It’s no secret that we at The Baby Sleep Site are dedicated to helping parents help their children to gently fall asleep independently, and take long restorative naps. If your little one is waking up in the night or mid-way through their nap, chances are they need to let go of sleep associations or adjust their schedules to combat over-tiredness. Learning to sleep independently and having an ideal sleep schedule are two of the most important factors to helping your child get the sleep they need. But, what happens when your little one is sleeping on their own and already has an age-appropriate schedule, but still isn’t sleeping well!!? Here’s a look at some of the surprising reasons you may have missed.
Lower Sleep Needs
From 6 to 18 months, most babies will need about 13 to 15 hours of total sleep in a day. These are just averages, but the “typical” child – if there is such a thing! – will fall somewhere in that range. Every so often, however, we have found little ones who may need less or even sometimes more than that. What happens when a baby who needs less sleep has a “typical” schedule? The clues may show up in a few different ways – That child might wake super early, have very short naps, or they will often have a hard time consolidating their night sleep, meaning they may stay awake for long periods during the night. It is important to remember that this is a conclusion we arrive at only after we have eliminated other options. The reason is that many of these clues could have other explanations as well. So, before concluding that your little one simply needs less sleep, it’s important to be sure they have the opportunity to sleep independently before getting overtired, and keep a comprehensive sleep log for one to two weeks in order to confirm that their sleep needs may actually be lower than their peers.
Another less-obvious reason your little one may not be sleeping is that they are ready for a nap transition sooner than you may have anticipated. Just as there are averages for how much sleep babies need, there are also general age ranges for when babies are ready to transition to fewer naps. In our experience, most babies are not ready to transition to 1 nap until they are around 15-18 months. However, we’ve also seen many outliers who were ready much sooner, or not ready until much later. These children don’t necessarily need fewer hours of sleep, but may be able to stay awake longer before sleeping again. If your little one is ready to drop a nap before you realize it, this may show up in the form of insomnia or early wakings as well. So, if your little one has been a champ sleeper for some time, is not at the age of one of a major sleep regressions, and all of a sudden is not sleeping, this may be a possible cause. In this case, again, before making any drastic changes, it is worth it to keep a sleep log, and ideally have it reviewed by an experienced sleep professional who can analyze what may be going on.
We say this a lot because it is so true – every child is unique! This is why we strongly believe there are no one-size-fits-all sleep solutions. Every temperament may require a slightly different approach, and if you have a very persistent or very perceptive little one, you likely already know that what works for your friends’ babies, may not work for you. We have worked with babies that are so perceptive that it is almost impossible for them to sleep while on the go, and sometimes only after a lot of tears. For a perceptive child, their sleep environment may be key to ensuring healthy sleep. If it is too bright in the room, or the night light is in a white/blue/green hue it could be disrupting your perceptive little one’s sleep! . It can help to place the night light out of their line of sight, and keep it very dim, as well as choose warm hues.
It’s true that many babies don’t seem to mind a wet diaper during the night, and most disposables do a very good job absorbing wetness. Cloth diapers are great for baby’s skin and for the environment, but they don’t do as great of a job wicking away wetness from the skin. So, if your little one is sensitive to different textures and sensations, and you are using cloth diapers, this may be affecting sleep because the wetness will be more noticeable. One cloth-diapering parent of ours tried disposables overnight and her little one started sleeping through the night right away!
As always we emphasize that learning to sleep independently and having a schedule that allows for plenty of rest is key in helping babies get the sleep they need. But, sometimes the answer is not as clear. We need to take a deeper look at all the factors surrounding a child’s sleep, and the conclusion can sometimes surprise us all!