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How Long Does It Take Your Baby To Fall Asleep?

Sleep latency refers to the time is takes for your little one to fall asleep. Although monitors can be detrimental the mental health of Mums who have sleep-related anxiety, I do love them in the sense that we can get an idea of how much your sleep trained baby is actually sleeping. Babies who have been sleep trained know their cot as a safe space where they sleep when tired or relax if they are not quite sleepy enough. Those with comforters may be found quietly playing, unbeknown to parents who assume they're fast asleep. It can be helpful to know how long your little one takes to fall asleep at night, what time they woke in the morning and how long it took them to fall asleep for their nap(s).

Here are some factors that affect sleep latency:

1. Sleep debt

2. Last awake time

3. How confident your child is at getting from awake to asleep

4. Environment

5. Age

6. Wind down

As you’ve probably already gathered, infant and toddler sleep can be quite complex. You would assume that short sleep latency would mean your child was the perfect amount of tired and that you’ve done well to master the day. Unfortunately, babies and toddlers who fall asleep in less than 5 minutes are likely too tired. They’ve accumulated so much sleep debt that their body shuts down quickly. If your child sleeps 12 hours and wakes happy and refreshed, you don’t need to worry about this and they will likely grow into their schedule soon. However, if your child’s sleep latency is less than 5 minutes and is accompanied by screaming wakes in the 4 hours after bedtime and/or early morning wakes, you should consider shifting their schedule to include 15-30 minutes more day sleep or less time awake before bed.

On the other end of the spectrum, one would assume that a longer sleep latency (greater than 20 minutes) would indicate insufficient sleep pressure? In most cases, yes, however there are instances where the previous awake window was so long that the child is now producing mass volumes of adrenaline. This can be the case with the daycare attendees who are pushed to 7 hours awake when their maximum is usually 4 or 5. The body has switched into fight mode just as our adult nervous systems go into fight mode at bedtime if we have recently had an intense workout, late night work meeting or a late night double espresso. The body is tired, but adrenaline will need to be released before the brain can relax into a sleep. This circulating adrenaline will be temporarily counteracted by melatonin production overnight but come 4am when melatonin drops off, your child will begin to feel energised and ready to start the day. Hence why we see 4am and 5am wakes in overtired children. 4 and 5am wakes are very rarely due to under-tiredness.

Environment and wind down can be particularly useful in reducing sleep latency in toddlers. There is so much going on in the mind of a toddler and going from running around excited to fast asleep can be a hard task without some sort of calming process. As with all ages, this doesn’t have to be fancy. The way you wind down your child will be dependent on your child’s temperament. Some babies and toddlers love laying on their change table and having a pre-bed massage, others believe laying on a change table is a form of torture. For energetic children who are wound up at bedtime you can try saving the bath as the final step before bed or you might keep a pre-bed feed around for longer than you would have expected, for the sense of calm it provides. If your child won’t sit on your lap for a book at this time, you can try popping your child in the cot and reading to them. Initially this might cause protest, but they will learn to enjoy this over time. You can also use this as a wake up ritual for naps.

In summary, children with very short sleep latencies are likely experiencing sleep debt. In some cases, delayed onset of sleep when accompanied with distressed wakes and early rising can indicate the child has been pushed into an overtired state due to long awake periods or overstimulation. If you are concerned about your child’s sleep latency, visit my website to see what 1:1 services I offer.

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