Sleep debt in babies: how to avoid it?

- Categories : Baby Sleep

A baby's sleep quality is a priority for all parents. However, if your child is losing a significant amount of sleep, he or she may be experiencing sleep debt. So what is sleep debt, how do you spot it, and how can you help get your baby back to sleep? Get back to the basics so your child can experience sweet dreams and a good night's sleep!

What is sleep debt?

Sleeping is a physiological need. Our body needs a certain number of hours to recover from the day and to get ready for the next. Sleep debt can affect both adults and children. When we don't get enough sleep, we tend to recover during the day, which often results in drowsiness. When the lack of sleep becomes significant, our body then gives us "credit" for a certain number of hours. This is called "sleep debt". Obviously, the greater the sleep deprivation, the longer it will take to recover.

How do you spot sleep debt in your child?

Almost all babies up to the age of 5 need approximately the same amount of sleep. Of course the numbers may vary depending on your baby's sleep personality, but one can usually notice an average of 30 minutes/1 hour. So the first way to detect sleep debt is to calculate the number of hours that your baby sleeps. If the numbers deviate too far from the averages below, your child may have a shortened resting period.

From 0 to 8 weeks: 16 to 20 hours per day

From 2 to 4 months: 14 to 18 hours per day

From 4 months to 5 years: 10 and a half to 12 hours per day

Other signs may indicate the presence of sleep debt. Of course each point must take into account your child and his or her own unique personality! Finding evidence of sleep debt can be difficult and each of these points may be caused by other circumstances (significant stress during the day, a need for reassurance, etc...)

Naps that become shorter and shorter

Difficulty going back to sleep during micro-wake phases

Trouble falling asleep in the evenings

• Consistently early wake up time (between 5 am and 6 am)

• Your child cries when waking up in the morning

What to do to avoid sleep debt

When one of these signs manifest and you suspect sleep debt, there is only one remedy! Start by advancing your bedtime by about 30 minutes. Set up a bedtime routine and try to be as regular as possible during nap times (which is not always easy). Finally, listen to your child. At the slightest sign of fatigue, it’s time to sleep! The greater the sleep debt, the less easily your baby will fall asleep. In some cases, it will therefore be necessary to be patient!

Sleep debt is a vicious circle. The bigger it is, the harder it is to get out of it. The only solution remains regularity. Even if it's difficult at first, you have to help your little one find a good rhythm. Up to 5 years old, bedtime should not exceed 8 p.m.! As soon as you see the slightest sign of fatigue (yawning, drop in body temperature, heavy eyelids, etc.), prepare your baby for sleep.

You can also slightly advance the time of the naps to help your baby fall asleep more easily at night. Finally, beware of exposure to screens whose blue light prevents the secretion of the sleep hormone. A lighter meal at dinner can also Forster an easier bedtime.

To help you better understand your baby's sleep and avoid habits that can lead to sleep debt, you can read our article: baby sleep patterns, guides and tips.

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