By: Jenn Kelner

Certified Sleep Consultant


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Common Child Sleep Myths Put to Rest!

There is a lot of information out there about child sleep, some of it based on fact, some of it based on personal experience, and some of it based on opinion.  Much of the information you hear is from the well-meaning moms in your mommy group, your mom who “knows best” and the passionate blogger, but is the information correct, or even helpful?  Here are 4 common child sleep myths that you can finally put to rest.

1. The more tired a child is, the better they will sleep.

While you might think that if you keep your child up later they will crash and sleep better throughout the night, in fact the opposite is true.  When a child becomes overtired, their bodies release a stress hormone called cortisol, which makes it difficult to fall asleep.  Cortisol can remain in the body for several hours which results is restless night sleep, more night wakings, and early morning wake ups.

2. The later a child goes to bed, the later they will sleep in.

If you put a child to bed later they will often wake up at the same time the next morning, or even earlier.  We all have an internal biological clock called our circadian rhythm, and it’s usually set to wake up at the same time every day regardless of whether you went to bed late or not.  If a child is up late and becomes overtired, the cortisol can cause restless sleep and those early morning wake ups as well.

3. If a child is fighting their nap, they must not need one anymore.

A child may fight their nap when they don’t need one anymore, but they may also fight a nap due to a vacation, illness, visit from family or they are going through a developmental milestone like standing or walking.  If a child misses their nap, try to make bedtime a little earlier to make sure they stay well rested, otherwise they may get overtired and fight their nap even more.  If you child has been fighting their nap consistently for more than 2 weeks, it may be time to transition out of a nap. 

4. Sleep training means I have to let my child cry for hours.

Sleep training is a way to change a child’s sleep behaviours and develop healthy sleep habits.  It can involve changing a routine, or changing expectations around sleep.  There are many ways to sleep train a child and not all of those methods require long periods of crying.  Simple things like changing the sleep environment, the routine or the sleep schedule can help your child develop healthy sleep habits.