Updated: Aug 17, 2020
As a baby sleep consultant, I deal with many babies that only catnap several times a day never actually linking their sleep cycles. It is quite important for a baby to learn how to link their sleep cycles and thereby achieve consolidated naps. I am sure you have heard this but if you are not really sure why, I have listed 5 of those reasons below.
1. If your little one is not consolidating their naps, it is very easy for them to have awake windows longer than they can developmentally handle. This causes your little one to be overtired which elevates cortisol levels. Once cortisol levels get too high, cortisol is then converted into Adrenalin. Adrenalin will cause your little one to have difficulty settling and resettling causing the vicious cycle of only achieving short catnaps to continue, or missing naps altogether, and can also cause issues overnight due to this increased Adrenalin in the system.
2. If your little one is only having short naps and not consolidating at least one nap, it can lead to multiple short catnaps through the day. In an older baby, this can actually add up and cause too much day sleep. If your little one has too much day sleep, this can affect your little one’s night sleep as they will then not be tired enough to achieve a good sleep overnight. It can also cause the final short nap to be too late in the day which then leads to issues settling your little one at bedtime leading to the dreaded bedtime battles!
3. In consolidated sleep that is over an hour in length, many amazing things occur. Short term memory is converted to long term memory, newly learnt skills are secured, pathways are made in the brain, emotions are processed and vision is sharpened. If your little one is not linking their sleep cycles, all of this amazing brain activity is being missed.
4. Achieving a consolidated nap during the day attributes to ensuring your little one is achieving restorative sleep. When your little one is consolidating a nap during the day and achieving quality sleep, it leads to improved behaviour when they are awake. This allows them to enjoy time exploring and learning from their environment along with enjoying good quality time with you. A happy baby makes for a much happier day!
5. The final reason is for your mental health. Any mum with a baby that does not achieve consolidated naps knows how tiring the day can be and how difficult it is to get anything done. A consolidated nap is great for your little one’s development but is also a great way for you to get some housework done, have a shower or even just sit down and enjoy a coffee. This space for yourself is really important.
If you find your little one is only catnapping through the day and is unable to link their sleep cycles, it is really important to try and extend the sleep to help your little one learn to sleep for a longer period of time. This can be a really difficult and daunting task that can feel very labour intensive with the fear of your hard work not actually leading to results.
Just know, it can take being consistent with your approach for up to 2 weeks, before you may see the first sign of things improving. It seems like and can feel like hard work but it is really worth it for your little one and for you.
Nicole - Silent Night Baby Sleep Consultant
Helping your family achieve sleep harmony