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Wake window, Split night, False start... What does it all mean?

There are a lot of terms in the infant sleep world, and if you’re new to it they can feel pretty overwhelming. So, we’ve gathered the most common infant sleep terms and their definitions all in one place for you! No more typing in to google “what does split night mean?” Just save this post to refer back to later!

Sleep Training –Sleep Training is a term used for teaching a baby to fall asleep independently. It often involves removing a sleep prop, like feeding or rocking to sleep. Sleep Training is not the same as night weaning, you can sleep train and continue to feed in the night.

When sleep training started, there were some things that didn’t make sense, like using the extinction method for everyone. But research has been done, and sleep training has changed. It can be responsive and parent present. Sleep Training does not have to mean leaving your baby to cry for hours. It can be responsive, staying with your child until they fall asleep or regularly checking in on them for comfort and reassurance. Sleep training should be looked at holistically and individually as all babies have different needs. Research has also shown that sleep training can improve

maternal mental health, which can in turn increase attachment and child/parent happiness.

Sleep Association - Also known as a sleep prop. This is something that your baby or toddler associates with falling asleep. It can be feeding, rocking, a pacifier, a lovey, white noise or anything that you child associates with having in order to fall asleep.

WW – Wake Windows – The length of time that your baby is awake between sleeping. A wake window starts when you get your baby up for the morning, or from a nap, and it ends when you’re putting them into bed for their nap or bedtime. NOTE: Not all sleep consultants use the same measures for wakes windows. So, whoever you’re following, make sure you know how they’re calculating the window they’re suggesting. Ours will always be wake up to put down!

STTN – Sleeping Through The Night – This may seem like it’s self explanatory. However, there’s still more details to learn about sleeping through the night. Most often, this is thought to be a full 12 hours. However, sleeping through the night is technically about 5-6hrs, with a feed, followed by another 5-6hrs. Babies can still sleep through the night, without night weaning from feeds.

Night Weaning – Transitioning a baby to stop feeding throughout the night. Night weaning has nothing to do with starting solids, or weaning from the breast or bottle entirely. It just means not feeding during the hours of night sleep.

Split Night – A single night wake that lasts 2+ hours during which time baby is generally happy. Typically caused by too much daytime sleep/not enough awake time, or too early of a bedtime.

Sleep Pressure – The need for sleep that builds up in our body over time, accumulated by the hormone adenosine. This hormone is a byproduct of energy use in the body, which is why higher activity days lead to increased tiredness levels and deeper sleep.

False Start – Waking anywhere from 30-60min after falling asleep for what you thought was the night. And it can often be really challenging to get them back to sleep. A false start is almost always a sleep pressure issue. They either had too much or not enough sleep pressure when they went to bed. They are able to fall asleep but are unable to link their first sleep cycle and, therefore, wake up crying instead of rolling in the next cycle.

The next cause of a false start can be too early of a bedtime for a young baby. Sometimes for babies less than 6 months, if they’re put down too early for bed there is a risk that they will treat it like a nap and wake an hour later ready to play for another full wake window.

Sleep Latency – The length of time that it takes to fall asleep. This is measured from either the time you put them to bed, or the time you begin the settling process if you are assisting to sleep. Sleep Latency can be an indicator of sleep pressure levels.

Sleep Debt – When you don’t get the amount of sleep that your body needs. Example: You need 8 hours of sleep, but only get 6, then you now have a 2 hour sleep debt which needs to be repaid. When you’re constantly up in the night, and running a sleep debt, your body starts producing more hormones to keep you awake. When you finally catch up on sleep, your body will stop producing those extra hormones and you will actually feel more tired. Don’t worry, it should just be for a few days until you fully catch up, then you’ll feel great again.

Sleep Regression – Sleep disturbance due to a developmental progression. After four months, all sleep regressions are linked to developmental milestones. Some causes for sleep regression can be learning to roll, crawl, stand up, or walk, language development, or development of separation anxiety. It is quite neat to see when their sleep is disrupted for a week, then suddenly they start doing all these new things. And are back to sleeping!

Who knew there were so many terms with baby sleep? Well, we did because we're certified pediatric sleep consultants, it's our speciality!

Check us out on Instagram @thatsleepmama

Get some sleep!

Tara and Stacey


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