Sleep training goes beyond teaching your baby how to sleep well – sleep coaching also has incredible health benefits. Here we’ll explain how sleep training helps your baby’s mental, cognitive, physical, and emotional development and helps you as a parent, too!
Multiple studies from a range of sources show that babies who sleep well, nap regularly, and have early bedtimes are better emotionally adjusted, do better in school, and have reduced risk for health problems down the road. Meanwhile, parents with well-rested babies who have early bedtimes are also happier, healthier, and have more free time. Here’s a brief rundown of the science of your baby’s sleep and how sleep training effectively and safely guides it.
Here we discuss some of the ways sleep training sets your baby up for success.
To get step-by-step guidance on everything sleep training, download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ . Co-developed with pediatricians, this easy-to-use app from Pampers is a game changer when it comes to solving your baby’s sleep. Get started today by taking this free sleep assessment.
What is Sleep Training?
Sleep training, also known as sleep coaching, is a process in which you work with your baby’s natural circadian rhythms to gently and effectively shape their sleep. You do this by watching their wake windows and putting them down when they start to show sleepy cues. Sleepy cues include yawning, rubbing their eyes, or turning away from you.
What is The Process of Sleep Training?
Though you’re using your baby’s natural cues in sleep coaching, you’re also instilling a lifelong habit. You do this by maintaining a calming, consistent bedtime routine you perform every night before bed; there’s also a shorter version you can do for daytime naps.
By creating and using a bedtime routine, you do two things:
- 1.You calm your baby before bed, helping get them in the mindset to settle and rest.
- 2.You’re creating a healthy habit: by repeating your bedtime routine night after night, you’re creating a consistent pattern that cues and prepares them for bed. In time, your baby will naturally begin to calm themselves.
Note: Your baby’s sleep schedule and sleep needs shift and evolve as they age. The amount of sleep a 6-month-old needs is far different than the amount of sleep an 18-month-old needs. That said, while sleep training is effective and easy – most users see results in 1 week or less – sleep training is a process that unfolds over many months. While this may sound like a lot of work, it’s actually very simple and the life-long results are worth it:
What are the Benefits of Sleep Training?
Sleep training has long and short-term benefits for your baby.
In the short-term, sleep training your baby will help them:
- Fall asleep faster: Sleep training teaches your baby to anticipate and lean into sleep, meaning they fall asleep faster at night.
- Wake up less at night: Sleep training teaches your baby to be a strong independent sleeper, so they can put themselves back to sleep if and when they wake at night.
- Sleep longer: Sleep training includes getting your baby on a biologically and developmentally appropriate schedule which will help them sleep longer overall.
In the long-term, sleep training helps your baby grow physically and mentally:
- Improved learning skills:The Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health published a study finding students who had consistent bedtimes performed better in school, while similar research from The Japanese Society of Child Neurology found that later bedtimes in 18-month-olds led to poorer results on cognitive development.
- Emotional and Linguistic Improvement: A study published in Sleep Medicine Reviews, suggests that the routine aspect of sleep training has benefits, as well: “… Bedtime routine(s) can contribute to an array of positive developmental outcomes beyond improved sleep, inclusive of language development, literacy, child emotional and behavioral regulation, parent–child attachment, and family functioning, among other outcomes.”
- Improve mood: A study in Early Human Development found that well-rested babies are more approachable and adaptable to new situations than babies that don’t get enough rest - a fact many of us parents can confirm based on our own empirical evidence!
- Reduced Obesity: Getting enough sleep as a baby and toddler is shown to reduce the likeliness of obesity in children. One study, by the journal SLEEP, concluded, “Greater increases in nighttime sleep duration and more consolidation of nighttime sleep were associated with lower odds of being overweight from 1 to 6 months.”
- Marishka Brown, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, suggested that the patterns created in those six months may be predictive for the rest of their lives: “What is particularly interesting about this research is that the sleep-obesity association we see across the lifespan appears in infancy and may be predictive of future health outcomes.”
Why Naps are Important for Babies:
Naps may seem inconsequential or that they’re just “rest time” during the day, but naps are also extremely important to your baby’s overall health now and in the future. The benefits from naps include:
- Memory Consolidation: There are two types of sleep : REM sleep and NREM sleep.
While REM sleep aides your baby’s cognitive and learning skills, NREM helps with memory consolidation. NREM sleep begins earlier in a sleep cycle; since naps are so short, they’re packed with healthy NREM.
By nurturing your baby’s NREM sleep, you help them remember more of what they learn and lay the foundation for continued mental development in the months and years ahead.
Other Benefits from Naps Include:
- Quicker Locomotor Problem Solving, such as solving how to crawl through a tunnel.
- Flexible Cognition: Such as recognizing two identical but different-colored puppets.
How Sleep Training Helps Parents
Your baby is the star of sleep training, but this process also has tremendous benefits for you and your entire family.
You Enjoy More Sleep: Since your baby falls asleep faster and stays asleep longer – and because sleep coached babies wake less at night – you also benefit from more sleep – and what parents can say no to that?
You’re in a Better Mood: As with babies, and all humans, being tired or not well rested can put you on edge. With more rest, your mood will improve, too. And that’s not just based on our experience – a Canadian study showed less depression in mothers who sleep coached their babies.
You Have More Chill Time: When your baby sleeps more, you also have more time. Again, no study needed to explain why that’s a benefit.
Your Relationships Benefit: Whether with your romantic partners or friends, being better rested, in a better mood, and with less stress you can reconnect with people who are important to you.
You’re a Safer Parent: Drowsiness can lead to clumsiness or slower reflexes. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, drowsy driving contributes to about 83,000 car collisions each year and about 900 fatalities. That said, when you're better rested, you’re a safer, more alert parent.
You’re More Attentive, Too: Since sleep training helps you be more rested and happier, you’ll also be a more patient, attentive, and enthusiastic parent for your little one. Everybody wins!
When you’re ready to start your sleep training journey, download The Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. It features a proprietary algorithm that will automatically adjust your baby’s schedule every time you track a sleep and offers personalized sleep training approaches designed uniquely for your baby.
“Sleep patterns and obesity in childhood,” Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity .
“Infant sleep and its relation with cognition and growth: a narrative review,” Nature and Science of Sleep.
“Sleep problems and infant motor and cognitive development across the first two years of life: The Beijing Longitudinal Study,” Infant Behavior and Development.
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.