“My child just doesn’t need much sleep.” FALSE!!
Babies, much like adults, can assimilate to all sorts of circumstances. Some assimilate more easily than others; i.e. some babies will display an even keeled temperament even when sleep deprived, just like some adults. Does that mean that they need less sleep? No. It just means they have learned to function on less. Being able to function or display an easygoing temperament does not in any way indicate that sleep deprived individuals (babies and adults alike) are functioning at their optimum level. Some children might display sleep debts in other ways, having trouble paying attention, often appearing “zoned out” or are harder to actively engage. This can be misconstrued as an easy going, laid back temperament when in fact, they might actually be sleep deprived.
When it comes to your little ones an adage to hold dear and remember always is, “food is to the body what sleep is to the brain.” (Weissbluth, 2003) Babies need sleep and lots of it. As a sleep consultant, I don’t pay very much attention to the “hour requirements” for sleep based on a child’s age. Thinking that your child needs fewer naps, shorter naps or no naps altogether shouldn’t be dictated by the amount of night sleep they are getting. Focus less on hour requirements and try instead to create a well-balanced, age appropriate schedule based on their circadian rhythms. They will benefit most from a schedule that allows them appropriate and restful sleep both at night and during the day.
Their schedules, until they stop napping, need to be dictated by their circadian rhythms and sleep should be occurring at specific times of day. For more information on circadian rhythms click: The Science Behind Your Child’s Sleep Schedule. These are the times of day their bodies are telling them, it’s time to sleep! Just as you wouldn’t deprive them of food when their bodies are telling them it’s time to eat, don’t deprive them of sleep when their brains are hungry for it.
Your child does need a lot of sleep, don’t focus on the hour requirements, instead make sure they are on the most biologically, age appropriate, and restorative schedule possible. This holds true even for those “easy/will sleep anywhere at anytime” babies. They will still benefit the most, both physically and cognitively, from being on the right schedule in the right environment.