Sleep is fundamental to your baby’s growth and development, so you want to make sure they get the right amount of sleep for their age. One of the best ways to do that is to track your baby’s sleep, but what does that mean? What is sleep tracking? How does sleep tracking help sleep training? And what does sleep tracking have to do with your baby’s circadian rhythm? We answer those questions here, and so many more.
Looking to start tracking your baby’s sleep, download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. Not only does it feature 1-click sleep tracking, this easy-to-use app also guides you step-by-step thorugh sleep training while ensuring you get all the necessary sleep fundametals in place.
What is Baby Sleep Tracking?
Quite simply, baby sleep tracking is when you follow and note when your baby wakes up and goes to sleep. This lets you monitor how long your baby sleeps, their wake windows and night wakings. It can also help you spot sleepy cues since you start to recognize patterns and know when it’s time for their next sleep.
What is a Wake Window?
Also known as an awake interval, a wake window is how long your baby is awake between naps and/or bedtime sleep
Note that the amount of time your baby is awake, their wake window, changes as they grow. The wake window for a 3-month-old is vastly different than the wake window of a 10-month-old, for example. When you know what wake window to watch for you know when it’s time for their next sleep.
What is a Sleepy Cue?
Sleepy Cues are the things your baby does when they’re ready to sleep. Common examples include:
- Rubbing Their Eyes
- Pulling Their Ears
- Fussy or Cranky
- Glazed eyes or avoiding eye contact
When you see your baby’s sleepy cues, you know they’re coming to the end of their wake window and their sleep drive is at its highest.
Why Do You Track Your Baby’s Sleep?
Sleep tracking is important because when you track, you’re making sure you actually know when your baby is sleeping, how much sleep they are getting and fundamentally ensuring that your baby is getting the rest they need for their age and development stage .
Tracking your baby’s sleep is more than just watching the clock, it’s helping you notice patterns in their sleep and better understand your baby’s natural circadian rhythm. Because of course putting your baby to sleep when they are actually tired is way easier than when they are not!
What is the Circadian Rhythm in Babies?
The circadian rhythm is the natural ebb and flow of sleep and awake we follow roughly every 24-hours. The circadian rhythm is often referred to as an ‘internal clock’ and is largely governed by light. It works in tandem with your baby’s homeostatic sleep drive, this is the release of a hormone called adenosine during wakeful periods. Adenosine slowly builds up, increasing the desire to sleep and triggering sleepy cues (you can think of it as a balloon filling). With each sleep, the amount of adenosine subsides (balloon deflates) ready for the next cycle of wakefulness.
What is the Sweet Spot for Baby Sleep?
While the circadian rhythm and homeostatic sleep drive are two, independent, biological factors, they typically work in tandem and when aligned are the “sweet spot” for sleep in young children.
When Does a Baby’s Circadian Rhythm Form?
A baby’s circadian rhythm starts maturing around 4 months – until then slee may seem very disorgnznised and it is possile that your baby will not only take very short or inconsistent naps, but also may still not know the difference between night and day. That’s why experts recommend starting to sleep train at around 4 month mark. Sleep training earlier than 4 months is less likely to be effective – for a number of different reasons.
How Does Baby Sleep Tracking Help Sleep Training?
When you track your baby’s sleep, you get to know their natural rhythms – when they are most likely to wake up and go to sleep. You can also track how long it takes for them to fall asleep.
By knowing this information, you can start to shape those times to help your baby get the rest they need. For example, if you’re struggling with your baby waking up too early – by tracking their sleep you can see the impact different nap times and bedtimes have on that early morning wake up.
Sleep tracking doesn’t need to be complicated, no need to keep pen and paper journals and calculate sleep yourself, the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ takes the guesswork out of sleep.
What are Baby Sleep Hormones and the Homeostatic Sleep Drive?
There are four primary hormones that regulate your baby’s sleep: they are released and suppressed over a 24-hour cycle to wake them and put them to bed.
Adenosine is the hormone that tells your baby – and all humans – that it’s time to sleep. That’s why adenosine is also known as the “Sleep Drive Hormone,” from what is called the homeostatic sleep drive.
When your baby wakes up, adenosine slowly builds up. Once adenosine hits its upper limit, your baby’s body releases the “sleepy hormone” melatonin, which prepares their body for sleep.
As your baby sleeps, the adenosine depletes. Once it’s depleted, “wake hormones” are released and your baby wakes up. It’s kind of like a balloon inflating and deflating. Adenosine builds up very fast in babies, which is why they need frequent daytime naps.
Melatonin the sleepy hormone that helps babies, and adults, fall asleep. Melatonin is released when adenosine reaches its upper level. Once this happens, your baby will begin to show sleepy cues and it’s time to start your baby’s bedtime routine .
A “wake up” hormone, cortisol is released once your baby “sleeps off” their adenosine. When adenosine reaches its lowest level, cortisol is released, waking them up. It can also be released if your baby stays up past their wake window, leading to overtiredness – another reason why tracking your baby’s sleep is essential.
Like cortisol, serotonin is a wake-up hormone that’s released when your little one is ready to rise and shine. It’s also like cortisol in that serotonin will be released if your baby is awake for longer than their age-appropriate wake window and is also stimulated by day light.
What Happens If Your Baby Misses Their Wake Window?
The hormones of baby sleep are very sensitive. If your baby stays up past their wake window, after the adenosine reaches its upper limit, their body gets confused and begins to release both bedtime and wake-up hormones, which is essentially overtiredness. This can really throw your baby’s sleep – and mood – off track. If you suspect your baby is overtired, you can recover the sleep debt by adjusting bedtime to be earlier.
How Does Daylight Impact a Baby’s Circadian Rhythm?
Since the circadian rhythm is largely guided by light, even the smallest amount of light can confuse your baby. Therefore, experts recommend two things:
- Blackout Curtain: Daytime naps and overnight sleep should happen in a pitch dark room.
- Daylight During the Day: During awake periods, it’s important to expose your baby to plenty of natural light in the daytime. This will help sync up their circadian rhythm.
Why Do Babies Need So Much Sleep?
The fastest rate of brain development happens from 0-3 years of age, and most of that happens while your baby sleeps. Sleep is crucial to the health and well being of your baby, in fact, there are a host of positive health benefits that come from sleeping.
Is There a Baby Sleep Tracking App?
We recommend the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ app – it does more than just track your baby’s sleep – it also helps you fully understand what is going on with your baby’s sleep and helps you sleep train, if and when you’re ready.
How Does Baby Sleep Tracking Help Parents?
Data shows that parents who track sleep reach their sleep goals 3x faster than parents who don’t. So by sleep tracking and getting your baby on a consistent sleep schedule, you provide yourself with more time, too – more time to catch up on chores, to do work, or to simply rest – you deserve it!
“Sleep tracking: A systematic review of the research using commercially available technology,” Current Sleep Medicine Reports.
“Evidence-Based Behavioral Strategies in Smartphone Apps for Children’s Sleep: Content Analysis,” JMIR: Pediatrics and Parenting.
“Infant sleep problems and interventions: A review,” Infant Behavioral Health.
How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.