New Year, New Family: The Benefits Of Scheduled Sleep For Your Family

Put the holidays behind you and start the New Year right with a healthy sleep schedule

There is something quite cleansing about starting afresh in the New Year. And why should this be limited to re-evaluating your family’s level of physical activity or nutritional intake? Healthy sleep, whether for a baby, toddler, child or adult is sleep that is age-appropriate, restorative and complimentary to the natural processes that are happening behind the scenes. Healthy sleep craves the predictability of a schedule and for your little one(s), it can be a game changer with respect to restorative naps, decreasing bedtime resistance and eliminating middle of the night awakenings. 

When to start scheduling sleep—is my baby too young or my child too old?

In the early months of life, newborns thrive on a routine designed to meet their basic needs—sleep, feedings, short periods of activity and a whole lot of love. It’s very much an on-demand, go with the flow type of regime that seems quite precarious in the early weeks but settles down once our babies start defining day from night, typically by 6-8 weeks of age.

From 4 months of age onwards, scheduled sleep for our babies, toddlers and children can reap great reward. While there will be great variance in a “typical” schedule between a 6-month-old and a toddler, the principle remains the same. Our little ones thrive on sleep that compliments their natural sleep drive, so whether that means meeting their sleep needs via naps naps or one, we always want to be offering sleep in a way that supports what their bodies are naturally craving. 

Meeting your child’s natural sleep needs

It’s never too late to implement a sleep schedule that meets your baby or child’s biological need for healthy sleep. Regardless of their current sleep foundation, the suppression of stimulating hormones (cortisol and adrenalin) and the subsequent production and release of the natural “sleepy” hormone (melatonin) occur whether your child is currently meeting his daily sleep needs or not. These “sleepy windows” allow for the potential for deep, restorative day sleep that is further supported by an early and age-appropriate bedtime. By offering scheduled sleep, your goal for healthy sleep shifts from “getting sleep” to “offering sleep” in a way that supports quality over quantity. It’s not to say that we turn our backs on an hour long nap-on-the-go, but our focus moves towards lengthy crib naps happening at the right time(s) of day.

Predictability of scheduled sleep benefits the family as a whole

As a Type A individual, I have to admit that I thrive on knowing just when my littles will be napping and sleeping from one day to the next. I love the freedom that allows our family to schedule playdates, activities and events around when they will be sleeping. And I am able to appreciate that when we divert from the schedule, I may need to make some adjustments on the day or two following. But having worked with numerous families who have a more unregimented lifestyle, I appreciate that this can seem quite restrictive at first. 

My argument for how predictable sleep can benefit the family as a whole remains the same; rather than restricting life, scheduled sleep for our children and ourselves ultimately results in a lot less time trying to get our little ones to sleep, diminishes bedtime battles and night awakenings. As a result, the family unit is better rested and that allows for a lot more freedom.  

Finding a balance among these important factors isn’t always easy and doesn’t always feel natural (insert appropriate “no kidding” comment here).  But it can be done.  It does means being strategic, it does mean being hand-cuffed to the house for a few weeks to allow your little one to settle into the predictability of their new routine, and it does mean your utmost commitment and consistency. But once those cuffs are off, your family will thrive in a way that will solidify your investment for the year (and years) ahead.

Kim Pawlak is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant with Good Night Sleep Site Vancouver and mama to two adventurous, funny and heart-warming little ones.  She feels so fortunate to be on the road to healthy sleep with so many families and strives to educate, support and empower those families along the way.  Follow Kim on her Facebook Page and website for trending sleep tips and free sleep clinics. 

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