Sleep experts often talk about putting baby to bed ‘drowsy but awake’ but what does this really mean? And does anyone actually manage to do it? This week’s post looks at the art of drowsy but awake, with some tips on how to achieve and it some tips on what to do if your baby just won’t play ball.
So, what is ‘drowsy but awake’?
Drowsy but awake is just that. Your baby is just about ready to fall asleep, but not quite there. The idea (in an ideal world) is that you lie her down in her crib at this point, and she drifts off to sleep peacefully and calmly. The reality? Often nothing like that. Drowsy but awake can be so hard to spot, let alone achieve! And of course it differs for every baby. Some will be drowsy but awake and appear to be asleep, others will seemingly switch from awake to asleep without any in between state at all. And then there are the babies who appear to be awake but who are content to sit and do nothing for a while before falling asleep. If you know your baby, you’ll know which she is!
Do you need to work at drowsy but awake?
If your baby finds it hard to achieve the drowsy but awake state, should you be concerned? Well that depends. Does your baby seem to fight sleep? Do you often miss the sleep window? Or does she settle down with little help and finds it easy to fall asleep? Ideally, all babies would do the latter, but as we all know that doesn’t always happen. So yes, it can be argued that the drowsy but awake state should be something we work at.
During gentle sleep training, we want babies to be as relaxed as possible, and especially if we are trying out something new that they aren’t used to at all. So drowsy but awake is a great place to be, because your baby is less likely to resist your efforts to calm and soothe. That said, some babies can take longer than others to reach this magical state, and in those cases it might be worth focusing your efforts elsewhere.
Don’t run the risk of the over tired baby
If you wait and wait and wait for baby to achieve a drowsy but awake state, you run the risk of making her over tired. And we all know what that means! Rather than run the risk of an over tired baby, its more important to stick to your schedule than wait for her to become drowsy. An over tired baby is not going to respond well to new routines etc, so keep this in mind.
Make sure your bedtime routine is consistent
As ever, your baby’s bedtime routine is the key here. If you are consistent and timely, you will start to recognise when your baby is likely to be more able to achieve drowsy but awake. So rather than spending 30 minutes trying to prepare her for bed, you will start to be able to spend less and less time in total before she is ready for sleep. Use your gentle soothing techniques to help her get there and she will settle a lot more quickly each night. And who knows, eventually you may be able to put her down drowsy but awake!
Give it time
Ultimately, your baby will learn the art of drowsy but awake in her own time. All babies are different, so one will take longer than another- this is why its so important not to compare. If you are timely in catching your baby’s sleep window, you have a good and consistent bedtime routine, and you’re using gentle sleep training techniques to soothe and calm your baby, you’re most of the way there. If you lay your baby down and she fusses for you, go to her. Don’t expect her to ‘get it’ straight away. Be consistent, be patient and remember that this too shall pass. Older babies and toddlers don’t need that ‘drowsy but awake’ state in order to fall asleep, so this will all be a dim memory soon!