Updated: Jan 6, 2022
It’s true! Your child will never sleep through the night.
In fact, none of us actually sleep through the night! (At almost 33 weeks pregnant, I’m not even sleeping through half of the night but that’s another story)
This isn’t due to having your coffee too late in the day, not eating healthy or lacking a certain vitamin. It’s a normal and natural part of the way that humans sleep!
We all go through various stages of sleep each night. You may have experienced the difference between waking up from a light sleep versus waking from a deep sleep.
As we’re falling asleep, the first stage that we enter is a lighter stage of sleep. We gradually progress into a deeper sleep where we stay for a little while. Then, we move back into a lighter sleep. When we do this, there’s a chance we might wake up!
The whole process takes about 90 to 110 minutes [i], even though it may not feel like you had multiple light stages of sleep throughout the night. Luckily for most adults, the process repeats itself quite seamlessly. Sometimes we don’t even remember the light wakings we have at all!
But our little ones experience this differently.
They move through the stages of each sleep cycle at a much faster pace than adults. The whole cycle usually takes about 50 minutes. So “sleeping like a baby” is not that ideal!
The transitioning to the next sleep cycle is the true test for a baby. If they were put to sleep by a parent rocking or feeding them to sleep then laid down in their beds, the last thing that they remember is the rocking or feeding. Then, they come to a lighter stage of sleep and are startled at the fact that they are definitely not in the same place that they remember being. And so they call out for a parent.
This is why it’s so beneficial to teach your baby to fall asleep on their own in the exact environment in which they will wake up in. When they are cycling through sleep this quickly and spending this much time in a light stage of sleep, they’re going to run into some frustration if they don’t know how to get back to sleep on their own.
So, how come some babies can sleep through the night but others can’t?
Babies that “sleep through the night” are not completely asleep for 10-12 hours straight.
The difference is that they know how to move to the next sleep cycle on their own.
When we are teaching sleep, we never expect them to not wake up at all within the night. We just help them learn how to go back to sleep so that they don’t feel scared, frustrated or confused when they wake up through the night.
Once they’ve learned the skills that they need to fall back to sleep, they’ll wake up after a sleep cycle and check their surroundings and make sure that they are in the same place as when they fell asleep. If they are, they’ll feel confident and safe to drift back to sleep.
When people try to argue that “babies are supposed to wake up at night”, I don’t ever disagree! It would be against their natural sleep patterns to assume that they’ll never wake up! In fact, it’s against all humans’ sleep pattern.
All we’re doing is teaching them their very own strategy to get back to sleep that they can control all on their own, without the help of Mom or Dad.
So, even though your child will still be waking up multiple times throughout the night, they will get back to sleep quickly and quietly! Leaving you and, most importantly them, with more restful sleep and less stress or frustration around sleep.
That, I would imagine, is something we can all get behind!
[i] US National Library of Medicine - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072506/
[ii] US National Library of Medicine - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3439810/