Common Sleep Myths Debunked

As parents, we are constantly getting an ear full of other people’s opinions. Whether it be from your parents, your grandma, your neighbor, or your best friend, everyone seems to want to impart their parental wisdom on you.

Some comments I hear frequently include, but are certainty not limited to:

“Some kids are just bad sleepers”

“They’ll grow out of it”

“You never took naps when you were 2 and you turned out just fine”

“The baby is crying; they need to be picked up”

I hear so many sleep myths every. single. day. In this post I am going to debunk some of the most common sleep myths I hear regularly and tell you why they just aren’t true.

MY CHILD DOESN’T NEED AS MUCH SLEEP AS OTHER KIDS

So, sure - every child is different. Every child will require a different amount of sleep, but we are talking a difference of 30 minutes not 2+ hours. I hear this most often as a response to a parent who is struggling with regular early morning wakings or consistent nap refusal.

The reality of this situation is that your child is sleeping less than other children because they are actually overtired and require more sleep than they are currently getting. The cycle of overtiredness is a vicious one. When a child becomes overtired, it evokes a stress response in the body and the brain responds by producing excess cortisol. Since cortisol is most commonly known for activating the fight or flight response, it should come as no surprise that cortisol and sleep do not get along well.

With the excess adrenalin surging through their tiny little bodies, it can be extremely challenging for an overtired child to fall asleep.  Once your child falls asleep, the increased cortisol levels make it harder for them to fall into a deep/restful sleep, so the body responds by producing even more cortisol. This leads to a child who wakes frequently throughout the night, wakes early in the morning, or is irritable and restless from the minute they wake up. So, the cycle keeps repeating itself until they are able to “catch up” on sleep.

Long story short, if your child is presenting as if they don’t need as much sleep as other kids, it is most likely because they need just as much if not more sleep to help break the cycle of overtiredness. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but if you find yourself constantly wondering if your child just doesn’t need as much sleep as other children try to aim for more daytime sleep or an earlier bedtime.

MY CHILD ISN’T TIRED ENOUGH FOR AN EARLIER BEDTIME

If you find that your child is bouncing off the walls at 7-8pm, which for most children, is an appropriate bedtime, then you probably also fall into the overtired child bucket (see above). A child who is displaying characteristics of hyperactivity at bedtime, is often passed the point of tired. These characteristics result from an overproduction of cortisol, which makes it hard for your child to fall asleep and stay asleep. In this situation, I typically recommend an even earlier bedtime – as early as 6:00 pm.

It can be true that your child is in fact getting too much daytime sleep and isn’t ready for an earlier bedtime, but this is rarely the case. If you find yourself in this situation, it might be time to consider dropping a nap.

MY CHILD CAN’T SLEEP 12 HOURS AT NIGHT

Yes, yes they can and they should. Most children require 11-12 hours of sleep per night in order to achieve the right quality and quantity of sleep for proper brain rejuvenation. If your child isn’t getting the recommended amount of sleep per night, it is likely because they were taught differently or because we have reenforced their bad habits, both of which result in poor quality sleep.

A child who isn’t getting the recommended amount of daily sleep, will not adjust to sleep deprivation. Children who are not getting an adequate amount of sleep will not learn, grow, or feed as well as children who are.

If your child is struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep independently, I have many tips and resources available on my blog and my Instagram. You can also work with me one on one to make sleep a thing in your home.

BEING TIRED IS JUST A PART OF BEING A PARENT

This is one of the biggest myths of all – sheer exhaustion is NOT a rite of passage into parenthood. You can be a parent, have time to yourself, and get a full night of sleep. I know it may seem crazy, but there could be a day when you actually look forward to bedtime!

There is no award given to the most tired parent. When our children don’t sleep, we don’t sleep. When we don’t sleep, we can’t show up as the best version of ourselves - as a parent, a spouse, an employee, etc.

It’s unfortunate that society views services like personal trainers as a luxury, but views sleep and lactation services as a sign of weakness. The services are the exact same – utilizing a professional in the field to help you achieve your goals. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

If you are tired, if you haven’t slept a full night in months, if you just feel like sleep could be better or more consistent then reach out to me. I promise I have a solution for you no matter how small or how big the fix is!

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August 25th, 2021