Sleep is an aspect of our life that is essential to our well-being, our growth, and our brain development. In utero, it is between the 24th and 30th week that some sleep cycles develop. Also, the stimuli provided by the mom in her daily activities influence the development of a sleep cycle and the baby’s biological clock. It is the brain that governs the organization of sleep cycles. After birth, the organization of sleep is largely influenced by daylight, the feeding schedule, and daily activities. These elements (called time-givers) have a great influence on sleep cycles regulation. If they are regular and stable, the biological clock will be set more easily.
At birth, sleep cycles last 40 to 60 minutes. In the first months of life, the cycles regroup in 2-6 cycles per 24 hours. This means that even at this age, a baby is able to sleep six hours straight. Around 3-4 months, the brain is sufficiently developed to consolidate the biological clock and a baby will sleep better at night than during the day. At that age, we can see periods of uninterrupted sleep of 9 hours that can last up to 12 hours around the age of 6 months.
To promote good sleep habits, you must pay attention to your baby's sleep cycle from birth. For some babies, everything will be smooth and peaceful but others will wake up often, crying or hungry, forcing their parents to wake up and intervene.
Several factors must be involved to optimize your baby’s quality and quantity of sleep. First, it is important to create an adequate environment.
A dark and silent room
Many babies find it difficult to sleep in noisy environments. Also, you should ensure that the room is dark by preventing outside lighting from disturbing their sleep. Some parents even caulk the windows to avoid letting the morning light wake their children early.
Ambient temperature and humidity
The ambient temperature also affects the quality of sleep. The room temperature should remain between 18 to 20 degrees Celsius with 30-40% humidity. An overly hot room often affects the quality of sleep and may cause awakenings during the night. It is best to dress your baby in warm pyjamas especially if they move frequently during the night.
Also, it is recommended that babies sleep in their own room. Of course, when the infant is breastfed frequently at night, it may be easier and more convenient to keep the baby close. But when your child grows and their needs for food decrease, their own bedroom is the most appropriate place to promote good sleep. If you do not have a choice and your baby must sleep in your room, it is best to place a piece of furniture or a screen so that your child does not see you when he or she wakes up during the night. Seeing you could encourage them to call you.
Biological rhythm and naps
Parents should pay attention to any sign of fatigue shown by their baby. Rubbing eyes or nose, yawning or reacting less, show that it is a good time to go to bed. Some parents believe that we should wait as long as possible after the first signs, " to make sure that the baby falls asleep faster." In fact, the opposite is true. A child who is too tired becomes restless and this can harm their sleep. It is better to determine an appropriate bedtime based on the hints of fatigue and to keep this routine as stable as possible. This will help strengthen their internal clock and facilitate and improve their sleep.
Parents must also ensure that the baby does not sleep for too long during the day, as it would be at the expense of night sleep. It is suggested to prevent the nap from lasting longer than three hours and not to have them after 16:00, especially after six months, when your baby only needs two naps in a day. Long naps affect night sleep and could explain why some babies fall asleep very late at night. Parents should also avoid getting their baby to sleep around dinner (between 16:00 and 18:00), to avoid compromising their night sleep, especially around 3-4 months when periods of uninterrupted sleep increase in length.
Bedtime ritual and sleepiness associations
It is suggested to quickly establish a bedtime routine. It should be stable, repetitive and predictable. That way, it becomes reassuring and gives your child warning signs as bedtime approaches. Already, after the evening meal, the atmosphere should be calm and you should avoid over- stimulation and excitement... Sometimes even tickling, dancing, watching television and listening to loud music could increase alertness and affect sleep.
A bath should always precede bedtime
The baths role is to help reduce the core body temperature, which naturally promotes and facilitates sleep. In addition, taking a bath provides a break from the daily activities and predisposes children to go to bed. Soon, your baby will know it is time to go to sleep and their whole body will feel it. It is true that sometimes it stimulates some children. A quiet time after bath to rock them, sing lullabies, or read a little book should give the expected results. A massage may also be effective! If giving a bath every night is difficult for you, a quick wash surrounded by calm can also be effective.
Putting baby to sleep while they are awake
It is advisable to put your baby in their bed while they are awake. If desired, remain beside them, rock them in their bed, hum... until they calmly fall asleep. You can also give them a blanket that smells like mom or a soft toy they can fondle at will.
Avoid drinking just before bedtime
Drinks should not coincide with daytime naps and bedtime. Otherwise, an addiction could lead to sleep problems in the longer run. To promote the consolidation of their biological clock, it is also important to plan daily schedules. Parents should set a nap schedule alternating with feedings and daily activities.
The more your baby sleeps alone under the same conditions, the more they will develop good sleep habits that will lead to sleeping through the night more quickly. It is especially true if these conditions are not dependent on an act of the parent.
It is not unusual for a baby to wake up at night. However, they should not require your intervention to go back to sleep, they should be able to find a way to fall asleep on their own. That is why your interventions should be brief and silent.
Avoid rushing into the room every time he or she cries and give them a chance to fall back asleep alone.
Of course, not all babies develop problems associated with falling asleep ... but if we develop good habits early, fewer problems are likely to occur. All this should ensure very peaceful nights!