Bedtime Fading: A truly gentle strategy for bedtime resistance

bedtime gentle sleep coach gentle sleep tips holistic sleep coach sleep troubleshooting Apr 23, 2024

Is your little one fighting bedtime? Is it taking soo long for them to fall asleep? Or maybe it feels like a huge battle?

If so, then bedtime fading might just be the solution you have been waiting for!

This truly gentle method uses a build-up of sleep pressure to speed up the bedtime process, and as they adjust, you gradually wind it back. This approach not only makes bedtime a more positive experience again, but it also helps to realign your child's body clock with the time you are ideally wanting them to be asleep.

This approach was shown in one small study of children aged 1-4 to reduce sleep latency, night wakes, as well as 'tantrums' at bedtime BUT without any emotional distress or dysregulation at all. Sounds pretty exciting, right!

Why does it work?

There are two main reasons why bedtime fading works so effectively in dealing with bedtime resistance:

Bedtime has become a negative time

There are a number of reasons why bedtime might become a battle, and over time, this can mean that bedtime becomes a hard and 'negative' time of day. In order to fall asleep, we all need to feel calm and regulated. If bedtime is immediately sparking a negative feeling for your little one, it will be hard for them to settle. Bedtime fading creates a large amount of sleep pressure, so that your child feels more tired. This, in turn, will make the process of falling asleep quicker, removing the battle and allowing for a calmer, happier bedtime. This makes a new pattern!

Your little one isn't sufficiently tired

Your child needs to actually FEEL tired enough to fall asleep. If your little one has been taking longer than 20-30 minutes to fall asleep, chances are they aren't actually tired enough to drift off. This in and of itself will lead to bedtime resistance, but it's frustrating for your child to be put to bed before they are actually ready.

Over time, this can create that negative bedtime vibe mentioned in the point above. Bedtime fading creates a stronger drive to sleep that will simply address this issue, making bedtime much quicker, and the fading process can help find the sweet spot!

What are the steps?

The first step is to actually work out when your child is falling asleep and HOW LONG the process is taking. Keep a sleep diary for one week noting down the time you put them to bed, the time they fall asleep and how long the bedtime process took overall.

Now that you know what time your child is actually falling asleep, MAKE THIS THE NEW BEDTIME, starting your bedtime routine 15-20 minutes before the time they are actually drifting off.

For example, if you are starting your bedtime routine/putting your child to bed at 7pm, however, they aren't actually falling asleep until 8:30pm, we are now going to be starting the bedtime routine at 8:15pm, shifting this to the time they are actually falling asleep.

If you have found the sweet spot, your child should be asleep within around 20 minutes. If it's taking longer than that, add an extra 15-30 minutes of awake time until they DO fall asleep within around 20 minutes.

Once your child has two consecutive nights where they have fallen asleep within 15 minutes, we will start the fading process. To do this, you are simply going to move bedtime forwards by 15 minutes. If bedtime was previously 8:30pm, we will shift to 8:15pm.

Continue with this process until you meet your desired bedtime. If you start to see bedtime resistance again, you know that sleep pressure is not high enough. This is going to give you the bedtime that works best for your little one!

Don't be tempted by a sleep in or longer naps

A later bedtime may mean your child wakes later or wants to nap more in the day. Remember, we are needing to build sleep pressure so we don't want to counteract what we are doing by having additional sleep. Set an alarm to wake baby around their usual start time in the morning and keep an eye on how long they are napping for to make sure it doesn't blow out.

In conclusion, bedtime fading is a gentle and effective strategy to combat bedtime resistance. It works by shifting the bedtime routine to match the child's natural sleep rhythm, thereby reducing the struggle and creating a calmer, more positive bedtime experience.

Hope this helps! 

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Hi! I'm Claire! Hi! I'm Claire! A mum of three from Sydney, circle of security facilitator and OCN level 6 Certified Holistic Sleep Coach. Together with my incredible team, we are on a mission to support families to get better sleep in a truly responsive way that feels good, and works! 

Here at The Gentle Sleep Coach, we are passionate about working with families to provide them with gentle, responsive and holistic approaches to sleep that are 100% comfortable and reinstall confidence in the parents as the experts!