There are many opinions about whether to do sleep training or not. Some say that sleep education is too artificial, and others say that sleep education is essential for the health of children in a modern society where there is no obvious distinction between day and night.
In conclusion, whether or not to choose sleep education can be considered by looking at the parents’ temperaments, the child’s temperament, and the overall family environment. If the child has a gentle temperament, the parents are not too stressed out to put the child to sleep, and the house maintains a quiet atmosphere under soft lighting for an hour before going to sleep, you can witness the child sleeping well without sleep training.
However, in the opposite case, sleep education is required. So, what are the situations in which sleep education should be considered?
4 Circumstances Where You Should Consider Sleep Training
1. The caregiver is under great stress.
A 2018 report by a Pennsylvania State University research team found that parents who slept with their children for six months or more had increased stress levels and poor judgment. In 2016, the research team also wrote a report that mothers who sleep with their children have difficulty controlling their emotions due to lack of sleep, which makes it harder for them to enjoy parenting.
Sleep deprivation can even lead to feelings of depression if caregivers are not getting enough sleep. What if the worry of your child having difficulty sleeping is present even when you should be having fun with your child during the day? In this scenario, sleep training needs to be seriously considered.
2. Your child sleeps 3 or more hours less than the average sleep time.
In June 2016, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine published guidelines for recommended sleep times for infants and adolescents in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. It is recommended that children from 4 to 12 months of age should sleep for 12 to 16 hours a day (including naps), and for children 1 to 2 years old, 11 to 14 hours a day (including naps).
Of course, there may be children who are particularly sleepless. However, if your child is sleeping 3 or more hours less than the average recommended sleep time, sleep education should be considered.
3. The child always sleeps past 11 pm.
In a historical home environment, sleep education was not important, because everyone in the family acted according to the time the sun rose and set. From 7 to 8 in the evening, they would naturally prepare to sleep in the dark and they would wake up at 5 or 6 in the morning according to the sunrise.
However, in modern homes, it is difficult to distinguish between day and night. In a noisy environment with TV dramas until dawn, it is difficult for a child to have a proper sleeping habit. Your child should go to bed at least between 9 and 10 pm, and if your child always goes to sleep past 11 pm, you may want to check their sleep habits.
4. Your child doesn’t eat baby food.
Many experts point out that a child who eats well sleeps well, and a child who sleeps well eats well. A baby who wakes up 2 or 3 times in the morning and feeds at night is basically eating a late-night snack all the time, which negatively affects their sleep.
This means that your baby is not hungry during the day when they need to eat baby food or breast milk properly, and therefore has a habit of looking for food at night. If your child seems to be feeding too little food or breast milk/formula, you should check their night feeding habits and sleeping habits.
Tip: When it comes to putting a baby to sleep, many parenting books usually advise avoiding the habit of holding a baby to help them sleep. However, if it is not too difficult for the guardian to consistently do this in order to put their child to sleep, it is okay to keep the habit.
If you focus on whether your child is getting a good night's sleep, what the parent's stress level is, and whether a home environment is created for the child to sleep early, you can find the answer to whether you should start sleep education with your child.
Author: Eun-Kyung Beom, Pediatrician
- Baby Sleep Education Expert
- Director of Baby Sleep Research Institute
- Formerly Director of Gwangju Central Children's Hospital