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Sleep Sisters’ Rules to Sleep By:

Babies have a biological need for sleep–Our bodies create hormones that help us fall asleep (melatonin) and ones that keep us awake (adrenaline and cortisol). We want to encourage our babies to produce these hormones at the right times…otherwise, we risk them developing “jet-lag syndrome” and become extremely overtired.

Sleep Begets Sleep–When babies are overtired, they have trouble falling asleep and STAYING asleep. Although many people will tell you to “keep your baby up” so that he gets tired, the opposite is in fact true. If your baby is having trouble sleeping, it is because he is overtired.

Make Sleep a Priority–Having your child get the sleep she needs is the same as making sure she’s getting enough nutrition. A child’s developing brain needs sleep to function at its best. You may have to alter your own schedule to fulfill the needs of your baby for a while.

Sleep in motion is not restorative–Having your child sleep in the car or in a stroller is not the same high-quality sleep that he will get in his crib. After 3 months or so, your child should be sleeping in his crib (or co-sleeper/bed) for most of his naps and at night.

A dark and cool room is the best sleep environment–Babies like to sleep in a “cave-like” environment. Don’t YOU sleep better when it’s dark?

Quality beats Quantity and Timing of Sleep beats Length of Sleep–High quality sleep (motionless, without music, dark, and at the right time) is more important than how long the sleep lasts.

Consistency is Key–Decide on your plan as a family and stick to it. When changes have to occur (a family vacation, a holiday meal, a doctor’s appointment) it will be easier to get back on track if your routine is well-established.

Questions about anything you see here?  Don’t hesitate to contact us!  We’d love to hear from you.

20 comments to Sleep Sisters’ Rules to Sleep By:

  • Trully Luke

    Our three year old twins have been good sleepers until recently. They attend daycare 3 days per week and they nap there. The days they are home we nap together, usually for about 2 hours in the early afternoon. Bedtime is 7 pm. They are not falling asleep until 10 pm lately though. One night they were up while my MIL was sitting for them until 1 am! And instead of sleeping until the usual 7:30 or so, they are up at 6:00 am. What are we doing wrong??

  • Jessica

    I have a 10 week old and we are having sleep problems during the day. She does awesome at night but during the day she fights so bad. She has to be swaddled to sleep, so I swaddle and nurse her. She eats and falls asleep but lately as soon as I set her down she wakes right and cries because she doesn’t want to go to sleep.I have no idea what to do. Also my 16 month old wakes during the night, she just cries out and goes back to sleep but you think that’s because get bedtime is so late? Usually she doesn’t get to bed until 10-10:30. That’s really late according to your schedule!

    • Melissa Zdrodowski

      Hi, Jessica. Thanks for your comment and reaching out. Without knowing a lot more information about your situation, I can’t give you much specific advice. But I can tell you generally little ones fight sleep when they are overtired, so during the day, make sure to get the 10wk old back to sleep within 60-90 mins after waking each time (or no longer than the duration of her last nap). You can also try to feed her right when she wakes, rather than right before she goes back to sleep, although sometimes that’s the same thing! The 16month old definitely needs a much earlier bedtime! There’s no way she is getting enough sleep with a bedtime that late. Start moving bedtime earlier by 15-20 mins each night. There may be other things at work, but start there and see if the night wakings improve. Good luck, and let us know if you need more support!

  • Alexi

    I was forwarded your website from a friend of mine. I have a 3.5 month old who would go down for naps & bedtime like a breeze. It would be yawn here, yawn there, I’d pick her up, pop a pacifier in her mouth & then with rocking, walking or some ball bouncing, she would be asleep. For the last 3 days, she has completely changed!

    Now the same yawn here & there, I pick her up & try to put a pacifier in her mouth and she starts turning her head towards my breast (I follow a Eat/Activity/Sleep schedule so I’d rather not nurse to sleep), which removes her pacifier. While she does this, she starts fussing so I try to turn her head, put her pacifier in & continue bouncing, rocking or walking. She then gets pretty mad about this & just starts crying. Everything I do, does not help. I don’t understand the “pick-up, put-down” method because if I put her down she cries, if I pick her up she doesn’t stop crying. I wasn’t willing to let her cry-it-out but now I feel like maybe that is the next step.

    Lately the only thing that works is me putting her in a sling, forcing her thumb in her mouth (which she really loves her thumb now & hates a pacifier) and rocking, walking & patting her butt. There HAS to be a better way. Also, i feel that once she is asleep & I put her in her crib, her hand pops out of her mouth so I put the pacifier in then, she takes it & is fine. If not, she would wake up.

    UGH! HELP!

    • Melissa Zdrodowski

      As you know, there are so many factors that contribute to our babies’ sleep. I don’t really have enough information about your daughter or your family to give you any specific advice. I can tell you that 3.5 months is earlier than the age we recommend any formal sleep training (we typically recommend 4-6 months as an appropriate time to begin), and it’s too early for CIO. At this age, you can work on sleep hygiene, timing of sleep, and sleep associations. Make sure she has a sleep-conducive place to have all her sleeps (naps and bedtime). Make sure you are giving her the opportunity to sleep at biologically appropriate times throughout the day. And help her learn how to soothe herself. Sounds like you are already doing a lot of this, like helping her find her thumb. You can begin to replace sleep associations where she requires you (like patting, rocking, etc.) with sleep associations that help her sleep independently (like white noise, dark room, thumb or paci). She may also be experiencing a growth spurt and need to feed more frequently or longer, so be mindful of that and check with your pediatrician. If you would like additional support, please take a look at our consulting packages!

  • Mary

    My nine month old has been thrown off his schedule and is having a really hard time falling asleep. Once he’s finaly down he stays asleep ok at night but his naps are shorter than they should be. I know he’s overtired–how do I help him out of it?

    • Melissa Zdrodowski

      So many factors may be affecting his sleep. We’d need a lot more information before we could give you a good answer, but here are a few things you can try. Check the timing of his naps and make sure you are giving him enough time to try and settle himself down if he wakes 30-45 mins into his nap. At 9mo, many babies are hitting developmental milestones that can impact sleep. To combat an overtired baby, move bedtime earlier until he is caught up and offer plenty of opportunity for sleep in a motionless, dark, cool environment. Stay consistent with your routine! Good luck and contact us if you need some assistance getting back on track.

  • Emily

    I just stumbled upon your site while trying to research the best bedtime for our 8 month old. He is very inconsistent. One night he does great with 10 hours and the next it’s up every 3. I do nurse him but he doesn’t seem to NEED to eat. He more wakes for the comfort of me and/or nursing. After reading everything on your site I learned he should be going to bed significantly earlier than we thought. He was going to bed around 9-930. That’s 2.5-3 hours late! Oops! We do have a nice bedtime routine that calms him down. But it always ends with me nursing him and him falling asleep. If we wake up barely to lay him down he just screams. I have tried HARD to let him cry at both naps and bedtime if he wakes when I lay him in his crib. IT IS SO HARD. I will obviously be trying the “bedtime 3.5 hours after last nap” this evening. But any other ideas/ tricks that you have for us would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much! Sincerely, two very exhausted first time parents :)

    • Melissa Zdrodowski

      I know it can be so difficult when sleep is inconsistent. Without knowing your son’s background or other information, I can’t give you specific, tailored advice. But I can give you a couple general tips.

      Many 8-month olds begin to experience separation anxiety, which may be contributing to his crying when you put him down and his desire to spend more time with you. Try to give him extra love and snuggles during the day, and maybe spend some extra time on your wind down routine before naps and bed. The hard crying is usually just a sign of protest. You could also try reassuring him from outside the room by saying some soothing words that remind him it’s time to sleep now.

      Regarding the bedtime, if jumping right to an earlier bedtime of 3.5 hrs after last wake doesn’t go well, try a more gradual approach by moving bedtime earlier by 15 mins each day or two days until you reach your desired time.

      If you would like to work with us directly on a personalized plan, check out our packages and complete our intake form and we will contact you to get started. Good luck and keep us posted!

  • Renee

    My 10 month old has been sleeping terrible for the last month or two. She’s been teething four upper teeth. Two just popped through. Her bedtime kept getting later and later until it’s sometimes 9-9:30 before she finally falls asleep. And then she wakes 3-4 times a night. I tried to move her bed tim up yesterday to 7:30 and she woke up every two hours. Oftentimes, a bottle or nursing is the only thing to calm her back down to get back to sleep. I’m sure we are doing something wrong but my brain isn’t even functioning on this broken sleep!

  • Sweet success of sleep! 2 nights ago, she woke twice with the first one being a big battle of wills, and some very heart-breaking cries. It definitely wasn’t going to be a no-talking event as she needed a lot of soothing. But the next time was no funny business. And last night, slept through the entire night. And I only work up once… :) You know how you get used to hearing something and your subconscious mind starts inventing it if it’s not there…? But I think the cycle has been broken!!!!!!! Thanks for your advice!

  • My question is why is she waking up so often right now anyway, and is there any way to snap her out of the cycle? (Me too – after going to bed early in anticipation of the night, I woke at 11:30 and 12:30 for no reason before the craziness even started happening…) Thanks for your reassurance. I think we’re doing it right when she does wake up – no conversation, just back in bed, then we sit outside her door for a while until she’s back to sleep.

    • Sleep Sisters

      The most likely answer is that she’s overtired! Kids go through cycles like this – mine did the same thing at 3! I would not wait outside her door – rather teach her that everyone in the house is sleeping and when she wakes you up, you’ll have to walk her “all the way back” to her room! It may take 100 times but the silent return to bed is really the best approach in this case! You can do it!

  • Hang in there! This transition is hard! Many “sleep problems” at this age are behavioral. She’s testing you – and getting an A+! Stick with it and make sure she knows your serious. Tonight, before bedtime, talk to her about the “sleep rules” in your house. Make a chart. (5 items like: 1) We brush our teeth and wash our face 2) We read 2 books 3) we sing two songs 4) Mom or Dad give you hugs and kisses 5) We close our eyes and stay in bed until morning. Check out our blog about this transition: http://www.sleepsisters.com/transitions2/. Make sure you are allowing enough time to “wind down” at the end of the day and establishing a good bedtime routine. Dim lights and quiet about 1/2 hour before bedtime.

  • I’ve just found your site, and I have a similar question to the one asked above. We’ve been having a heck of a time with our 3+ year old. She’s been waking up 4-5 times a night for the last 2 weeks. Always been a good sleeper till now. We’ve tried everything we can think of, and we know she is probably over-tired and is having a tough time breaking this cycle. Once this cycle started, she would cry out until we went into her room, so we decided to put her in the big girl bed so she could come into our room and not wake up her older sisters. Is it time to drop the afternoon nap? Move her 8:00 bedtime up? She’s waking every morning at 7. Thank you. My husband and I would appreciate any sanity you can offer…

    • Sleep Sisters

      Hi, Tracy. We would recommend starting a MUCH earlier bedtime. 8pm is typically later than we would recommend for a 3+ year old (our own 4-5 year olds are still going to bed at 7:30!). I would recommend starting a 7pm bedtime for 5 days and seeing if you notice any change. I would NOT drop the nap just yet. If she’s tired, she’ll need that rest! Many kids continue to nap until their 5 (some beyond that!). Best of luck and please keep us posted!

      • Thanks for the words of advice. We started the bedtime routine tonight at 7 – got a later start because I got your note at 6:45… She was still up until 9 fighting sleep. Wanted to be up playing. This big girl bed is not cool for a strong-willed child… Daddy finally went and laid down on the floor next to her bed. Certainly don’t want to do that every night. But we made sure she ate a big dinner, and put a white noise machine in her room for tonight, in the hopes that the nighttime wakings will lessen. I’m seeing double I’m so tired. She wasn’t even like this as an infant.

        Thanks again. I’ll keep you posted.

  • Shereen

    I would love to hear your suggestions for a 3 year old transitioning out of his afternoon nap. Some days he naps and some days he doesn’t. When he doesn’t, we move his bedtime much earlier. So that means his bedtime isn’t consistent right now. Is that okay? Any tips or tricks?

    • Sleep Sisters

      This is hard, right? We recommend a set “rest hour” every day where your son plays quietly in his room for an hour so he can rest. Many 3-year-olds still need to sleep during the day so we hope he might fall asleep without extra stimulation. The earlier bedtime is a must – you are right! Try 6:30 and see how that works. He should be waking around the same time every day. Good luck!

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