ELEMENTS OF HEALTHY SLEEP
There are five elements of healthy sleep for a baby. What does that mean? These five things are important in estabishing healthy sleep overall. Here they are:
- Sleep Duration--Night and Day: Weissbluth says sleep durations starts off biological, but as early as 6 weeks is influenced by parents. He says you can basically have a better behaved, happy child if you help maintain sleep needs. He says to respect child's need for sleep and don't interfere with the natural sleep process (page 16). I think most of us BW parents believe we impact sleep duration sooner than 6 weeks old--otherwise we wouldn't work so hard before then :)
- Naps: Weissbluth has lots of good info on naps here...so much that I will do an entire post on it rather than a short paragraph. Suffice it to say he talks about the importance of naps at great length.
- Sleep Consolidation: Starting on page 39. Consolidated sleep is sleep that is uninterrupted. Continuous. Ten hours of fragmented (aka disrupted) sleep is not the same as ten hours of consolidated sleep. All mothers know this well. Life with a newborn equals life of fragmented sleep. It is great to get 7 hours of sleep total in a night...better to get 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep in a night. When we don't get continuous sleep, we are less patient in the day. We can't focus well. We aren't very productive. Remember, babies are people, too. If you do better with continuous sleep, so does your little person. Weissbluth goes into detail about fragmentation, what causes it, what exactly fragmentation is, and points out that some are normal. When we talk about fragmentations and consolidation, we are talking about sleep quality. How well did you sleep. Sleep consolidation is not only important for night, it is important for day, too.Sleep consolidation is achieved by the person knowing how to fall back asleep on their own.We BW parents agree with the importance of sleep consolidation. That is why we shoot for continuous nighttime sleep. That is why we shoot for longer naps. That is also why we tend to drop the dreamfeed before going to a four hour schedule.
- Sleep Schedule--Timing of Sleep: This information is basically seeking out optimal waketime lengths. This is such a valuable section, I will devote a post to it rather than a paragraph.
- Sleep Regularity: This section discusses the importance of regular sleep. This means a regular bedtime (page 49). It isn't enough for your child to get 10-12 hours of sleep each night. It even isn't enough for him to get 12 hours of sleep every night. He needs a consistent bedtime. Weissbluth even says that a consistent bedtime that is too late is better than an inconsistent bedtime (page 50). Weissbluth does say that bedtime can vary by 30-60 minutes based on your observations of the child. How did naptimes go that day? How is behavior? How tired is your child? I would agree with a 30 minute sway in bedtime. I wouldn't make a 60 minute sway part of the norm. You can always have your off days. Try to stick to your 30 minute window as much as possible. I have discussed bedtime in the past and will link below.On interesting point about sleep regularity is Weissbluth says the natural biological sleep rhythm is on a 25 hour clock, not a 24 hour clock. He says most babies learn to time sleep rhythms to day and night. Others seem to get off every few weeks because of this 25 hour clock (page 55).
Weissbluth lists normal maturation points in sleep that babies go through. They are (page 14):
- 6 Weeks Old: Night sleep lengthens. This is in close range of the expected sleeping 7-8 hours by 7-8 weeks old for BW babies. For Baby Whisperer babies, Hogg says babies are sleeping about 6 hours around this age.
- 12-16 Weeks Old: Daytime sleep regularizes. This is around 3-4 months old. I have found this to be true of my children; naps seem to be a lot more predictable around this age.
- 9 Months Old: Disappearance of night wakings for feedings and baby drops third nap. I am happy to say my kids all slept through without eating long before 9 months old. As for dropping the third nap, Babywise says 8 months is average (though that means some are younger and some are older). All of my children have been older when dropping the third nap.
- 12-21 Months Old: Drops morning nap. Babywise says this happens between 14-22 months, so it is a pretty similar time range.
- 3-4 Years Old: Afternoon nap less common. I have found this to be true.