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Is bedtime a battle due to this problem?

Your child is showing all the signs they are tired and you’re on path for bedtime but then things go haywire. Either your child starts to show high-energy or even playfulness? Or they are really struggling with a meltdown but just are ‘resisting’ sleep?

Close up of child's body and legs in pyjamas sitting on wooden floor next to parent's feet and child is touching the parent's big toe with their finger.

What is going on? Many things might be at play but something to consider that isn’t often discussed is whether your child’s readiness for sleep (sleep pressure/tiredness) is out of sync with their circadian rhythm.

Often the first thing that will be offered to you with this bedtime battle is that your child is now overtired. Keep your eyes peeled for a post on this next week.

Our circadian rhythm has a daily pattern. In the period ahead of the body being ready for sleep at bedtime the circadian rhythm is sending ‘stay awake’ signals. And as your child approaches bedtime, their sleep pressure has been rising; they are becoming more tired. Think of the circadian rhythm as a doorway and once the alerting signals stop, then the door opens to say ‘sleep, have your way’. The ideal scenario for bedtime is that when the alerting signals stop (the door opens), the sleep pressure/tiredness is at an appropriate level for sleep to happen.

To add to this knowledge, in the period of time before that alerting stops, there is some time where those alerting signals actually intensify.

What can happen at times is your child may be tired and showing cues for sleep but their circadian rhythm is still alerting to ‘stay awake’. So, their body clock and readiness for sleep are out of sync. We need to make some adjustment to bring these into sync. The problem when we are just focused on a single view that this means overtiredness, the usual advice is then to pull bedtime earlier which could make everything far worse.

This is just one example of the power of truly understanding sleep in an evidence-based way to ensure that the advice you’re being given enables you to really understand what’s going on with your child’s sleep and to support you having clarity in what to shift. The alternative confusion can be so confusing, frustrating and exhausting.

Always love, Annie x

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