One of the most fascinating things that I get to experience as a Sleep Consultant, aside from watching your child go from “hating sleep” to being an incredible sleeper, is seeing the different sleep personalities and needs that each child has.
And most people don’t know this!
I call these ‘sleep personalities’ because they are completely unique to each child, just like their personality!
Some babies just naturally require more sleep while others are totally fine with less sleep and more awake time. This can vary from sibling to sibling and even twins will have two totally different sleep personalities.
I see this so often and I’m always looking for signs of how your child handles sleep to give me a better understanding of their needs. This helps us make adjustments to schedules and routines to better suit every child.
But, you have to start somewhere. And I’m sure you’re wondering, “well how do I know where my child falls on the sleep need spectrum?”
Let’s start with the basics!
Take a look at this sleep chart below.
This will show you how many naps your child needs, the typical length of each nap, a range of wake time between naps, typical bedtime, hours of sleep needed at night and total hours of sleep needed over a 24-hour period. This is all broken out by age groups, and it is all a starting point! This chart does not mean that your 3-month-old must only be awake for 1.5 hours. This is a place to begin and then you can monitor your child’s needs to better understand where to go from there.
Ok, now that you’ve found your child’s age group on the chart and you have an understanding of where you’re going to start with their wake windows, naps and nighttime sleep, how do you know what they actually need?!
Below, I will break out the signs of ‘high sleep need’ vs. ‘low sleep need’. Be sure to take some time monitoring these signs to understand which one your child falls under.
*Note: If your little one if 4+ months and is not initiating sleep on their own and without much help, this will be more difficult to pinpoint.
High sleep needs:
consistently takes long naps during the day that need to be capped to keep enough time for wake windows and other naps
sleeps 12+ hours at night
doesn’t wake up too early in the morning
can fall asleep easily with shorter wake windows for their age
continues doing so without having their nap length or nighttime sleep impacted
Low sleep needs:
consistently takes shorter naps (even past 6/7 months)
sleeps closer to 10 hours per night
may wake early in the morning no matter what you do
can handle longer periods of wake time
is not cranky or fussy with the longer wake periods and shorter sleeps
Your baby could either fall in the extreme category at either end and exhibit all of these attributes or a mix of a few and land somewhere in the middle. But every baby has a different requirement for sleep!
My oldest son has been middle-to-low sleep needs, and getting lower as he gets older. My youngest is middle-to-high sleep needs. And then my 3-year-old niece is ridiculously high sleep needs! Girlfriend loves her sleep!
If you do suspect that your child’s sleep habits are abnormal and something underlying is going on, please don’t hesitate to bring this up to your pediatrician.