What is Sleep Pressure? It’s the key to good naps! Seriously, once you know this, your baby’s naps are guaranteed to improve.
Sleep Pressure is a biological process that makes our bodies want to sleep. It builds up throughout the day, and the longer you are awake, the higher your sleep pressure levels are. When you’re running errands at 11 am, chances are your sleep pressure is quite low, but by 11 pm you can hardly keep your eyes open. That ’s because your sleep pressure has steadily built up through the day and your levels of sleep pressure are much higher.
Low sleep pressure= no sleep
High sleep pressure= fall asleep quickly and sleep well
Feeling pressured to raise your baby’s Sleep Pressure levels? Here’s what you can do:
Understanding what Sleep Pressure is and how it works is the key to getting it right every time.
Sleep pressure is highest in the morning, as the body is mostly in sleep mode from the night before. This is why most babies go down pretty nicely for the first morning nap only 2 hours after waking up for the day.
The trap that you can fall into with the first nap is that because it’s so easy for baby to sleep well, many moms will let baby sleep as long as her body will go, up to two hours at times! Sleeping for a long period of time first thing in the morning decreases sleep pressure rapidly and will result in short, irritable naps later in the day.
Step number one in evening out your baby’s sleep pressure is to limit his morning nap to one hour. Yes, you heard me. I know. You can’t even imagine waking your baby when you’ve worked so hard to get him to sleep… but you’ll have to trust me on this one. Or don’t trust me- try it out for yourself and see!
Babies that have a shorter morning nap go down so much more easily for the afternoon nap. This is because the sleep pressure continues to build throughout the day and hasn’t been totally decreased by the first morning nap.
Babies that take a long, uninterrupted morning nap tend to be poor afternoon nappers, as their sleep pressure has all but disappeared by the time the afternoon rolls around. This can be disastrous as a poor afternoon nap leads to overtiredness at bedtime, which can prevent baby from falling asleep.
Too much daytime sleep, in general, will decrease sleep pressure at bedtime, which is why it’s important to limit the first nap to one hour and the second nap to 2 hours. (if your baby still takes a third nap that should be capped at 1 hour as well.)
Darkness also aids in creating sleep pressure, as does white noise. The more conducive to sleep the atmosphere is, the more sleep pressure will build.
Limiting the length of your baby’s naps is the key to maintaining an even amount of sleep pressure throughout the day. The awesome thing about this is that once your baby is on a better nap schedule, it can really help the nights improve as well! That’s a win-win if I’ve ever heard of one. 😉