be noted that each child is different and some children may sometimes need more sleep and others less. You should observe your child and see whether or not they are struggling, perhaps keeping a record of sleep durations both at night & during the day which you can then adjust accordingly. Naps can also depend on what has taken place that day, for example, if you have a child who is unwell or a child who did not sleep very well the night before, they will need to have appropriate naps to fill their sleep bank. Good sleep hygiene from the onset will be conducive to promoting better sleep.


Please remember that very young babies & during the early months will more than likely be difficult to settle at times as they adjust to their world outside of the womb. It is also completely normal for them to wake up for night feeds.


Words of affirmation: You are resilient and can get through anything!


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