Baby sleep cycles: getting a toddler to bed early

Toddlers transitioning to one sleep can be tricky…

I was talking to a BabyBliss mum yesterday about her 15 month old and her baby sleep cycles. Little Miss A is walking around very happily now, babbling away and slightly obsessed with shoes, but then, isn’t everyone??

Little Miss A is usually a good sleeper, but recently has been waking up at 6am and sometimes even 4am. Her mother or father resettles her fairly quickly but when I spoke to her mum today, she said when Miss A got up this morning, she was so grumpy, she put her back to bed at 9.30am. After a one and a half hour sleep, she seemed in good spirits for the rest of the day but when I spoke to the mum at around 3pm, she was wondering whether she should try and slip in another sleep before bedtime even though her toddler usually only has one sleep a day now.

“But when would you do it?” I asked, “If you put her to sleep now, you’ll have a half hour battle and both of you will be stressed; if you wait til 5pm, she’ll have trouble getting to sleep at 7pm.”

“I know,” she said, “But if I wait til 7pm, she’ll be completely wired by then!”

“Why don’t you hold off on the extra sleep and just put her to bed early?”

“But won’t that make her even more likely to wake up early in the morning?”

The strange fact is that no, it won’t. Time and again I find that if you put a tired baby to bed early for the night or before they’re overtired (even in the day) they will sleep better the whole night and more often than not will sleep through to the time that they usually sleep to. And the converse is also true – when you put an unsettled baby to bed late, they will have an unsettled sleep and are likely to wake more. They might even wake earlier in the morning. I know this sounds counter-intuitive!

I spoke to the Mum this morning, and lo and behold, her baby did sleep right through until 7.15am!

Baby Sleep Cycles before Midnight

Getting more sleep before midnight seems to be really good for babies – and there is science to back this up. Baby sleep cycles in the early part of a baby’s night are often deeper and more restful. You may have experienced this phenomenon yourself with your baby. Another mother said, “You could literally let off firecrackers next to my 18 month old and if it’s between nine and ten o’clock, she will sleep right through!”

There is something about the quality of that sleep early in the evening that is hugely beneficial.

I’m not suggesting that you start putting your little one to bed at 5.30pm every night 😉 but if they’ve had a long day, and especially if they’re a toddler reducing down to one sleep and that sleep came early today, there’s nothing wrong with getting to bed a bit early. Chances are, it won’t have them waking up early; they will still sleep the until the same time they normally do and hopefully, they will wake a little more refreshed. Even an extra 15 or 20 minutes can make a real difference to your baby, how they feel and how the next day pans out.

If you’re going to create an earlier bedtime, make sure you stick with the same routine as normal and do it in the same order. You want to keep the day as similar to normal as possible, just a little bit earlier. And take advantage of those deeper baby sleep cycles!

All the best


PS: Feel free to share this on social media with someone you know struggling to decide when to get their baby to sleep, or maybe just to remind a do-gooder that it won’t necessarily help if you “tire them out a bit and get them to bed later”

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Main image credit: Armed by Johnathan Nightingale.

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