Whether you’re a new parent who’s just starting to learn about how babies sleep (or how they don’t sleep) or whether you’re a parent whose child is experiencing sleep difficulties due to a condition like colic, it can be helpful to understand exactly how it is your baby enters sleep.
Take, for example, this situation. You’re rocking your baby after feeding her in the evening at bedtime. Her eyelids start to droop, and you can tell that she’s just about ready. She starts to nod off, and her eyes close completely. You might think that she’s asleep at this point, but she’s actually not quite there yet.
At this stage, you may notices that her eyelids might still be fluttering a little bit, and that her breathing is probably still a little bid irregular. Her fists may be clenched, and her limbs might also be flexed. She may startle a bit here and there, have some twitching, or pass an occasional smile that some parents like to refer to as “sleep grins.”
Just as you get ready to set her down into the crib and begin the process of tip-toeing away so as not to reawaken her, she opens her eyes and cries. Why is that?
Because she hasn’t really entered a deep sleep yet. She was in a state of light sleep, or not even quite that far gone.
So, how do you prevent this? You just need to continue the bedtime ritual, probably for about 20 more minutes. Your baby’s twitching and smiling will stop. Her breathing will start to be more shallow and more regular. Her fists will unclench, and her arms will start to dangle.
Many parents who have trouble getting their baby to fall asleep can dramatically increase their success by making sure that baby truly enters a deep sleep before putting her down and leaving the room.