Stages vs. Cycles of Sleep
What is a Sleep Regression
The Body Clock & Hormones
What causes bad sleep in babies this age?
Ready to Sleep Better?
Podcast Episode Transcripts:
Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.
Welcome to the kids sleep show, where we help tired parents from around the world to get their children to fall asleep independently, sleep through the night, and build healthy sleep habits for Life.
I’m your host, Courtney Zentz. Now let’s sleep together. Hello, and welcome to this week’s episode, all about that really weird time between three and four months old, that we’re going to cover today on what exactly is happening with your baby, why sleep all of a sudden might be disabled. And some of the things that you can do as a parent to make your child sleep just a wee bit better as you’re coming out of those first 12 weeks. So let me first start by explaining as a new baby, your little one actually doesn’t have a body clock. They are not making all the hormones, they don’t have circadian rhythms, their days and nights bite me best up, right and how their main purpose is to grow and to eat and to sleep. Right. So they’re doing a lot of pooping, a lot of sleeping and a lot of eating and not much else. But probably crying in the middle of the night, which is surely something that you want to resolve. So when children are born, they’re actually born with a blank slate, all of us have the ability to fall asleep. However, how we fall asleep is that skill that we learn over the first 12 weeks of life. Children, the first 12 weeks actually only sleep in two stages, right? So as a newborn, you’re either 50% of the time in deep sleep, where 50% of the time in light sleep, that’s it. Okay, you’re not going through all these different stages and REM sleep quite yet. But around three months is when you start to notice some very important shifts happening. First, your baby develops a body clock, and that is their circadian rhythm, what we kind of call 12 hours a day, 12 hours of night, when that shift occurs, they are now developing hormones. So your circadian rhythm is actually made up of a couple of different hormones. The first hormone, which is highest between four and six in the morning is your cortisol levels. That’s your morning cup of coffee is a baby that is really the highest at night. And then as the day goes on, your cortisol levels should be going down right? When you wake up. So let’s assume between four and six in the morning, your cortisol levels are the highest. Somewhere when you begin to wake up in the morning, whether it’s six o’clock, 615, seven o’clock, depending on what time you’re getting up as a new baby, right? Your adenosine levels rise. So adenosine is a hormone it’s called your sleep pressure hormone. So when your eyes open in the morning, your adenosine levels are rising. Okay, now, that’s your hormone for kind of this sleep pressure. We’re going to talk a little bit about how you have to watch that particular hormone in a minute. But you’ve got cortisol, you’ve got adenosine, and then you also have melatonin, right? So melatonin is not a hormone that helps you sleep, but rather it is the hormone that prepares your body for sleep. So you’ve got hormone of melatonin, typically the highest around bedtime, it actually has to do with that sunlight outside and your ocular nerves. So as the light is coming in and getting less and less and less, your body’s going, Oh, it must be time to go to bed. And so your melatonin levels naturally rise, and that’s what helps your body to prepare to go to sleep. Okay, so you’ve got melatonin prepares your body for bed. You’ve got a adenosine, which is sleep pressure. You’ve got cortisol, which is kind of your coffee and then you’ve got adrenaline that’s your like fight or flight hormone that really gets triggered around like, again, that fight or flight like is something happening. So what all of these hormones are doing for children, around three to four months is trying to regulate, right? We as adults have a relatively consistent body clock, I go to bed every night at nine o’clock. I wake up every day at five o’clock without an alarm. My body clock is pretty regimented. I blame the day job. Okay. Some people on shift work have trouble regulating their body clock because one night they’re up all night, the next night. They’re not one night, they’re up all night, the next night they’re not. So for them, it’s a little bit harder to have that regulation around three months this is starting to normalize. So your sleep cycles are starting to become more patterned, more regular. Okay, well now all of a sudden, you’re going well wait a minute, my baby was sleeping six hours straight seven hours straight only eating ones what the heck’s going on? This weird time between three and four months, you have the three months sleep regression, or the four month sleep regression, right as people refer to it. What it really is, is a major biological change. You’re going from stage based sleep from the first 12 weeks of life to now cycle based sleep, which is where you’re doing REM sleep stage 1234 REM 1234 REM 1234 Right, like so you’ve got this cycle. Well, now you have this problem and most people come to us or on for months, because they go, baby used to sleep for seven hours now they’re up every 45 minutes, I want to smash my face into the wall, what the heck happened, things were actually trending so well. And then everything went to hell in a handbasket. So what actually happened was they were in these stages of sleep where they were going stage one, stage two deep, light, deep light, and then all of a sudden, it changed to now where they’re in this whole rhythm of a body clock. And what happens is, they’re now passing through different cycles every 45 to 60 minutes. Well, the problem is, if they’ve only ever been rocked asleep or bounced to sleep or fed to sleep, all of a sudden, now they’re going, yes, so I kind of need those things to sleep. Oh, by the way, I need them every 45 minutes now, because as I’m passing through this new body clock that you’ve got, I’m waking up every time I need something, right. So oftentimes, I see it’s very common, where kids will start to sleep well, between that eight and 12 weeks stretch, parents are feeling good. They feel like finally they’re out of this dumpster fire of sleep deprivation. And then you get to three to four months and parents go what is happening. They’re now up 55 times a night. I don’t know if they’re hungry, if they pooped if they’re teething, if they have a burp, if it’s a little bit of the above, right, like, and it’s usually that they are not settling independently. That’s almost always the first question I will ask when somebody calls me to say, Courtney, my three month old is not sleeping through the night. My four month old is not sleeping through the night they are waking multiple times to eat what is going on? Well, my first question is, are they settling independently for sleep? Because if the answer is yes, they are settling independently for sleep, then you’ve probably got a something little that can be tweaked pretty quickly, right? That you know can fix that issue. Sometimes it’s overtired. Actually, that can cause more overnight wakings, which seems weird, if they are settling independently, if they are not settling independently, which is probably the case and 90% of the parents I talked to, that means they have a habit, okay, so I kind of look at it as like a want versus a need. And somewhere between three to four months, they’re more awake, alert and aware. They are now used to this new habit that you accidentally created, which is rocking, bouncing, feeding nursing, doing all the things to sleep, and baby now goes, Oh, well, I need that to sleep, when in reality, it’s just a habit that you unfortunately have to break now. Right? So you have to look at it go do I want this or do I need this? You know, if a baby needs to eat overnight, feed them, don’t feed them to sleep. That’s a habit right? Feeding for nutrition. Makes sense. They’re babies, we should always feed a child who is hungry, but you do not use food as the mechanism to fall asleep. That’s when you need me or somebody on my team because you have a habit. And your baby does not understand the difference between being able to settle independently, or using that food as the mechanism to fall asleep. It’s the same with hair twirling. I just finished with a toddler who was twirling mom’s hair for 90 minutes at bedtime. The mom’s like my hair’s falling out. I have dreadlocks, and I want to smash my face. And can we fix this please, which we did. And it’s a beautiful thing now but you know, these are habits that sort of take hold whether it’s like rocking back to sleep, Holding, holding upright, you know, discomfort, feeding bottles, nursing pacifier going in 45 times to put it in like if you’re using the word to sleep, and your baby is between three and four months old. And you are having to rock to sleep nurse to sleep bounces sleep like these are all habits that have sort of taken shape we need to fix them. Okay, first thing you always want to look at. You want to assess the timing of your child’s sleep between three and four months now that things can start to normalize. You’re awake windows for between three and four months are similar between 90 minutes and two hours. If you are not keeping your baby awake 90 minutes to two hours within that window, you are probably having an excessive amount of very short naps. Here’s why. I talked a little bit at the start of this about adenosine which is the sleep pressure hormone right? If your body wakes in the morning, and is not awake 90 minutes before they go back to bed. They don’t have enough adenosine to kind of keep them asleep long, right? So they’re gonna have these like short naps. Okay. The next thing you want to look at is if you have too much adenosine and you don’t put your baby to bed, so now they’re four months old, and they’ve been up for three hours, you now have an excess amount of adenosine. When the problem is that that then triggers your brain to think you’re not going to bed. Well if you’re not going to go to bed, Courtney, let me help you out. Here’s some adrenaline and cortisol stay awake. So it thinks it’s doing you a favor. But it’s really not it creates hormones do and then babies cry. They fast they take crappy naps. They’re overtired, they’re strung out there visibly distraught and uncomfortable. That’s because they were awake too long. A week Windows this age are very important. And I’ll tell you why you’re not going to get consolidated on supported longer naps at this age 90% of the time. Don’t get me wrong. If you take baby for a walk. If you’re holding baby, if you go walk around Target. You will have a child who naps for 90 minutes because it’s supported sleep, just like people who spent $1,500 on a snoo for the device. To basically rock their baby to bed that’s supported sleep. So of course, they’re gonna sleep longer problem is you got to turn that thing off at some point, right? I actually just saw a video of a baby in that thing, I would never put my child in one from a personal preference standpoint, when you see how much it’s actually like doing this to them, I was very surprised to see this video, and it’s with a client who I was helping to get off of that. But that’s a topic for another day. But just any of those types of things, regardless of how fancy they are, or how easy they make it seem. They’re supported sleep. Okay, so what you have to look at is like, number one supported naps are always going to be longer. So between three and four months of age, it is a biological development to get longer naps. So the first thing you have to go through is this shift from stage based sleep to cycle based sleep that happens between three and four months, then you need to go to the nap consolidation, which happens with the ability to settle independently. And when a baby wakes not rushing right in there and scooping up, but giving them a few minutes to lay there and go hmm, still dark, I might still be tired.
Yeah, I’m gonna go back to bed. Instead, we hear them and we scoop them right out and then they never consolidate consolidated naps happen between four and five months. It’s a biological development. If your timing is right, if they’re settling independently, if they’re unsupported, you will start to have that consistency in naps. Somewhere around four months of age, parents try to rush it and I’ll tell you exactly what I do with my sleep clients who start with me from birth, or even at like four months of age three months of age, like what does it look like for a nap schedule for a three month old or a four month old? I’ll tell you, it’s 50% supported 50% unsupported we need to biologically help them to understand they can settle independently for naps, knowing that that nap is probably going to be like 45 minutes. So we sort of ping pong if they’re on a four nap day. First nap is always unsupported in the crib. It is the easiest place to learn. I’m supported that first nap of the day, less variables happening. Okay? Less ability to be overtired. Less ability to be hungry, less stability for all the above right? First nap of the day, I’m supporting the crib second nap, support it, go for a walk, hold them cuddle, watch Netflix, go to grandma’s do the thing. Okay, third nap, unsupported in the crib. Again, recognizing it’s probably only gonna be 45 minutes. And then that fourth nap of the day support it usually the hardest one to get. They’re kind of in between do they need the fourth or not, it’s usually you know, one that they have a hard time settling for. Because like I said, you start to get over tired and hungry and hot and exhausted from just the other activities in the day even as baby. So typically, the second and fourth nap I support in that type of situation for where many of you are at this age. And then slowly, what you’ll start to see is the biological ability to to consolidate naps happen. And then you start to get a nice long first nap, which then puts you at a second nap happening around noon, which then puts you at that third nap happening around 330 or four, and you’re good to go to bedtime. So you get on this seven to seven structure, first nap 9/32 nap 12/33 nap 330, kind of beautiful day by like four or five months of age. And you’ll stay there till somewhere between six and seven months, when you typically move to two naps, you’ve got two longer naps, typically, between you know, 60 and 60 minutes to two hours depending on the nap, balancing about three hours of daytime sleep and then you stay there till at least their first birthday, if not a little bit longer when you consolidate to one nap. So that’s a cliffnotes version of kind of the whole first year of sleep. But the major shifts happen between three and four months. And that’s where a lot of parents go, Ah, this is the three monthly progression. This is the four monthly progression. How do I get my baby to sleep? Well, start with the basics, watch your wake windows, make sure your timing is set up for success. Second, teaching the ability to settle independently for bedtime. Okay? Doesn’t mean you need to cry it out. So many people call me and go What’s the training method you use really against cry it out, nobody’s gonna pay me the money that they pay me to tell their baby to cry it out. It doesn’t work that way. Sleep is a complex puzzle. But there’s also other ways and other factors and other things that you can do to manage a skill getting developed and tears being minimized. Okay, and then you want to pay attention to that independent settling. You want to pay attention to the temperature in the room, the darkness in the room, the outside noises and then any lingering habits that might be to sleep. That You May Not Realize babies need 24 to 32 ounces of milk in a given 24 hour period. When they get it in the day. They do not need it at night. And again if your baby does need to eat overnight, which I would say as a general rule of thumb without knowing anything about your situation babies over six months of age do not need to eat at night. It is a habit unfortunately, now you may have some other things tied into it but your pediatrician will also echo that it is some some aspect of a habit unless there is a developmental reason for them eating Okay, like, you know extra preemie, things like that. But barring any of that, you know, it’s pretty much over six months as a habit, okay, under six months, I’ll give you like, okay, maybe you’re nursing and you don’t know the exact intake, and they may still feed once overnight at six months, but it’s, you know, a full feed, and here’s the situation like, I get it. Don’t feed to sleep, okay? Because when you’re feeding to sleep, that’s a habit, when you’re feeding for nutrition, which all parents should do. That’s a different type of feeding. Okay? So just always balance in your mind to like, do they want what they’re looking for? Or do they need what they’re looking for, they need their diaper changed, change them, if they need to eat, you feed them. But if they’re just kind of standing up going like this, because they want you to pick them up, that’s a habit you see, and that needs to break. So all of this stuff we cover in the private coaching that myself and my team does, we’ve been doing this for over eight years, I have the most amazing team all over the country that supports parents locally. And virtually we work with clients all over the world. And it is really such a beautiful thing when you afford yourself permission to ask for help to get the help and to fix your sleep struggles. Most of the clients that we work with, we are fixing sleep, almost 95% of my clients sleep through the night in three to five days. The other 5% usually in a crow barring me with some sort of like ear infection or a tooth coming in or something crazy that happens. You know, COVID was definitely a challenge with certain things because it was like, okay, everybody’s doing great. And then the allowance gets COVID. But hopefully we’re past that now. So shouldn’t be an issue. But sleep is really there for everyone to understand. There’s a lot of education that goes into sleep. I’m a huge proponent, as you can even see in these sessions, right? Like how much stuff goes into how well a baby sleeps. So it’s not independent of like, what swaddled do you pick? What type of formula do you use? Are you breastfed or formula fed, like there are so many variables into creating a good sleeper. And if you want to understand the entire picture, if you want to become educated on your child’s sleep, if you want to understand how to listen to their cues and understand what they’re asking for and speak to your child kind of before they’re speaking to you. It is a great exercise to go through in working with myself or one of the specialists on the team to talk all about your family sleep. We work with babies, we work with toddlers, we work with school aged kids we work with really anyone who is feeling like sleep isn’t really going that great for you right now. And you want some help. So definitely be sure to reach out and let us know you can always set up a discovery call right on the website, tiny transitions.com And you can go to contact and you can pick myself or a member of the team to chat with and learn more about the different coaching opportunities that we have here because we’re always here to help you and want to make sure that you’re all sleeping at your best to feel your best. So I hope everybody has a beautiful rest of the day and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Alright, bye for now. Hold on one more thing before you go. As a valued listener of the kids sleep show. I want to help you build a great sleeper not just in the times you’re listening to the show. But all day every day. Every week of the year. I have a new Facebook group called slumber made simple. It’s a place to gather with other parents looking for sleep support laughs and the latest in sleep research to build a family that is rested and at their best day in and day out. If you want to be part of the community where you can get free sleep support, weekly training sessions, unbelievable content and so much more. Head on over to tiny transitions.com forward slash community that’s tiny transitions.com forward slash community or head over to Facebook and search slumber Made Simple. drop me a note and let me know when you join. I can’t wait to see you there.