Common Kids' Sleep Myths

By Renee Wasserman, PT, MPH August 28, 2015
A well-rested child is calmer, more alert, happier, healthier, and better able to handle bumps in the road. Don’t let these common sleep myths keep you from teaching your child to be a healthy sleeper.

Myth #1: Keeping a baby awake later at night will help him sleep later in the morning.
Wouldn’t that be nice! If only we could put our children to sleep later so that the whole family could sleep in the next morning. Although it sounds logical that a later bedtime would result in a later wake time, unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way. When you keep your children up later at night they become overtired, making it harder to settle at bedtime and more likely to wake earlier in the morning. The solution? Try putting your child to bed a little earlier in the evening and see if he wakes any later in the morning. Just 15 minutes can make a difference!

Myth #2: Never wake a sleeping child!
The only time I recommend waking a sleeping child is in order to preserve the next sleep period. Believe it or not, the timing of a child’s sleep is as important, if not more important, than the number of hours he sleeps. As hard as it is to wake a sleeping child, it is may be necessary so that that he will be tired for his next nap or ready go to sleep for the night.

Myth #3: A baby will learn to sleep through the night when he is ready.
Sure, some children are naturally good sleepers from the moment they are born, requiring little work to master the skill of putting themselves to sleep. However, for the majority of children, becoming an independent sleeper is hard work. It is a learned skill just like tying shoes, brushing teeth, or riding a bicycle. The best way to become proficient at any skill is a combination of practice, patience, and consistency. Once your child reaches 4+ months of age, they are developmentally ready to begin the process of learning to independently sleep through the night.

Myth #4: Some children just require less sleep.
Many parents think this is true about their children. Yes, every child is different, but research shows that most of our children are not getting the amount of sleep they require. How do you know if your child is getting enough sleep? A well-rested child is able to wake in the morning on his own in good spirits, is alert and happy throughout the day, and does not fall asleep in the car (when it is not nap time). It may appear that your child requires less sleep than what is recommended, but the opposite is most likely true.

Myth #5: A sleep deprived child will always seem tired.
If your child seems energized at bedtime, chances are he has missed his window of opportunity to fall asleep. A second wind is a sign of being overtired and NOT a sign of being too awake to fall asleep. A child who is sleep deprived will have a harder time settling at night and will wake more often during the night and earlier in the morning. It is important to learn to read the sleepy signs of your child (and each child is different!) in order to get him to bed before becoming overtired.

Renee Wasserman, PT, MPH, founder of SleepyHead Solutions, is a Family Sleep Institute-certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant. She offers many services including phone, email, Skype/FaceTime, and in-person consultations to solve your child’s sleep challenges. Feel free to email her with any questions. You can find out more information at her website and on her Facebook page.