Does your baby wake up every time you walk past his or her door? Do you make sure your whole house is silent during naptime? What do you do when your baby seems to wake up from any noise? How do you handle a light sleeper?
This is a common struggle that I hear from parents. Their little ones wake from any noise and once awake, it’s hard to get them back to sleep. Or during the bedtime routine, parents get to the part where they have to put their drowsy baby into the crib and “bing”, eyes are wide open.
The Truth about Light Sleepers
The idea that your baby is a light sleeper is misleading. So first of all, let me dispel this little myth.
All babies are light sleepers, and all babies are heavy sleepers, just like all adults.
Our sleep is cyclical. A simplified explanation of sleep cycles is that we go from light sleep to heavy sleep, and back again several times a night. Some babies spend more time in the light sleep stage before slipping into a deeper sleep, but everyone goes through these various sleep stages after they’ve shut their eyes.
Deep sleep is called NREM, which is the most restorative stage of sleep. So those people who can function easily on fewer hours of sleep at night, usually get more NREM sleep than those of us who spend more time in light sleep.
The light sleep is REM sleep, it’s when we dream and are more aware of our surroundings. So, the vacuum or the doorbell tends to wake us up easier. When you say that your baby is a light sleeper, it can mean that your baby tends to spend more time in light sleep.
Baby Sleep Cycles
Babies have shorter sleep cycles than adults. They are moving in and out of light sleep more often. Overall, babies spend twice as much time in light stages of sleep than adults.
So, if you’re finding that your baby is prone to waking up a lot, it’s partly a matter of inconvenient timing.
How to Handle a “Light” Sleeper
If light sleep is a natural cycle, what can you do about it? How can you teach a baby to spend more time in deep sleep?
Well, you can’t get them to have a more deep sleep. What you can do is teach them to fall back to sleep on their own when they do wake up. Your child will wake up in the night, so giving them the tools to figure out how to go back to sleep is essential. Teaching these independent sleep skills will benefit your entire family for years to come.
If you schedule a chat with one of our sleep coaches, we can help you identify where to start with developing an independent sleeper. We’ll walk through an individualized plan for your baby based on our chat.
However, the most common first step is to eliminate sleep props, which is anything that your baby uses to help them fall asleep that they can’t provide on their own.
Examples of sleep props include pacifiers, being rocked, or fed to sleep.
- If your baby needs a car ride to fall asleep, then they’re going to need another car ride 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, so once they wake up at night, they’re stuck that way until you come in and help them get back to sleep.
When a baby needs their sleep prop in the middle of the night, they will cry and fuss in order to get your attention so that you can provide this prop. The crying and fussing will wake them up even more and now it’s even harder to settle them.
What is a “Good Sleeper”?
When your friend or sister mentions that their baby is a “good sleeper,” it generally means that their little one has figured out how to fall asleep on their own. Their babies still have the same sleep cycles as your “light sleeper”, they’ve just learned to sleep without help or props.
You can’t stop your little one from waking up at night, it part of nature. However, you can teach them the skills to become “good sleepers”. If you want to know more about how a sleep coach can help you with sleep training your child, please schedule a free chat.
And once you teach your baby to sleep independently, you and baby can both look forward to full nights of deep, rejuvenating, uninterrupted sleep.