THE STAGES OF SLEEP READINESS
We say it all the time - perfect timing = no crying! But what does it mean? What timing? How do you know what it is the ‘perfect’ amount of time to keep your baby up for, and what signs do we watch out for? It is a hard task to settle an overtired baby, and it takes consistency and respect for sleep to ensure that our little ones bodies are protected when it comes to establishing and maintaining the elements surrounding sleep. Think about what it’s like when you have a rough nights sleep, little to no sleep over a few days or even a late night here or there. You can feel on edge, snap much easier, a little more stressed or more easily frustrated then usual? It’s no different for babies, apart from the way they express this. Babies cry to communicate. Crying, tears & tantrums are exacerbated when a baby is overtired. But, this can be avoided at times when the timing surrounding your babies sleep windows are respected and better understood. So, what does each stage of sleep readiness look like, and what does it look like for a child who is overtired?
Stage 1 of Sleep Readiness - Moving Towards Sleep: When your baby is showing signs of becoming ready for bed they will begin to exhibit becoming drowsy, decrease their activity, have slower motions, be less vocal, weaker sucking if feeding, and just overall seem quieter. Stage 2 of Sleep Readiness - Drowsy/Disengaged: This is when your baby is drowsy and becomes disengaged from their surroundings. It’s as though they are almost asleep - and if these signals are ignored this is when babies start to use more self settling signals to aid the transition towards sleep. These cues can be sucking a thumb, or looking for a dummy or comforter, snuggling into a parent or pillow.
Stage 3 of Sleep Readiness - Physical Signs Emerging: This is when your baby’s body is starting to exhibit signs associated with being tired. Commonly these signals will include hiccups or sneezing, in newborn babies there is sometimes a blue tinge around the mouth and quick breaths. Their eyes are much less focused now, staring can occur and a yawn is most likely. The signs are clear, your baby is likely to be entering the overtired state now. Stage 4 of Sleep Readiness - Final Stage = Overtiredness and Beyond Sleep: Progressing through the above 3 stages without intervening with sleep will land us here. If you miss all the above signals Stage 4 will typically result in a very emotional, upset and overtired baby. ✖️Newborn – Colicky crying, unexplained crying, back arching, pulling legs up – seemingly in pain, overstimulation resuming in poor feeding or inattention at the breast or bottle. ✖️Infant – grizzly miserable behaviour, crying, not wanting to feed, fighting sleep, rubbing eyes, thrashing or banging legs on mattress while in bed, fighting being held. ✖️Toddler – hyperactive/second wind behavior, running away/inattentive or not listening to requests, clumsiness/falls/banging into things, fighting sleep, resistant behavior, rubbing eyes and crying.
Overtired babies and children are fatigued, and our bodies naturally respond by producing and releasing a stimulating hormone to fight this fatigue. This ‘second wind’ as many call it actually causes the body to become hyper alert and hyper vigilant and biologically prevents the body from entering into sleep, or if sleep occurs, limiting the duration of sleep. Hence, why overtired babies have difficulty falling and staying asleep. You will become the master of reading your baby’s tired signs and cues, understanding their limitations to awake times and protecting these thresholds. However, just when you figure out what your baby or child can cope with - it changes! Then the learning process starts all over again. We take the guess work and trial and error out of baby sleep, well provide parents with confidence towards understanding their child’s tolerance for awake times and tired cues. We work together to create an empowering satisfaction of understanding, give you as the parent the tools and education to simplify your child’s sleep!