Baby Sleep Training: What is Sleep Consciousness?

A 'sleep ritual' refers to repeating the same behaviour before putting your child to sleep. If you repeat the same behaviour every time your baby sleeps, a conditioned reflex is created between the behaviour and sleep. For example, if you always play the same song before going to sleep, your child may yawn and prepare to go to bed as soon as the song is heard.

If you create a regular sleep ritual and repeat it every day, it will be an easy way to put your child to sleep. It’s a must-have to put your child to sleep easily today! Let's talk about sleep consciousness.

mother with her children

Why is sleep awareness important?

Let's look at it from an adult's point of view. Even adults find it difficult to fall asleep as soon as they lie in bed. Your body may be very tired, but you still might not be able to sleep, and end up staying up all night with your eyes open. The same goes for children. It is also a period of rapid physical growth, and cognitive developmental curiosity explodes, making it difficult for them to fall asleep without relaxing their own body.

Children have shorter and more irregular sleep cycles than adults, making it more difficult for them to get into a deep sleep than adults. Various conditions are necessary to soothe these children. 

First of all, they should be exposed to a lot of light in the morning. In the evening, this should be reversed so that they receive limited light and it is dark enough to feel like night time. It is also necessary to have fun during the day. A child needs to release energy during the day to get a good night's sleep. A regular routine is also important. If your child slept at 6 pm yesterday and 11 pm today, it will be difficult for your child to learn when bedtime is.

Creating a sleep ritual that includes these three areas can help. Before they go to bed, turn down the light in the room and make it quiet, have play and fun during the day, and engage in static activities such as reading picture books at night. Creating a regular pattern of helping your child fall asleep is the core of sleep consciousness.

How do I practise sleep consciousness with my child?

baby boy lying down on a brown baby relaxer

Anything that calms your child's brain is fine. Think about ways you can relax your child, such as taking a short bath, bathing, feeding, changing them into their bed clothes, singing lullabies, reading children's books, or giving them a massage. However, in the case of a bath, if it is too exciting and fun while playing in the water, your child may be too excited to fall asleep shortly afterwards.

Whatever activity you choose, focus on a calm atmosphere. How much time would be good? As the child grows and the larger the child's range of activity is, the more time that is required for sleep consciousness. Young babies may need 15 minutes of sleep rituals, increasing to 30 minutes of sleep rituals as they get older and have more energy.

On days when they have a lot of fun during the day, it may be difficult to calm their excitement, so you may need to carry out a longer sleep ritual. No matter how long, do not exceed 30 minutes. This is because if the sleep consciousness time becomes too long, it is regarded as a new play time. Don't forget that the goal of sleep consciousness is to put your child to sleep!

Remember This!

When creating a sleep ritual, it is good to keep in mind the following.

Firstly, it is good to minimise the use of smartphones or TVs. There are ways that parents and children can take full ownership of their time, such as giving a massage, praying, or reading a picture book together. A flashy video just before going to sleep actually disturbs the child's sleep.

baby in a swaddle lying down

Secondly, be sure to practice the sleep ritual you have set every day. Once you have decided on the behaviours to include in your sleep ritual, you need to put them into practice every day. If you need to shorten your sleep ritual, it is still a good idea to skim the beginning of the sequence of each step once. For example, if you practice the sleep ritual in the order of bath-massage-reading picture books, and need to shorten it, you do not skip from the bath to the picture books. Instead, change the sleep ritual for that night to shower-short massage-read one or two books.

Also, be sure to follow the order of sleep training. This means that the order of bath-massage-picture book should not be changed to bath-picture book-massage tomorrow. This eventually makes it difficult to get your child to sleep easily.

If you practice short sleep training during naps and nights, it will help you put your child to sleep. If your nighttime sleep ritual is about 15 minutes, try short nap sleep rituals of 5 to 10 minutes.

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Author: Eun-Kyung Beom, Pediatrician
- Baby Sleep Education Expert
- Director of Baby Sleep Research Institute
- Formerly Director of Gwangju Central Children's Hospital


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