The Solution To Your Baby or Child’s Sleep Issues | The Proven “Wake-to-Sleep” Approach

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Does your baby or child wake up too early from their naps? Maybe they were having regular 2-hour naps but now wake after 30-40 minutes?
Does your baby or child wake up too early in the mornings and you want to get them to sleep in a bit longer?
Does your baby or child wake up every night at the same time for no apparent reason? 
Has your baby or child been in a sleep regression and they seem to have retained the habit of waking prematurely

It sounds like your child’s sleep issue is habitual waking. That means, they wake from habit and not necessity such as hunger or distress. Often, they are still tired when they wake up but can’t seem to stay asleep any longer.  

Then the wake-to-sleep method is likely for you! It is absolute gold if you do it right!

The method created by Tracy Hogg, the author of Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby, not only works well for all types of sleep challenges but can be used from babies to preschoolers and possibly beyond.

My daughter woke up every night at midnight for months. And she didn’t wake up happy. After the first night of using wake-to-sleep, she slept through the entire night. After a week of using wake-to-sleep, she could sleep through the night without me having to intervene at all. I have used this method so many times for so many different issues and it has proven to be a near-guaranteed sleep fixer.


Read Before you start

Before you consider this method, be sure that the premature waking is in fact because of their sleep rhythm and not an environmental cause.

Environmental causes can include but aren’t limited to:

  • Light
  • Noise
  • Temperature
  • Illness
  • Hunger 
  • Schedule problems (see post on your baby’s perfect schedule)
  • Digestion issues (gas, reflux, etc.)

This method also might not work if the reason your child is waking is caused by a new sleep regression. Regressions occur as a result of your child’s increased development and awareness. If your child develops a bad habit of waking following a regression then this would be a great method to implement.

The issue has to be in their internal sleep habits and nothing else for this method to work. So keep track of your baby or child’s sleep habits for a few days and if a pattern arises of habitual premature waking then give wake-to-sleep a try!


Correct Your Child’s Sleep Issues Using the Wake-to-sleep Method

Don’t give up!

Be warned, if this trick doesn’t work it is likely user error or there is an undiscovered cause for the habitual waking.

Many people give up on wake-to-sleep because either they didn’t commit to it for long enough, they made a mistake and woke their child completely (I have done that!), or they were too scared to actually try it. I truly understand all those roadblocks.

Before I tried this on my daughter for the first time my husband thought I was crazy. He nearly begged me not to go in and try but I was desperate and it worked!

Now, it may sound crazy, and it takes about a solid week of committing to the process, but what do you have to lose? There are countless testimonies of success. 

Not to mention, if you do nothing, your child will wake up, if you try this and do it wrong, your child will wake up, if you do this right, you’ll likely get a lot of sleep again after the method is complete. 

I have done this on all 3 of my children at every stage from their babyhood to preschool age and it hasn’t failed me. 


So, how does it work?

The concept of “wake to sleep” is that you’re supporting your child as they transition from one sleep cycle to the next. The first chunk of sleep is light sleep or REM sleep. Then they transition into deeper sleep (no longer REM). During this transition time babies and children can often wake because their bodies fail to transition and they aren’t able to get back to sleep.

So basically, you rouse your baby or child before they would normally wake, just enough that their sleep rhythm is reset. When you rouse them their sleep should be deep enough at the moment you come in that they don’t want to wake up. 

Because, that’s what you’re going to do, wake them up! (Kind of)

That being said, this is a subtle waking. We’re not going in with trumpets and fog horns. Waking might even be too strong of a word, let’s call it a parent-induced stirring. 

The key to a successful wake-to-sleep is found in the timing of the method and your ability to wake them in such a way that they can return to sleep immediately.

For some children who are light sleepers, just entering their room will rouse them enough to do the job. For a bit heavier sleepers there are other things to try. 

I like to turn my child over from their back to their belly or vice versa. Sometimes I kiss their face or massage their head. 

When they just blink or move in such a way that you know, “If I stay any longer they will wake up for good!”, then the mission was accomplished. 

Then you turn and high-tail it out of there!

If you go in and rustle their hair, turn them over, and give them a wet willy and they still don’t respond, then you haven’t done enough. (SO KIDDING about the wet willy…). Keep adjusting them until you think they might wake up if you don’t stop. 

Sometimes if I am not sure that I bothered them enough, I close the door a bit louder than normal when I leave for good measure. 

This gentle stir that you cause will reset your child’s sleep cycle and allow them to continue to sleep. 

Keep in mind, that this is not a new normal for you. Wake-to-sleep should be implemented for 5-7 days and then their sleep should retain the new rhythm. If you continue your part of waking them beyond this time frame you’ll just introduce a new habit of bothering them for no reason and further disturb their sleep cycle. 


Waking early from naps

When children wake early from naps “wake-to-sleep” can be tricky but still very effective. For habitual nap-time waking, you need to find the perfect moment to go in and rouse them. 

Before you try this method for extending naps I would encourage you to be sure that there are no environmental reasons that your child is waking early. Such as noise, light, wrong temperature, pacifier or lovey loss, or anything else that might wake them prematurely. 


A great way to pinpoint that perfect moment to go in would be to watch your child on a baby monitor and see when they hit a point of good sleep. As in, their eyes are closed and they remain still for several minutes. For this to work, you need a monitor to allow you to see your baby’s face even if they are lying down.

Monitor a few naps tracking exactly how long they stay asleep and how long it takes them to enter a good phase for you to go in. The combination of monitoring their sleep visually and recognizing their habits will help you determine the best moment to stir them.

Some people say that for naps, you go in 10 minutes before they normally wake, others say go in 10 minutes after they have fallen asleep. Due to the short nature of naps, you need to be extra cautious. These “one-moment-fits-all” solutions will likely fail.  

As I said before, we want to bother our children at a moment when they don’t want to wake up. So monitor their sleep to find that sweet spot where they are tired and don’t want you there! 

If you do it wrong… oh well! They were going to be up in a short time anyway. Try the next nap! 


Sleeping Baby_Gentle Sleep Training

Waking at night

This is the easiest sleep issue to correct. If your child is waking every night at 12 am or 1 am or even 3 am, chances are you can go in their room before you go to bed (around 10 or 11 o’clock) and wake them to sleep. 

This means no alarms or monitoring. You simply go in every night before bed for a week and wake them to sleep. (See the method explained above.) 

Keep in mind, this won’t work if your child has a 10 o’clock bedtime. In that case, you will need to set your alarm to about 1-2 hours before they usually wake up and go do it then. 

Now, if you properly execute the method but your child still wakes at the same time, you might need to set your alarm closer to the child’s habitual waking and go in then. Go in around 1-2 hours before they are prone to wake. This should ensure its success.

If one hour proves to be too close to the wake time and causes problems such as premature waking, back up the “wake to sleep” time to be 2 hours before their habitual waking.


Waking early in the morning

First, we must acknowledge that children tend to naturally wake up in the mornings earlier than we would like. So, when I say “early morning”, I mean before 6.30. Now, that is not to say you can’t use wake-to-sleep to try and extend the morning sleep beyond 6.30, but try not to be disappointed. 

If your little one is rising a bit too early this method is so worth a shot. Most early birds often wake up but are still grumpy and obviously tired. Obvious to everyone except them. 

Even if they wake up as a happy little dumpling I would still give it a try, because no thank you early rising. 

So, to accomplish this you need to be committed to waking up an hour/hour and a half before they wake up. Yep, so if they are getting up at 5:30 a.m., you’re getting up between 4 a.m. – 4:30 a.m. to go in and try the wake-to-sleep method explained above. 

But, if you dedicate 5-7 days to waking early, you could be sleeping well again soon. 

It’s with these situations I recruit my husband who has to wake up early anyway to go in on my behalf. Pro tip. 

Troubleshooting

If you execute the method properly, your child should sleep through their regular wake time from day 1. If they don’t sleep through ask yourself, 

  • Did you wake them enough to reset their sleep cycle? 
  • Could you have gone in too early or too close to the habitual wake time?
  • Were they woken too much?
  • Are you doing the method for longer than 5-7 days?
  • Did you stop the method too soon? (If it worked but after 3 days they started waking again)
  • Is there some other reason your child could be waking that is not sleep-cycle related?

I can’t recommend this method enough. Not only does “wake to sleep” actually help, but you don’t need to buy anything or introduce stressful methods of dealing with the child to correct the issue. 

Enjoy your sleep!


Correct Your Child’s Sleep Issues Using the Wake-to-sleep Method

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