Kids, as with all people, have a natural rhythm when it comes to sleep. Our bodies secrete hormones to keep us awake during the day and different ones to help us sleep at night. These hormones are dependent on a variety of factors, but timing is the most important.
So what happens when your little one stays awake past the time when these natural cues to sleep are activated? Well, the body assumes that there’s a reason it hasn’t been allowed to sleep, and fires up those daytime hormones again. And this is when the trouble starts. Because once those signals to stay awake get fired up, it’s tough to shut them down. Less sleep leads to more daytime hormones, and the cycle perpetuates itself.
The best way to prevent this situation is to get your baby to sleep before they move past the window of opportunity. But babies, especially newborns, are a little bit cryptic when it comes to signalling when they’re ready for bed. Some good signs include tugging at their ears, rubbing their eyes or nose, arching their back, and turning their face into your chest. Keep in mind that these signals could be easily mistaken for hunger, so it’s important to keep an eye on the clock.
Newborns can usually only handle being awake for about an hour at a time, so make a note of when they wake up and set a reminder that they need to head back down for a nap just 60 short minutes after that. Older babies will tolerate longer stretches of wake time, but always keep an eye on the clock and err on the side of more sleep, not less!