Some parents come to me because their child takes to hours to fall asleep, while others have children who fall asleep immediately, but wake every hour through the night. So what is normal? How long should it take for a child to fall asleep? It is unrealistic to expect our children to fall into sleep the second we turn out the lights and leave the room. In fact, falling asleep immediately is a sign of overtiredness because at this point they are exhausted. It is actually good for them to take a little time to settle before slipping into slumber! That being said taking too long to fall asleep can also be a problem, so let’s look at what is normal, why, and what you can do to encourage sleep tonight!
On average, it should take between 5 to 15 minutes for your child to fall into sleep. This is the sweet spot that lets us know you have timed their bedtime just right! They are not too tired that they’re falling asleep from exhausted and they’re not undertired making it difficult to fall asleep. Self-settling will look different for every child. Some may cry for a few minutes before falling asleep, others may jabber or roll around, bang their legs on the mattress or suck their thumb – all are completely normal and unique to your child!
It is important to note: A child with independent sleep skills will be much better at self-settling in this time frame than a child looking for help falling asleep.
Let’s look at 2 reasons that could cause your child to fall asleep outside of this range:
1. OVERtiredness: When your child is too tired their body is working hard to keep them awake by producing cortisol (the wake hormone) when it should be producing melatonin (the sleepy hormone).The high levels of cortisol make it difficult to fall asleep and even stay asleep through the night. You know the “second wind” that happens around bedtime? This is a sign your child is very tired and their body is working overtime to stay awake. Instead of keeping them up longer, I want you to put them to bed 15-30 minutes EARLIER. They will be able to settle much more quickly AND get much more restorative sleep through the night.
2. UNDERtiredness: This is exactly like it sounds, your child simply is not tired enough to go to sleep. In this case, bedtime may be too early and your child has not had enough awake time to build up adequate sleep pressure at bedtime. For your child this can be seen as bedtime stalling, frequent curtain calls, or maybe even waking up in the middle of the night ready to play. Shifting bedtime time later by 15-30 minutes will give your child a little extra time to build up sleep pressure needed for a night of sleep.
Other ways to help encourage sleep at bedtime:
Establish a routine: I love a good routine and it is such a great way to cue the body that sleep is coming! It doesn’t have to be long, just 15-20 minutes to help cue and relax your child before crawling into bed. You can read more on how to create a bedtime routine here.
Predictable Schedule: Consistently following an age-appropriate schedule helps to set your child’s internal clock because it is waking and sleeping at predictable times every single day. It’s also helpful for you because you will know when your child will be ready for sleep! Determining the right schedule for your child can be tricky, so if you’re not sure what would be a good schedule for your little one, let’s connect!
It is important to remember, We are not raising robots, we’re raising tiny humans. They will have ups and downs, just like us, and that’s okay! It’s unrealistic to expect our children’s sleep to perfect every single night, but we can set them up for success with healthy sleep habits, routines, and schedules.
When you work with me I provide you with all the tools you need to establish healthy sleep habits AND I support you every step of the way. If you need a hand to hold while walking through this journey, I’m your girl! Let’s set up a call and get your family the sleep you need!