Parenting

|

STTN: What does Sleeping Through the Night Really Mean?

sleeping-through-the-night
Photo: @coldcoffeeblessings

Sleeping through the night (STTN). If you’re the parent of a child under the age of 2, it’s a phrase you either love, loathe, or just keep praying you will get to be able to say one day.

The elusive “sleeping through the night” is also something that has a lot of myths around it, and we’re here to clear some of those up. We’ve brought on Sleep Expert and Coach, Carolina Romanyuk from Preconceive, a company dedicated to helping mothers through all the trials of motherhood with classes and private appointments to assist in breastfeeding, emotional support, sleeping and everything in between. Carolina breaks down what exactly sleeping through the night really means, how to eventually get to that goal, and busts the myths on how to make it happen.

Carolina-Romanyuk-sleeping-through-the-night
Carolina Romanyuk, Certified Sleep Consultant

What does STTN really mean?

STTN means sleeping through the night. This term simply means that when we are going through a sleep cycle transition at night, roughly every 90 minutes or so, we experience a light stage of arousal. It’s a built-in safety mechanism we are equipped with to make sure that when we fall asleep and have this partial arousal that our environment hasn’t changed. So STTN for a child simply refers to when they go through a sleep cycle transition that they can place themselves back to sleep without the need of a prop. Such as a bottle, breast, rocking, etc. 

Do babies sleep all night?

Newborns typically sleep a lot. But the catch is that they only sleep in short intervals, waking up frequently to be fed. During your baby’s first 3 months of life (a.k.a. the 4th Trimester), your baby’s sleep patterns will likely be very erratic, which is expected. 

During this period, it’s more important to focus your efforts on what your infant needs the most – plenty of love and care. This means doing whatever you need to soothe them and ensure they’re getting all the food and sleep they need, which may include some form of co-sleeping. Also refer to the “What are some tips for how to get my baby to sleep through the night?” section below for soothing ways you can help your infant fall asleep. Save the sleep training for when they’re at least 4 months old.

How many hours should a baby be asleep for to be considered STTN?

This all depends on the age of the child. Here is a useful chart from the National Sleep Foundation on the amount of sleep children need. 

Credit: NATIONAL SLEEP FOUNDATION
Credit: NATIONAL SLEEP FOUNDATION

When do babies sleep through the night?

Be aware that, before your baby can sleep through the night, there are certain milestones – physical and cognitive – that he or she must pass:  

  • Decreased startle reflex. This reflex causes your baby’s limbs to jerk in response to triggers like loud noises and sudden movement. This reflex may wake your baby from sleep but usually goes away by 4 months. 
  • Increased feeding and weight gain
  • Fewer number of feedings during the night
  • Increased ability to self-soothe so she can put herself back to sleep if she wakes during the night

While some babies will begin to sleep for longer stretches between 4 months and 6 months of age, sleeping through the night for more than an 8-hour stretch typically occurs after 6 months. 

The elimination of nighttime feedings is another factor that helps babies to begin sleeping through the night. Many babies are ready for this after 6 months of age. The case may be different for breastfed babies since they metabolize breast milk relatively quickly and require more frequent feedings.

After getting past these milestones, if your child doesn’t have an association, such as the need for a prop to help them fall asleep, AND their sleep schedule is synchronized with their biological rhythms (which naturally elevates the sleep hormone melatonin), he or she  can be sleeping beautifully by 4-5 months. For some, however, this does include a night feeding or dream feed. There are many factors that need to be in place to have a good sleep foundation set, and that is where working with a Certified Sleep Consultant comes in!

What are some tips for how to get my baby to sleep through the night?

For newborns under 4 months, swaddling is wonderful because it controls the Moro reflex (startling reflex). Don’t try to place them on any specific regimented schedule because children under 4 months old are biologically immature. 

Once they are 4 months, you can begin with one of the simplest factors: Making sure the sleep environment is healthy and conducive to sleep. This can include a white noise machine (link to music/white noise article) like the Shhh…sleep machine or Nursery Projector & Sound System to maximize sleep by drowning out any outside noise, and helping them transition more easily when the child is going from one sleep cycle to the next. The Lulla-Vibe™ Vibrating Pad is another great item that babies love, as it soothes them to sleep in the crib, in a stroller or on the go.

Also, black-out curtains are a must because our internal sleep clock works off of light and dark. Light is your enemy when you are trying to sleep. Light suppresses your sleep hormone; darkness is your savior as it elevates melatonin – a hormone that helps control your daily sleep-wake cycles. In addition, keeping track of their sleep patterns can also be beneficial. Just like you keep track of wet diapers and how much they eat, sleeping patterns should be no different.

What are some tips for how to get my baby to sleep through the night?

For newborns under 4 months, swaddling is wonderful because it controls the Moro reflex (startling reflex). Don’t try to place them on any specific regimented schedule because children under 4 months old are biologically immature. 

Once they are 4 months, you can begin with one of the simplest factors: Making sure the sleep environment is healthy and conducive to sleep. This can include a white noise machine (link to music/white noise article) like the Shhh…sleep machine or Nursery Projector & Sound System to maximize sleep by drowning out any outside noise, and helping them transition more easily when the child is going from one sleep cycle to the next. The Lulla-Vibe™ Vibrating Pad is another great item that babies love, as it soothes them to sleep in the crib, in a stroller or on the go.

Also, black-out curtains are a must because our internal sleep clock works off of light and dark. Light is your enemy when you are trying to sleep. Light suppresses your sleep hormone; darkness is your savior as it elevates melatonin – a hormone that helps control your daily sleep-wake cycles. In addition, keeping track of their sleep patterns can also be beneficial. Just like you keep track of wet diapers and how much they eat, sleeping patterns should be no different.

Does breastfeeding or bottle-feeding during the night affect STTN?

Night feedings only affect children past 9 months (unless there is a medical need for the feeds). Beyond 9 months, feeding at night can create fragmented sleep which is the definition of sleep deprivation. Some pediatricians recommend eliminating night feedings earlier on, such as 4 months. 

If you are planning to eliminate night feeds, first get the green light from your pediatrician. Then, create a plan for yourself on how you will eliminate the night feeds and how will you comfort your little one to go to sleep. If you need help eliminating night feeds, you can set up a consultation with one of Preconceive’s sleep consultants here. 

What are some common myths around STTN?

A huge one is that if you give them cereal in their bottle, they will sleep better. This is false. In most cases, I have found in my practice this does the opposite. It has the digestive system working harder, resulting in more diaper changes, more wakeups and more gas. This study from 2010 showed that starting solids before 4 months may actually disrupt sleep. This study revealed that babies who began eating cereal before 4 months of age slept half an hour less each day than infants who weren’t eating cereal. Another myth is that you should keep your baby awake a lot during the day; then they will sleep through the night. This is SO false! Sleep begets sleep. It needs to be balanced. If the quantity (how many hours the baby needs to sleep) + the quality of sleep isn’t up to par, you will have MORE night wakings. Simply because the body then has to kick into adrenaline. That adrenaline lingers and then shows up at night resulting in many unneeded night wakings. 

If you need any help or have additional questions about sleep, please contact Carolina and the other coaches at Preconceive to schedule a private appointment. 

Munchkin readers can save $30 on their first consultation with Preconceive when you use code MUNCHKIN30

This post was written by Carolina Romanyuk on behalf of Preconceive. Carolina Romanyuk is a Certified Child and Family Sleep Consultant, specializing in pediatric sleep hygiene and behavioral coaching. Carolina is based in New York City and has dedicated her career to reducing sleep deprivation. She has written for many popular parenting blogs, and has even used her own methods to help her own family get a good night’s sleep! Carolina is the go-to-expert for many new and working parents. So whether you’re returning to work or you just want a bit of shut-eye, Carolina will get your family on track for those Zzz’s.

Preconceive

Preconceive was founded to provide a one-stop resource for hopeful, expecting and new parents. Everyone needs a safe and trusted network to help get through the ups, downs and midnight questions. That's where preconceive comes in. On staff, they have coaches that are Certified Sleep Consultants, Lactation Consultants, Doulas, Nutritional experts, Nurses and everything in between. You can book an appointment with any of their experts online or in person at their NYC headquarters.