Biological Sleep Regulators
Biological Sleep regulators – what exactly are these??
Have you ever tried to force a baby to sleep?
When we do try to force a baby to go to sleep we create a stressful situation for both parents and baby, no one gets any sleep, and we don't achieve anything.
We need to ensure that young babies are ready to sleep, thus they are biologically ready to sleep, and that they are giving us cue’s they are ready to sleep.
When these things align, if there is not a major hurdle preventing sleep (such as hunger or pain), sleep should be relatively easy for a new-born.
What does it mean to be biologically ready to sleep?
Sleep in all humans is regulated by 2 mechanisms inside the body, the sleep/wake homeostat (drive to sleep, pressure to sleep, sleep debt or sleep wave) and the circadian rhythm, which is the internal biological clock.
The sleep/wake homeostat is built up like a wave, as it rises we feel sleep pressure, so does your baby.
This rising inner pressure of sleepiness is what makes babies show tired signs and eventually cry if not allowed to sleep.
The longer your baby stays awake the bigger that drive to sleep becomes, but this awake time will change rapidly from birth to 6 months, and this is where a bit of knowledge on average awake times can make life easier.
This is due to the fact that they have become over-tired, this over tired state causes their sympathetic nervous system to kick into high gear and sleep becomes tricky, if not impossible!
What is the second mechanism and part of being ready to sleep?
The biological clock (circadian rythym) is the second mechanism which controls when you and your baby sleep, and when they will be alert.
The brain’s circadian clock regulates sleeping and feeding patterns, alertness, core body temperature, brain wave activity, hormone production, regulation of glucose and insulin levels, urine production, cell regeneration, and many other biological activities.
The drive and pressure to sleep is highest at night time, this is controlled by your baby’s biological clock, and this might be why you find night sleep a lot easier than day naps for your baby.
This clock needs environmental cues to regulate it, and re-set it every day.
This is where sun light and lots of social activity between 7am-7pm can help your baby learn the difference between night and day really quickly.
Learning the difference between day and night will quickly occur if you allow these cues to do their job. If your baby hasn’t yet learnt this difference, their biological clock is out of sync with real time and this will make sleep more difficult to come by.
Consider the situation where your baby is very wakeful at night or unsettled and thus their drive to sleep is highest in the day, when their circadian rhythm is telling the body to be most alert.
This out of sync pattern results in a grumpy tired baby. Almost displaying jet lagged symptoms.
How we can help, is by teaching you strategies to help your baby get back to sleep easily at night, so their little systems align, and they are happy and content.
We can help you establish a consistent day time nap routine which supports and works with your babies circadian rhythm, allowing deep restorative sleep periods at night (we're not disputing their need to eat at night here).