When will my baby sleep through the night?
Your baby will never sleep through the night. Yeah, that’s right, I said it. And neither will you, for that matter!
In fact, everyone is expected to wake up multiple times during the night and this is not due to stress, caffeine, lack of exercise or any other factor that can contribute to a bad night’s sleep; it is because of the nature of the human sleep cycle.
We’re all familiar with the various stages of sleep and can tell the difference between waking from light sleep or deep sleep, yet very few of us know about the biology of sleep and our sleep cycle.
Our sleep cycle
In short, when we fall asleep, we spend a little time in a “light sleep” and gradually progress into a deeper one.
We stay in deep sleep for a little while and then gradually re-emerge into the lighter stage, and when we do, there’s a good chance that we’ll wake up.
Sounds straightforward, right?
Let’s say that we fall asleep at eleven o’clock at night, we hit that deep stage by midnight then hang in there for six or so hours before we go back to light sleep around 6 am or 7 am, gradually waking up refreshed and ready for our day.
Well, not exactly, the entire process (sleep cycle) of going from light sleep to deep sleep and back again takes 90-110 minutes.
Luckily, the process repeats itself pretty easily.
Either we’ll wake up for a minute and fall right back to sleep, we might switch sleeping sides or positions, it could be that we would hug our pillow, or we might not fully wake up at all.
Ideally, the sleep cycle is repeated five or six times in a row, we get a restful restorative sleep and we reap the benefits of it throughout the day.
But enough about us adults, what about our little ones?
Baby’s sleep cycle
Infants have a much shorter sleep cycle than adults do despite their higher need for sleep.
On average, an infant’s sleep cycle lasts for about 45-60 minutes, so whoever coined the phrase “sleep like a baby” was clearly deluded!
Why don’t kids sleep for long?
Why do many children wake up fully, several times during the night and need our help and intervention to go back to sleep? And when will they outgrow this stage?
While many babies outgrow this at some point, most babies with sleep problems will continue to have the same issues at an older age.
This is because they simply do not know how to sleep independently and did not develop sleeping skills on their own.
What is preventing your baby from connecting sleep cycles through the night is that when they wake up, they simply do not know how to independently go back to sleep.
By teaching them to sleep independently, or, better said, to be able to connect sleep cycles without your help or intervention, you’ll be helping your baby to accept these wake-ups as a “non-event.”
How it works
This is where the essential element of sleep training comes into play; the training doesn’t teach your child to stay asleep or to spend more time in any one stage of the sleep cycle.
What it does is it initially teaches your baby to fall asleep independently (at bedtime) and again when they wake up during the night (at the end of each sleep cycle).
That’s it! That really is the heart of the issue and the secret to “sleeping through the night.“
Once they’ve learned the independent sleep skills, their brain will signal them to go back to sleep, and that’s exactly what they’ll do.
Why sleep-train your baby?
First of all, I want you to know that when helping your baby through a gradual sleep program, you are not doing anything that actually influences or alters your baby’s natural sleep.
You’re just giving them the skills to fall asleep on their own once they’ve woken up.
Second, one of the biggest arguments you might hear from critics of sleep programs is that “babies are supposed to wake up at night!” and that’s absolutely 100% correct.
Babies, just like adults, are supposed to wake up at night.
All what you will be doing is teaching healthy sleeping habits and independent sleeping so that they 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.
My tips for a good night’s sleep:
- Start your baby on healthy sleeping training early on by ensuring that they have a restful, calm bedtime routine, conducive of a good night’s sleep.
- Start encouraging your baby to sleep independently from infancy.
- Respect your baby’s sleep needs by helping them develop a healthy biological clock and sleep schedule.
If this proves to be difficult to achieve and you feel like you still need help, it is best to consult with a sleep specialist and not let your baby and yourself suffer from sleep deprivation.
Just think that a healthy, restful and full night’s sleep can be within a couple of days’ reach.