Day-night rhythm, what is it?

Separate picture on the sun and moon can be seenThe question does not arise for us, but for our newborn babies. In the womb there is no real light and dark, no day and night for the little ones. They sleep when they are tired and are awake when they have had a good rest. In the last weeks of pregnancy, however, an infant actually learns a rhythm of waking and sleeping phases in the womb, but by no means a day-night rhythm.


Babies' sleep behavior

Quite exhausted after the birth, many of the babies sleep long and a lot and initially maintain their learned sleep rhythm. Small children generally sleep more than adults and they also need more sleep. Therefore, you shouldn't force any sleep times, on the contrary, if you miss the moment and misinterpret the sleep signs, it can be difficult to fall asleep - but more on that in another article.


The implementation

Of course, it is exhausting for us parents when the little ones turn day into night and you actually want to sleep. Therefore, supportive tricks can be used to show the child in the long term that the night is meant for sleeping. However, this does not mean that a child will no longer wake up during the night. Needs such as hunger, closeness or diaper full should always be satisfied. After the need is satisfied and during it, however, certain behaviors should be used to show the child that it is time to go to bed.


1. That too has to be learnedBaby sitting in front of a computer

It is important to know that everything is a learning process and so the day-night rhythm is also a part of children's lives that they have to learn first. This is due, among other things, to nature and therefore cannot be influenced. Much has to do with brain maturity. At around a month, a certain day-night rhythm begins to emerge independently and patterns can be recognized when the babies are tired in the evening and wake up at night.



Forest and sky at night2. Make use of the feature that characterizes day and night

Nothing distinguishes day from night as much as darkness. One can make use of this. It is only dark at night, so it is said that if the child is tired during the day, no darkness should be artificially created. The child should sleep in daylight, preferably outside, for example in a stroller.



3. Please not too loud and too brightTwo children whispering something to each other

During the day it is not only light but also loud. We should keep this difference and be quiet and quiet at night. If the child wakes up and has a need to be satisfied, then it should be done calmly. But the light should not be too bright either, for example a dimmed night light is suitable. This prevents the infant from waking up properly.



A baby that gets washed4. Introduce an evening routine

The process of going to bed in the evening should also differ from the rest of the daytime nap. For example, pajamas are only put on in the evening, something is read / sung, fed and put in bed. In any case, this evening routine should differ from the rest of the naps and should remain the same in its sequence. Children orient themselves to repetitive processes and thus find it easier.



5. Don't turn night into dayA man who cuddles with his baby

If the baby suddenly seems fit and well rested during the night, then one should still not tend to turn night into day. As already mentioned, children always follow the same processes. If you get up with the child at night and play with him, for example, the wrong conception of night and day may be inadvertently conveyed. Quiet activities such as cuddling or singing are a better alternative here.


So much for theory

I also had the problem that we didn't have a night-day rhythm at the beginning. Leon slept when he was tired and was awake when he was awake 😉 At the very beginning, there was no longer a real day-night rhythm for me, I slept even when he was sleeping. I mean, in the first few weeks he actually slept a lot (exclusively on me) and woke up every few hours (crying), but that's how it is with babies 🙂


However, what I did from day 1 on was a constant evening routine. For us it looked like this: Breastfeeding on the sofa (no sleep-feeding), then changing diapers with Dad in the bathroom and putting on pajamas and then I went to bed with the pacifier (which I had to hold on to all the time in the darkened room) that it does not fall out). The routine changed again and again over the course of time, but we keep the general structure to this day - only, for example, breastfeeding fell away or now he also sleeps in his bed and no longer on me, etc. Looking back, I think it was one of the most important decisions to implement this routine in terms of a regular day-night rhythm. It took a while, but I noticed that Leon realizes that when this sequence takes place, it is bedtime afterwards. As a side tip: I deliberately did not use breastfeeding because I always wanted to make sure that I can keep the routine I introduced for a very long time. Breastfeeding is (mostly) only possible for a limited time and if this method is used to fall asleep, this is of course an essential part of the evening routine that cannot simply be replaced or omitted - that's why I didn't even do it 🙂 I tried that he falls asleep with the pacifier, whether this is the better solution is questionable, for me it was at the moment.


The tip I failed was not to darken the room during the day. I'm actually almost desperate about that. When it became clear that the waking phases were becoming more and the sleeping phases more predictable, I began to get Leon used to not sleeping on me anymore - but I never let him cry! So I made a plan. The plan included: a nursing pillow, a bassinet, a blanket, a box, and an extra bed. There were actually several desperate plans. Ok, we started! I knew it should be light by day, my child should understand that it was day. What I also wanted to avoid as much as possible, to put Leon in his bed in the bedroom; my train of thought: The bed is only there for the night and should only be associated with the night, so never put it in it during the day! So I started to put Leon to sleep in the bright room with me on the sofa, surrounded by the nursing pillow. And yes, I used breastfeeding to fall asleep for this 😉 That went well until he no longer fell asleep while breastfeeding! After that nothing worked !! And I noticed that he couldn't calm down when it was bright and that he was easily distracted by too many things. Sleeping in the evening was now quite good, so I thought, OK, maybe I should darken the room after all, so that he knows it's bedtime now. Said and done. Experiments looked as follows: In the living room in the bassinet with a light blanket over the entire bassinet so that it was a little darker. On the sofa with a cardboard box over his head. The box was constructed in such a way that there was a cutout for the neck and air holes - when I read it myself now, I really think that it was crazy, I was really desperate! At some point I went over to putting him in the side bed and pulling the shawl up a little - so that it wasn't “dark at night”, but also not “daylight”. With a lot of crazy ideas I tried to make sleeping easier, but still to show him that there is somehow a day-night rhythm. Incidentally, the one that worked best with the box 😀 But in general this rhythm developed by itself over time and the fewer daytime naps there were, the better it got in general. Today Leon sleeps in his bed, in the bedroom, in the completely darkened room during his midday nap, identical to night sleep and he has nevertheless developed a completely normal night-day rhythm.


I also consistently followed tips such as dimmed lights and quiet at night, no games, fun and action. Today I think that I stressed myself too much. I always thought, "Oh my God, it will never be any different or better, it will always be the way it is now". But that's not how it is! I always thought in the here and now that I am basically very pessimistic. But children develop and develop quickly! And with their development, their sleep behavior also changes. At some point they also begin to develop a certain understanding of things. And I think that a day-night rhythm basically just develops by itself because we set it up for the children - it is, so to speak, an ingrained routine of us adults that we automatically pass on.