If you have children, going through a period of “baby sleep training” probably sounds familiar. There is a wide range of popular methods for sleep training your infant, from the cry-it-out method on one end of the spectrum to attachment parenting on the other end, and many methods that fall in between. While there are significant differences between them, there are also commonalities that I think are important. Having three young children, with whom we have gone through sleep training, and at the same time teaching adults about sleep training as an insomnia specialist, I have come to appreciate the ways sleep training in adults and in babies are parallel. And many of my clients who are parents themselves also have made connections to their experiences sleep training their babies.
1. A consistent sleep schedule
This is a pretty obvious similarity. With baby sleep training, an important goal is to help your infant develop a sleep pattern that is consistent and synchronized with the day/night cycle. It is common for a newborn to have its days and nights reversed, and over the first 4 months, the internal clock shifts multiple times. Not all baby training methods are in complete agreement, but most advise keeping a consistent sleep schedule to help the infant develop a predictable sleep pattern.
With adult sleep training, keeping a consistent sleep schedule is important to help reinforce and strengthen the circadian rhythm. Not only that, in order to increase the sleep drive and consolidate your sleep, behavioral sleep interventions recommend initially setting a later bedtime (if it usually takes you a long time to fall asleep). While it is understandable to want to stay out late on the weekends and sleep in, this behavior reinforces an irregular sleep pattern, which further perpetuates poor or disrupted sleep.1 During the period of sleep training, it is important to keep a consistent sleep schedule.