Author: Marie-Eve Gagnon

Understanding Your Child’s Circadian Rhythm: Your Ally for Better Sleep!

Understanding Your Child’s Circadian Rhythm: Your Ally for Better Sleep!

The circadian rhythm is our internal body clock.  One of its role is to make us feel awake at certain times of the day and sleepy at other times.  This means that we have windows of wakefulness throughout the day.  

Newborns have very short windows: they are awake for 45-90 min and need to sleep again.  So that means that after eating, they may only have a few min before they get tired again!  Over time, their windows get longer.  By 4 mo, they usually can be up for 1.5-2 hours and by 6 mo, 2-3 hours.

When babies get to the end of their window and are naturally sleepy from a dip in their circadian rhythm, it’s easier for them to go to sleep.  If we miss that window and they stay awake too long, then their body produces more cortisol, which is a hormone that is a mild form of adrenaline, which will keep them awake and going.  That surge in cortisol is like having an espresso shot – it wakes up and keeps you going!!  You know that “second wind” we refer to?  Having that second wind usually means they are overtired.

When kiddos are overtired, it’s often harder for them to go to sleep (as you know, it’s hard to go to sleep after having an espresso!).  Being overtired can also cause shorter naps, more frequent night wakings and earlier morning wake ups. So we really want to avoid overtiredness!

How do we do that?

Some babies give us signs that they are getting toward the end of their “window” and will need to go to sleep soon.  We call those sleepy cues, and they will evolve as your child gets older Here are some common sleepy signs.

Here are some common sleep signs:

  • Yawning
  • Rubbing eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Slowing down
  • Looking away, lack of interest
  • Mild fussiness
  • Zoning out
  • Being clumsy
  • Not listening as well
  • Being cranky
  • Asking for milk, lovey, pacifier, etc.

When your baby starts to show their sleepy signs, it’s time to get ready for sleep.  We want to catch them before they have a meltdown because they are so tired!

However, some babies do not give us any warning. If your baby is very alert, active and has FOMO (fear of missing out), there’s a good chance that they don’t show any signs of being tired until they are OVERTIRED!  For those babies, we need to initiate sleep. Here’s how:

  • Instead of relying on his sleep signs, use the “clock”. 
  • When she wakes up, set a timer for X min (see average wakeful windows below). This will remind you that it’s time for your baby to sleep again.
  • Even if baby does not look tired, go to a dark room, turn on the white noise and try to help them fall asleep.
  • Keep a sleep log for a few days to see the patterns.  Adjust the timer based on that.

Getting to know your kiddo’s natural rhythm and to help them sleep before they get overtired is a gentle and effective way to encourage sleep, and it works at all ages!  

If you have any questions about your child’s sleep and would like more support, head over HERE to learn more about how we can work together. You can also join my free private Facebook group for sleep support.

3 Steps to a Short and Sweet Bedtime Routine

3 Steps to a Short and Sweet Bedtime Routine

Research shows that having a consistent bedtime routine helps with falling asleep faster, less night wakings and more sleep overall..  Don’t we all want that?

A bedtime routine is a sequence of activities that we do every night before bedtime.  Pick a few relaxing steps you are willing to do every night, and do these steps in the same order every night, in the room where your kiddo sleep.   

I encourage families to start a bedtime routine when baby is 6- 8 weeks old.  Your baby will learn to recognize this “sequence”, know that sleep comes at the end and it will become an important cue to help them be more ready for sleep.

Over the months and the years, your child’s bedtime routine will evolve and change, but you will want to continue to have this predictable time before bed.  Even adults have bedtime routines – think about what you do before you go to sleep – I bet you have your own rituals!

The bedtime routine is a time to relax, connect and wind down.  There are 3 components to a successful bedtime routine:

First: Prep

Prep first: Do the things you need to get done -diaper change, lotion, brush teeth, potty, pajamas.  If there’s something your kiddo dislikes, try to do it first so it’s out of the way and we can enjoy the rest of the routine. (we don’t want to get all snuggly and then have to stop to do something they dislike!).

Second: Connect and relax

Start to wind down.  Bedtime routine is NOT the time to tickle or have a pillow fight! We want to do relaxing things that your kiddo enjoys.  Here are some ideas: massage, lotion, snuggle, books, songs, quiet play, talk about your day, tell stories, yoga, say good night to objects, etc.  Pick things that your kiddo enjoys.   That means that if your child really is not into books right now, don’t do a book at bedtime. Try books at different times of the day, and pick something else for now at bedtime.

Third: Stay consistent

When the bedtime routine is over, it’s over!  Do not let your kiddo convince you to do 1 more song, story

Some additional tips:

When you first introduce the routine, read the same book every night (or sing the same song). Once the routine is established, you can start to rotate books/songs.  Another way to do it is to finish with the same song/book. For example, let’s say you read 3 short books at bedtime. You can change the first 2 and always read the same third/last book.

Be in the moment during the routine.  If you are stressing about all that you have to do After your child goes to bed, they will pick up on that and it will make it harder for them to relax and be ready to go to sleep.

Parents can have slightly different routine, and baby can adjust.  For example, one parent may sing a song, but the other can’t! J   What’s important is that each parent do their own routine the same way every time.  Over time, the bedtime routine will evolve, but you will continue to help your child wind down at bedtime for years to come!

Do the routine in the room where the child sleeps.

You don’t have to have a bath as part of your routine.

So there it is. When bedtime is coming, dim the light, slow down and enjoy!  And when it’s time to sleep, stay strong!

If you have any questions about your child’s sleep and would like more support, head over HERE to learn more about how we can work together. You can also join my free private Facebook group for sleep support.

7 Facts About Newborn Sleep You Did Not Know About

7 Facts About Newborn Sleep You Did Not Know About

Newborns sleep often but not for very long, and their patterns can be surprising. Here are some facts that will help you better understand your newborn and encourage sleep!

#1 Night and Day Reversal

Some newborns are very sleepy during the day and more active at night.  If your baby wants to “party” at 3 am, we want to change that! This is something we can start to focus on as soon as baby is born. 

Our internal clock uses light, food and activities as key inputs to figure out where we are in the day.   Expose your baby to bright light in the morning and early afternoon.  In the evening, dim the light so she knows it’s the end of the day.  And at night, keep it dark and in sleep mode: be calm and quiet. Take care of your baby but don’t play.  If we play at 3 am, we will reinforce that it’s time to be up! Over time they will gradually shift to be more active during daytime.

#2 Some Newborns Go to Bed Late

Some newborns go to bed around 10-11 pm.  Over time, their bedtime will gradually shift earlier.  Follow your baby’s lead and move bedtime earlier as they look tired earlier.  By the time they are ~4 months, many babies go to bed between 6-8 pm.

#3 Awake for Short Periods

Newborns can only be awake for short periods before needing to sleep again. Between 0-6 weeks, their windows often are 45-60 min (but some may be awake for 90 min). That means that after you change and feed them, there’s not a lot of awake time before they need to sleep again! !  If they stay awake for too long, they will get overtired, which often makes it harder for them to sleep. Over time, their “windows of wakefulness” will get longer.

#4 Newborns Can Be Surprisingly Loud at Night

Newborns make all sorts of sounds when they are sleeping!  If you hear grunting, fussing, flailing, moaning – they may still be sound asleep!   Make sure you don’t intervene unless they are truly awake!

#5 First Stretch = Longest Stretch

Babies usually have their longest stretch of sleep when they first fall asleep at bedtime.  After that initial longer stretch, they wake up more frequently. As we get closer to morning, it’s harder to get them back to sleep and usually need more help from us.

#6 Look for Those Sleepy Cues

Some newborns fall asleep whenever they are tired, regardless of where they are and what is going on around them.  Some need a little more help, but give us cues that they are getting tired. These sleepy cues can include: yawning, looking away, rubbing their eyes, mild fussiness (but not a full meltdown), red eyes, etc.

When your baby starts to show their sleepy signs, it’s time to get them ready for sleep.  We want to help them go to sleep before they get overtired and have a meltdown.

However, some babies do not show any sleepy signs and can keep going on and on like the Energizer Bunny!  They may seem ok and act like they can be awake for many hours at a time, but in reality, they are overtired. 

To help your Energizer Bunny baby (we also often call them FOMO – fear of missing out – babies) get the sleep they need, use a timer. When they wake up, set the timer for their usual window (usually 45-60 min , see #3).  When the timer goes on, take your baby to a dark room and try to help them fall asleep. It may take a few days to adjust the right timing but eventually you’ll get in a rhythm.

#7 Naps Can Be Tricky

Newborn naps are inconsistent: some naps will be long, some naps will be short, and the pattern may change from one day to the next.  That’s normal, daytime sleep takes longer than night sleep to organize.  In the meantime, our job is to help them get some sleep throughout the day.

Babies tend to need more help with naps. Babies can have a hard time napping flat on a mattress (even if they sleep pretty well on that mattress during the night).  They usually need some extra help to nap: movement, being held, etc.  It’s good to have a few different ways to help them nap that you can rotate through.

The first nap of the day is usually the easiest. They get increasingly harder as the day goes on, so expect to help them take that last nap of the day (for example, watch Netflix, have some tea and hold your sleeping baby).

If you have questions about your baby’s sleep and would like some support to develop some good sleep habits from the start, head over HERE to learn more about how we can work together.  

You can also join my free private Facebook group for sleep support.

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Parenting is intense: it’s as challenging as it is rewarding, and it can feel very isolating although you just grew your family!

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Dr. Angela Potter

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Ren Johns

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Marie-Eve Gagnon

If your family is experiencing sleep struggles, I can help!  Visit my site

Katharine Burton Jeffcoat

Feeding a family and children can be challenging!  I can help.  Visit my site at