The Science Behind Baby and Toddler Sleep

Tuesday, August 31, 2021 1:32 pm
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Andrea Fallon is a midwife, child nurse and NDC practitioner. Baby and toddler sleep

As a mother, Andrea has experienced stress and anxiety trying to get her children to sleep. She discovered neuroprotective developmental care – an evidence-based approach to sleep that does not involve sleep training. So she joined Mike to talk about the science behind baby and toddler sleep.

There are two main regulators of sleep: the circadian rhythm and sleep pressure. Circadian rhythm helps your body establish the difference between day and night by releasing melatonin to help us feel sleepy. Babies don’t develop a circadian rhythm until they are 2-3 months old. Until then, their sleep patterns are based on feeding.

Sleep pressure is where a compound in the brain, called adenosine, is released to help us feel sleepy and stay asleep through the night. Once we sleep our adenosine levels are lowered. Having small naps throughout the day helps regulate your child’s adenosine levels so they are sleepy by bed time. Too much sleep during the day decreases their adenosine levels causing problems later at night.

Andreas’ tips

  • Try to build sleep pressure for bed time.  Make sure they don’t have too much sleep in the day
  • Support circadian clock. Try to avoid blue light exposure from screens as it can delay melatonin release by hours.
  • Establish an early wake time with exposure to natural light. This helps the body know the difference between day and night.

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