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Baby sleep
First Years Pregnancy Jul 22, 2020
4 Minutes

A simple way to longer baby sleep!

As parents or parents to be we don’t need the science (of which there is a lot) to tell us that more sleep is better for a young baby or child. It’s better for us too. The problem is often how to achieve it! A recent study in the Journal Sleep Medicine uses more advanced techniques and research to bust a couple of big myths and to give you some simple evidence-backed ways to promote better sleep for your baby/future baby. 

What the science tells us about sleep: 

So, after saying we don’t need the science to tell us it’s good! We do know that based on large well reviewed studies that establishing healthy sleep routines for a baby has major long term health advantages. Some of the highlights. A good well established sleep routine early has shown: 

  •  reduced adverse health outcomes
  •   lower adiposity (fatty tissue)
  •   improved emotional regulation
  •   improved growth, language development and cognitive function.

Using baby sleep science to bust some myths: 

Of course sleep and ‘parenting’ around sleep is a sensitive topic. Everyone has an opinion. Here at The Journey we tend to stay well away from ‘parenting’ for these reasons. However, where there is science and evidence we’re interested…

Sleep myth number 1: later to bed = later to rise: 

The research clearly demonstrated that the reverse is actually true and that: ‘earlier sleep onset was associated with longer night time total sleep time.’ Clinical research suggests age appropriate bed times but largely focused on between 7-8pm as the ideal.

‘Toddlers who sleep before 9pm slept on average 78 minutes longer than those who went to bed later.’

So the science says: putting your baby to bed later will not = later waking time. In fact, it is likely to lead to a worse sleep outcome.

Sleep myth number 2: The earliest days of a baby’s life are not important when it comes to sleep routine: 

Of course in the very first days your baby will not have a sleep routine. That is totally normal. Particularly as a brand new baby will be eating every 3-4hrs. Biologically speaking a baby’s own biological clock or body clock (technical term: Suprachiasmatic Nuclei in case you were wondering!) is only around 20% developed at full term. Typically the traditional sleep-wake cycles start to develop in the first 2-4 months of life. Click here for more. 

Helping to establish this circadian rhythm in these early days has long lasting consequences. In fact the study in Sleep Medicine reinforced this. It shows that babies who have a consistent bedtime routine in infancy have better sleep outcomes past the first year of life. It also shows longer sleep duration at 6 and 15 weeks old.

In fact: according to research published back in 2004 by the National Sleep Foundation on average consistent routines promotes 1hr longer sleep duration. It is also dose-dependent. That means the earlier you start the better.

Sleep myth 3: put a baby to bed when he/she is drowsy: 

Actually, putting a baby to bed awake after a consistent low intensity (reading/bath) routine showed much better results than feeding a baby to sleep or putting a baby to sleep who is drowsy:

According to the research:

’putting infants to bed while still awake results in longer, more consolidated nighttime sleep.’

Sleep myth 4: it will help my baby sleep if I am there… 

This also proved to be false according to the research.

Sleep myth 5: the longer my bedtime routine the better: 

Also not the case. Ideally the routine should be between 30-55 minutes maximum. Low stimulus activities in dimer light are ideal. Having a warm bath, reading books etc. Consistency is key!

Bottom line conclusions? 

We can all get stressed out by sleep and lack of it! However, the evidence backs up a pretty common sense based general framework:

  • Bedtime earlier rather than later is better (ideally between 7-8pm) and is associated with longer, improved sleep.
  •  Keeping bedtime routines to 30-55 mins max
  • Consistent bedtime routine with ‘predictable, low stimulus activities before lights out’.
  • Early establishment of a consistent routine will serve you and your baby well as they grow. Research shows that the benefits persist into toddler years and pre-school. The health benefits also connect to adulthood.

All this being said, kids are unpredictable! Sometimes this is easier said that done. Click here for much more detailed ‘how to’ from sleep expert Rosy  Davidson. Rosey has huge experience and is also CEO and Founder of Just Chill Baby Sleep. Check out her practical tips for much more!


This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.

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