My Baby is a Light Sleeper
Is your baby a light sleeper? Does she wake up every time you so much as walk past her door? Does she go from fast asleep to wide awake the second you put her into her crib?
This is a very common complaint I get from parents. They tell me that their babies are just so easy to wake, and when they do, they’re exceedingly difficult to get back to sleep.
So first of all, let me dispel a little myth.
All babies are light sleepers, and all babies are heavy sleepers. So, for that matter, are all adults.
Baby Sleep Cycles
We all go from light sleep to deep sleep and back again several times a night. Some babies spend more time in lighter sleep stages before slipping into deeper sleep, and some go from light sleep to deep sleep in almost no time at all. But at the end of the day, everyone goes through these cycles each time they shut their eyes.
So, when someone claims that their baby is a light sleeper, what they probably mean is that their baby tends to spend more time in light sleep than deep sleep. And unfortunately, light sleep is the easiest stage to wake up from. It’s when we dream and are more aware of our surroundings, so external noises tend to wake us up easier.
Babies also have shorter sleep cycles than adults and therefore spend nearly twice as much time in light stages of sleep than we do. So, if you’re finding that your baby is prone to waking up a lot, it’s partly a matter of inconvenient timing.
Help My Baby Sleep Longer
But what can you do about it? How can you teach a baby to spend more time in deep sleep? Well, at the end of the day you can’t. But what you can do is teach them to fall back to sleep on their own when they wake up. It’s a wonderful gift to give them, and it will benefit your entire family for years to come.
There are a lot of components to teaching a baby to fall asleep independently, but the single most important one is the elimination of sleep props. By that, I mean anything that baby uses to help them fall asleep that they can’t provide on their own when they wake in the middle of the night in between sleep cycles.
Pacifiers, rocking, and feeding are all examples of commonly used sleep props. If your baby falls asleep nursing, then they’re likely going to need another nursing sesh when they wake up again at the end of the next sleep cycle. If they get rocked to sleep, they learn to rely on that motion as part of the process. Then when they wake up at night, they’re stuck that way until you come in and help them get back to sleep. These wake-ups are often accompanied by a bunch of crying and fussing in order to get your attention, which wakes them up even further and requires even more soothing to get them settled.
So remember, your friend’s baby, the good sleeper, the one you’ve come to refer to as a “unicorn”, has the same sleep cycles as yours who maybe wakes up crying several times a night. They’ve just gotten the hang of falling asleep on their own so they wake up, squirm around a little, maybe babble to themselves for a bit, then go happily back to sleep. And if your friend’s baby can do it, so can yours!
So although you can’t stop your little one from waking up at night, you can absolutely teach them how to get back to sleep independently, and once you do, you and your little one can both look forward to full nights of deep, rejuvenating, uninterrupted sleep.
If you’re exhausted, totally overwhelmed by your child’s sleep habits, or looking for answers to the sleep questions that keep you up at night (literally), then you’ve come to the right place. I’m Jamie, founder of Oh Baby Consulting, and my goal is to help your family get the sleep you need to not just survive, but thrive!