Five Child Sleep Myths That Might Surprise You

The only thing worse than your child not getting enough sleep, is being mis-informed about why it’s happening!

As parents, we are given a substantial amount of information around the do’s and don’ts when it comes to our baby’s sleep habits, and it might actually be costing us a full night of zzzzs.

That’s why we are addressing these five sleep myths that you’ve likely heard and have maybe even tried in your desperation to get more sleep.

1)     In order to get your baby to stop waking so early for the day, she has to go to sleep later

In theory, this would make sense, but unfortunately our sleep clocks do not work this way. If your child is waking up very early in the morning, it usually has little to do with what time she is going to sleep at night (unless it is way past her bedtime) and more to do with daytime sleep.

Once your child is 4 months of age or older, her internal sleep clock starts to sync to a 24-hour cycle, and consistent bedtime becomes very important. Chances are, if you put your child to sleep later than she is used to, she will still wake up early, leading to less overall nighttime sleep.

In many cases, you may want to put your child to sleep earlier to avoid an overtired baby and to help her get more total sleep at night.

2)     Your child won’t sleep at night because he napped too long during the day

While there are some exceptions to this rule, generally sleep promotes sleep; meaning a good day of naps leads to a restful night of sleep.

You likely have found that if your child didn’t sleep well during the day, his nighttime sleep followed this same pattern. This is because your child needs both daytime and nighttime sleep to work together in order to feel fully rested.

As I mentioned, there is an exception, which is making sure the last nap of the day doesn’t interfere with bedtime. Depending on your child’s age, you may need to cap the last nap so that the awake time before bedtime is adequate for your child’s age. You can find out how much sleep your child should be getting per day here.

3)     Sleeping through the night, means your baby won’t wake up at all.

It might be surprising to learn that NOBODY fully sleeps through the night. Not you, not your child, not even your husband! Let me explain…because all of us are cycling in and out of sleep throughout the night, we will wake up at some point in between cycles.

The difference is, as adults, we may not even realize we wake up, or we might wake up and then fall right back asleep once we realize there are still plenty of resting hours left before morning!

The key with your child, is helping her to manage those wake-ups in the same way we do. We should expect wake-ups because they are completely normal. What isn’t normal is when your baby needs to be put back down by someone or something each time they complete a sleep cycle.

4)     You should never wake a sleeping baby

This is the most common sleep myth that I love to de-bunk! People always tend to offer up this sleep advice whether it is welcomed or not.

While a sleeping baby is a wonderful thing, there are actually many instances in which you would need to wake him from his peaceful slumber.

The first situation is if your child is “crashing” for one of his naps. What I define as crashing, is when it is obvious your child is completely overtired, either from a rough night of sleep or missed naps. You can typically tell if this is the case if your child sleeps 3 hours or longer for any one nap.

Essentially, he is trying to make up for lost sleep in one shot and allowing him to sleep too long will only throw off his cycles further. I recommend waking your child at the 2.5-hour mark for any nap, but if he is only on one nap per day, you can stretch to 3 hours.

Another situation where you may want to wake your babe, is if the last nap of the day starts to interfere with bedtime. As mentioned above, you want to make sure the awake time from last nap to bedtime is appropriate based on age, so that your child is actually tired when put down for nighttime sleep.

Lastly, if your child is waking up multiple times throughout the night, leading to broken sleep, you may need to wake her if she is sleeping in too long in the morning.

This is a common issue and what ends up happening is your child becomes confused with daytime and nighttime sleep and gets used to sleeping in, as opposed to getting adequate sleep at night.

Most children should be awake for the day between 7-9am and no later.

5)     My child just doesn’t seem to need sleep

Sooo this one makes me cringe and I usually hear it from parents who seem to have tried everything to get their baby to sleep.

While it might seem like your child is superhuman and can function on little to no sleep, it does not mean she doesn’t need it.

Every single person on this planet needs sleep and regardless of how they appear to be doing, I guarantee you it is affecting them negatively if they are not getting enough of it.

Sleep is as vital to our bodies as food and water, and without it we invite in a whole host of issues, even if unseen.

If it seems like your child still has a happy demeanor and can function throughout the day, it is likely because she has just learned how to run on little sleep, but it always catches up to us!

You might also be interested in these related articles:

https://www.mysweetsleeper.com/blog/2018/9/18/five-signs-your-child-is-ready-to-drop-a-nap

https://www.mysweetsleeper.com/blog/2018/5/3/awake-windows-what-are-they-and-how-to-follow-them