One of the most common questions we hear from both new and experienced parents alike is how to know if their baby is getting enough sleep. With all of the advice available out there, from medical experts to internet opinions, it can be tough to know if you’re making the right choices when it comes to your child’s sleep routine and hygiene.

Most parents know that their baby needs a lot of sleep. Sleep is essential for proper growth and development in young children, and depending on their age, your child may need a full night of sleep plus multiple naps to make sure they are getting enough rest.

However, it can be a challenge to get your baby on a solid sleep schedule where they go down easily and stay asleep for long periods of time. There are a few things you can do to help your child fall asleep more easily and stay asleep naturally, which is what their brain and body are craving.

Why Naps Are Essential

A common tip that many new parents are often told is that it is ok to skip naps in order to help your child fall asleep more easily at night. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. In fact, a baby who does not nap during the day will be more tired, cranky, and difficult to put down as well as leading to more time spent awake during the night.

Naps are an essential time for your baby’s brain to process the excessive amounts of stimulation they are receiving at all times. This time is also spent on tissue regeneration and other processes, so regular naps are incredibly important to make sure your baby can continue learning and growing.

The Homeostatic Sleep Drive

The feeling of needing to sleep is caused by our homeostatic sleep drive. This feeling can often be felt like pressure that builds up throughout the day as children are learning and interacting with their world. The homeostatic sleep drive determines how much stimuli we can handle before we start to get sleepy.

When your child is young, their homeostatic sleep drive is functioning on high. In the first three to four months after birth, this drive is what causes babies to take short naps every few hours. As your child ages, however, other factors help their sleep schedule mature, such as the circadian rhythm. 

Circadian Rhythms

Our sleep schedule is also driven by our circadian rhythms, which release melatonin and cortisol into your body in order to make you sleepy or wake you up. This cycle takes place over 24 hours to help make sure you get enough sleep and wake up feeling energized.

The circadian rhythm drives what time you will naturally start to feel tired and is influenced by light. When your brain senses daylight, it releases cortisol to help wake you up. When your brain notices it has gotten dark, it releases melatonin to make you sleepy. In children, the circadian rhythm also releases melatonin at certain points throughout the day, making them ideal for naptime.

Ideally, your child’s naptime will align with both the pressure caused by the homeostatic sleep drive and the release of melatonin from their circadian rhythm.

Warning Signs

There are some warning signs to look out for that may help you figure out when your child is naturally getting tired and should go to sleep.

  • Unfocused or not paying attention to surroundings.
  • Not interested in food or toys.
  • Avoiding parents or caregivers.
  • Abrupt limb movements.
  • Alternating periods of quiet and fussiness.

Are you still confused about how much sleep your baby should be getting? As I certified sleep consultant, I am trained to work one-on-one with families to ensure the best night of sleep for everyone in your household. Contact Petite Dreamers today to set up a consultation.