Category Archives: Sleep Setbacks

Reader’s question: Teething and sleeping… not so much

Several of you have written to me about teething and how it can mess with any hopes of sleep training (or how teething has disrupted already healthy established sleep patterns). Here's one example of the emails about this topic:

We have a 6month old daughter whose reflux is now on the wane, and who
seems to have had either a stomach bug, colds, or teething pain since
she was about 2.5months old. One just melted into the other and we have
come to the point where she has to be rocked to sleep, and now that we
are going through the second round of teething, she's been waking up
sometimes every 1 – 1.5 through the night.

My main question is how to deal with teething / colds. The little I
have found on the subject of teething/sleeping online says that a)
teething disrupts sleep, b) wait for teething to pass. But because our
little one always seems to have something going on, I fear that if we
wait for this round of teething to pass, something else will come up
and then we'll be in the no-no time zone and even worse off than we are
now. I also go back to work in three months and am dreading those
nights already.

Do you have any suggestions about teething / sleep training?

Before I had kids of my own, I was convinced that one the most serious design flaws ever to emerge from our evolutionary history was being born without teeth. Why on earth would babies be born with sweet, gummy mouths and then have to painstakingly grow each and every tooth, one by one, in excruciating anguish?! Why don't infants just pop out with a full set of pearly whites? Then I started nursing my twin boys and it all became soooooooooo clear. Actually, my "aha" moment came when my peacefully-nursing 8-month old clamped down on my boob so hard that he left some serious marks. Yeah. I get it now.

Teething is a funny thing when you start talking to parents about it. There is no doubt that it's one of the most common reasons for sleep setbacks and disruptions and it certainly can mess with any sleep- training plans. There is a fascinating amount of variation among babies in terms of how much pain they actually experience during teething episodes. You talk to some parents and teething is the #1 most under-appreciated parenting (and infant) challenge they have ever experienced. They talk about watching their children's pain with such horror and pain themselves. Other parents? They can't see what the big deal is; they didn't even notice when Johnny got his last 10 or so teeth. Although I'm no physician and this is most definitely not my area of expertise (I'm happy to hear from anyone that knows more about this), I haven't come across any good research on what might cause this huge difference among children's teething experiences. Some pediatricians have had the gall to suggest to me that teething doesn’t actually cause pain, it just “seems” like that to us; some tell us that often parents attribute "bad moods" to teething in general (I can't tell you how hard I wanted to deck my ped when he offered this nugget of insight while my 4-month old was gnawing on his fist, sobbing and screeching all the while. And I can't tell you how righteous I felt when the poor boy cut his first tooth 2 days later, "way before kids get their first teeth"). Most parents, however, have had the heartbreaking feeling of watching a young infant or child wail through a teething episode, rubbing their gums like mad and biting on anything that passes their way. 

Teething can disrupt sleep for the obvious reason: pain is difficult to sleep through. But teething is also often accompanied by a runny nose, fever, congestion, coughing from all the drool that gets stuck in the back of the throat, and rashes around the mouth or anal area; all very difficult symptoms to fall asleep and stay asleep with!  Teething episodes can last as short as one day to as long as many weeks.  Diagnosing the problem can be critical for your sanity and, importantly, for helping your child through this difficult period by providing pain relief and emotional support.

But you all probably know that. How can you sleep-train through these episodes? Should you? Is it better to wait it out with the potential of getting into a dicey stage transition after the teething subsides? All I can offer are some of my thoughts, no real answers here:

  • Sometimes, children with well-established sleep habits can and do put themselves to sleep right after bursts of pain. From my experience and other moms I know, teething often happens in
    bursts, so the pain doesn't last for hours at one time (although the
    bouts may come one after another for hours).The skill to put oneself to sleep can be a blessing for these kids, because they escape the post-pain anxiety that often comes AFTER the pain recedes. In other words, sometimes kids continue to cry even after the major bout of pain has subsided because they're afraid of the impact of the next bout. If they can put themselves to sleep quickly, they might be able to avoid this extra distress.
  • If you do want to sleep-train during a teething period because EVERY month is a teething period or the child has a cold or you're traveling or… SOMETHING, then you might want to avoid any sleep-training method that requires prolonged stretches of letting the child cry. Gentle sleep-training methods that encourage you to help the child fall asleep gradually on her own without crying will help you read your child's signals better. In contrast, if you use a cry-it-out method, it will be very difficult for you to distinguish between when the child needs you to help him deal with intense physical pain vs when she is simply crying because she wants you present and/or she doesn't want to go to sleep.
  • Obviously, pain medication can be a huge help if you ARE sleep training during teething episodes.
  • If you're in a good developmental window for sleep training and the only obstacle you're facing is teething, there is no harm in trying to implement your favourite sleep-training method and just see how it goes. If after 3 or so days nothing is improving and you're finding it confusing to read your child's signals of distress, quit and try again next week. Teething bouts ebb and flow and some weeks they are less intense than others (at least for some children; some others never seem to feel relief until all their teeth have come in).

This is a really, really common problem and I hate when I can't give straightforward advice based on data. But I thought it might be good to just put this issue out there since so many of you are dealing with it and perhaps others can help with some suggestions that have worked for them. Alternatively, remember that development IS like a pendulum and if you miss the next opportune window for sleep-training, another one is coming eventually (little comfort, I know, for a desperately sleep-deprived parent RIGHT NOW).

Words of wisdom or commisseration?

Context Matters Part III: Reader’s question about physical milestones and their impact on sleep

Another very common change in "context" that is oftentimes overlooked is the onset of new motor skills, most notably rolling over, crawling, and walking. All these fabulous physical milestones change the way your baby sees the world in fundamental ways. Here's one of many similar questions I've received:

I just received your book and found out that we are now entering a good
sleep training phase since my son turns 1 this coming Friday.  I want to get
him to start falling asleep on his own, but if I try to put him in his crib
while he's only half asleep, he just stands right up like he's on automatic
pilot.  If I then leave him he starts to cry and I don't want to use any of
the CIO methods. Besides, that doesn't work with him because it just
escalates into a frenzy. I still have his crib in our room and want to get
him into a firm sleep habit before trying to move him into his own room. I
can't figure out how to get him to relax though….

This is a classic age when SOME kids have a hard time falling asleep. And it has a lot to do with the new motor skills they're learning and practicing — namely walking. About the 12th month mark is when many kids start learning to walk and all hell can break loose with their sleep habits because their little minds and bodies are furiously practicing. By the way, children can start walking as early as 8 months (oh… I pity the parents that have to deal with those little daredevils) and as late as 18 months with no long-term benefits or problems. When we watch people do things, even if we are currently not doing them ourselves, a fascinating thing happens in our brains. The same pattern of neurons fire whether we're watching someone move their arm , for example, or if we ourselves are moving that arm. This  fascinating discovery is considered by some to be the most important one made by neoroscientists for decades –  "mirror neurons." So it may be that when children are watching others walking and when they are put in their cribs alone, what they are doing is not only moving their feet, poppinp up and down holding the bars of the cribs, cycling their little legs, and so on. They are also probably imagining the act of walking — both when they're awake and asleep, dreaming. This may be why many kids' sleep is disrupted as they're at the cusp of mastering physical skills. There are no direct studies that have mapped the neuronal activities of babies asleep in their cribs when they're just starting to walk, but that would be my strong hunch of what's going on.

The same holds true of the other major physical milestones — they too have the potential to disrupt sleep. So, rolling over (around 5-6 months), crawling (around 8-10 months) and walking (around 12-14 months) may be difficult times for sleep training also (Again, please keep in mind that these age-spans are approximate. My kids didn't hit any of these milestones "on time" if that matters to anyone). And remember the title of this post was supposed to be the continuation of Part I and Part II about how context can have an impact on sleep-training or can disrupt already well-established sleep habits. The reason this post is also about context is that when children learn new motor skills their WHOLE WORLD is blown apart. So many of the most important parts of their contexts undergo radical changes. The baby that can suddenly roll over begins to feel the wonder of intentionally changing their body posture, their view, their physical feeling of how the exist in the world. The baby who can finally crawl finally feels the incredible miracle of being able to reach and chase stuff that's so far been out of his reach. The baby who previously had to point or squak to get you to get her some toy across the room can now DO IT HERSELF!  YIPPEEEEE! Now mulitply that miracle by 100 when walking begins. Oh how fast he can now move to the desired object! How much fun it is to hurl yourself onto couches and into grass and to push, push, push chairs and tables and plastic lawn mowers and so, so much more. The world around these babies is indeed changing dramatically and, as we talked about before, these shifts in contexts can have a major impact on sleep (as well as moods and thinking styles… but that's another post).

Reader’s question: Sleep considerations when travelling

Um, yeah, remember I said that I had a bunch of posts in the hopper waiting to be automatically uploaded at regular intervals? Well that didn't work as well as I had planned, did it? I have no idea what happened, but it seems that nothing has yet been posted. Sorry… and onward.

I am currently travelling with our two lovely but CRAZY three-year olds. Crazy in that they are completely unpredictable. We flew overseas and of course I was sure they'd eventually SLEEP overnight. You know, on that OVERNIGHT flight?! They did not sleep ONE WINK. How does that happen? They were up until 2 am and they seemed permanently set on party mode. I was convinced that the rest of our trip would be fraught with sleep HELL. I certainly was prepared to be up ten bajillion times per night as they adjusted to being jet lagged. And yet, for the first 3 nights of our trip they've slept 14 hours straight through the night, 13 hours and 12 hours, respectively. Go figure… I don't know why any of you listen to me. I have NO IDEA what's up with this sleep stuff. But enough about me let's move on to the reader's question:

I started 'sleep training' over a week ago with a 'gentle'
approach by sitting by his crib and soothing him.  Each night I moved
further away until I was out the door.  When I was out the door, we did
the Ferber method.  Generally speaking, it's worked pretty well.  The
most he ever cried so far was 40 minutes.  He's gone to bed the past
few nights without any crying and when he wakes in the night, he
typically puts himself to sleep in under 5 minutes.  I still feed him
once in the night, but will work on that in a few weeks.  I plan to
work on naps next since he typically nurses through the duration of his
nap and is always held.  So, after all of that long-winded background
information, here are my questions:

  1. Does the timing in your book apply to naps as well?  Do I need to
    be 'all done' with sleep training my son for naps before he is 7.5
    months old?
  2. I've heard and read that it may be necessary to 'sleep train' your
    child multiple times.  For example, after illness or after traveling. 
    If we travel after our son is 7.5 months old, do you recommend we hold
    off on 're-training' him until after 12 months?!  Or, does your timing
    generally only apply to the first time you 'sleep train' your child? 
    We have quite a bit of travel coming up during the 7.5-12 month
    timeframe and I'm concerned about the impact to our son and us.

Great questions. Let's start with question #1: The short answer is, yes. Timing ANY big transition is best done outside of the sensitive developmental windows. As you may have figured out by now, I think that the developmental transition periods are periods of vulnerability during which children are sensitive in general and changing any established habits — including, but not limited to naptimes and bedtimes — are more difficult during these stages. Extending this idea, I actually think that events such as potty-training, entering a new daycare, changing caregivers, and weaning could best be done (IOW, more easily and with less distress) outside of these sensitive developmental stages. But returning to the specific question, being "all done" would be ideal, but of course circumstances in our lives usually don't align themselves perfectly with optimal developmental timing. All we can do is to try to time things as far away from these ongoing sensitive periods; but remember, these ages are approximate and you've got a little leway on both sides of the ages spans we talk about here (and in the book).

In terms of the second question, yes, the dirty little secret that very few people talk about is that MOST of us have to sleep-train our children more than once. Illness, travelling, a new sibling, moving houses, and parents going back to work (or changing hours) may all be reasons why hard-won sleep habits can disintegrate and sleep-training efforts will need to be renewed. From our experience with our own children and hearing many stories from countless parents, I DO believe that the subsequent sleep-training efforts are usually more easily implemented and cause generally less distress for the whole family. BUT THIS IS NOT BASED ON ANY RESEARCH EVIDENCE. I need to be clear about what I have a strong feeling about, based on experience and anecdotal evidence, and what is backed up by empirical evidence. Also, we may have to use different methods at different
developmental stages. For example, I think straightforward Ferberizing
can work quite well for some children around 6 months or so, but 3
year-olds are not going to be easily "Ferberized." So not only do we often have to sleep-train a few times, but we may need to be flexible with the methods that will be most effective over these repeated efforts.

So back to the second part of question #2, I think that sometimes, if kids have already learned to put themselves back to sleep at one time, when those habits get shaken up (by illness or travel, for example), you can "remind" kids how to do it, even during developmental transition periods. This is because these "booster" sleep-training sessions may not trigger the same sorts of fears of loss, anxiety about the "unknown"; basically, they may not be loaded with the same intense emotions the second, third or fourth time. So, if I were you, I would TRY to re-train as soon as you get back from all your travelling. Implement your preferred sleep-training method for a few days and if after 3 days or so things don't start improving, then you may indeed want to wait for a couple more months. But you may be surprised by how easily your baby "remembers" the skills she learned so well a few months ago. 

Enjoy your time away, good luck with the "re-training" and keep us posted with how it goes. Because there are no systematic studies on this exact topic, I am genuinely interested in whether this advice is sound. Anyone else have any datapoints a la Moxie? Any other parents have experience with sleep-training multiple times? Was it easier each consecutive time? Did it depend on what age you were "retraining"? I'd love to conduct a study on this…

Context Matters Part II: Understanding sleep setbacks

We've talked a lot about sleep setbacks (or regressions) in terms of sensitive developmental stages and how those stages can throw to high-hell all previously hard-won sleeping skills. But I left off Part I of this series suggesting that another common cause of sleep setbacks can be a change in the context of going to sleep—often a change that we’re unaware of, or that we don’t see as important, and sometimes a change that we can’t control. Changes in context come in all varieties. Some are obvious: like a change in location. Sleep habits have a tendency to go out the window when you’re on vacation (I know a lot of us are anxious about this now), or sleeping in a hotel room or relative’s guest room. Which is one reason why “vacations” may not be so restful during the early years. (Suffice it to say that our last week's family cottage "vacation" could better be described as one large slumber party badly in need of Super Nanny intervention). Other obvious changes in context are alterations in who is taking care of the child and who is putting him or her to sleep. If mom is always present when baby goes to sleep, then her absence can have a formidable impact on sleeping habits, and dad may be at an utter loss while mom is finally out for her first Margarita with her girlfriends since the baby was born. But these changes are usually temporary and/or avoidable (not that I'm saying that the night out with the girlfriends SHOULD be avoided… not at all).

Other changes in context are not so easy to avoid. When winter turns to spring and spring to summer, your baby may have to get used to going to sleep with light pouring through the curtains. And even the smallest sliver of light may be enough to change her fundamental sense that it’s not bedtime yet. When a new baby comes along, a new sibling, this can also cause a major upheaval to your previously perfect sleeper. Now you’re different in so many ways. You don’t read as many books at bedtime. You’re tired, you’re less patient, you smell funny (fresh spit-up on your t-shirt has such a… specific odour) and so forth. And there are different noises in the house. Things aren’t as quiet as they used to be. These sorts of changes in context are rather hard or impossible to avoid or even dampen, but they may have drastic effects on your child’s sleeping habits regardless. Champion sleepers may suddenly lie awake, chanting, or whining, or rattling the bars of their cribs like little criminals. All because the context of going to sleep has changed in some pivotal way.

One way to think of the solution for sleep setbacks caused by changes in context may sound simplistic: change the context back to whatever worked best or whatever context has been in place until now. If you can. Of course, if the change in context is a change in season, from winter to spring, you won’t have much luck changing it back for another half year or so. But you can, instead, install heavy curtains to block out the light coming through the window. And that’s often the best you can do: approximate the context that’s been in place up until now. If the noise level in the house is the problem, put a white noise generator, or simply a fan, next to the baby’s crib. Sometimes a CD of lullabies does the trick. The key to finding the right solution is pin-pointing what’s different. What’s changed? Often some detective work is required. Whatever has changed in the lighting, atmosphere, sound level, or you may not be the least bit obvious, even though that change is sufficiently potent to make a big difference to your child’s sleep. Babies and toddlers are exquisitely sensitive little beings, and their nervous systems are tuned to many perceptual aspects of their environment that completely escape your attention. And they like familiarity. So, if a sleep setback seems to have no other reason behind it, and a change in context is the likely culprit, try to put yourself in that crib, tune your eyes, ears, nose, and skin to the world around you as sensitively as you can, and you’ll probably figure out the problem in no time. Along these same lines, if you're going on vacation, try to mimic the exact sleep context
you have at home: the same dark room, the same teddy, blanket, soother,
the same stories, the same music, and so on.

Finally, some changes in context are unavoidable and no approximation on your part will bring back what the baby was previously used to (for example, babies grow out of swaddles — even the most "miraculous" of them all — and you're not going to be rolling a 12-month old into a tight blanket; toddlers leap out of cribs and the inevitable move to the "big boy/girl bed" can't be put off until adolescence — despite MY best efforts). When these unavoidable changes in sleep contexts occur, the only thing we can do is rest-assured that children are miraculously adaptive little organisms and they DO learn new sleep habits with our help. 

Part III will cover how PHYSICAL milestones can be considered a fundamental change in the child's context and, of course, why this might spell trouble for already-established healthy sleep habits.

Anyone going through one of these unavoidable changes in sleep contexts? How are you coping?

Context Matters Part I: Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum

I'm going to try to address several emails at once through a series of posts about what psychologists often call "context" or the "environment." If you've emailed me to ask about swaddling (how long do you do it for? when do we transition babies out of swaddles? will the switch out of swaddling make a difference in the baby's sleep?) or about moving a sibling into another child's room or traveling for a long period of time and coming back home to "old" sleep patterns or differences in sleep patterns at your house versus the grandparents' house… these posts are for you! All those issues and many others concern changes in the child's sleeping environment and those changes, indeed, can make a HUGE difference in how children fall asleep and stay that way. For this post, I'll stick to the more general consideration of learning ANYTHING at all, not just sleep habits. Then we'll generalize in the next post to sleep in particular.

One of the reasons sleep training is usually not a one-shot deal for most families is that as the child develops, the world around him also changes.  So far, we've only touched on one of the most important aspects of sleep training. This issue is actually not specific to learning how to go to sleep on one’s own: it is a fundamental aspect of all kinds of learning, especially in the early years of life but also, to some degree, throughout childhood and adulthood. It’s the role of context. When we learn a new skill, we use all the cognitive resources at our disposal, and it seems as though it is these thinking powers alone that either permit learning to occur or are found insufficient to the task. But learning relies on much more than what’s going on inside our heads. It also relies on what’s going on in the environment.

When a child learns to count, he does indeed require a brain that’s mature enough to grasp the way numbers stand for a sequence of objects. He needs the language skills to utter words that stand for numerical placement. He also needs joint attention and social referencing so that he can pay attention to what is being taught by his parent or teacher. These are all the requirements for counting that rest INSIDE the child's head. But he ALSO needs a great deal from outside his skin. He needs a parent or teacher patient enough to repeat numbers while pointing to objects. He needs a set of objects that are the right size and shape, and are lined up in such a way as to highlight their “countability.” He also needs to be well-fed and well-rested so that he can concentrate on the task at hand. And he needs a well-lit room and a learning space where the objects to be counted stand out from their background and make themselves available to be pointed to or manipulated. In other words, learning depends on context. 

Learning ANYTHING in life is helped along a great deal by contexts that are set up to support that learning. We take all this for granted, and we intuitively prepare contexts to help children learn whatever it is we’re trying to teach them. We don’t try to teach a child the names for colours in a dark room, and we don’t try to teach table manners to a child who has the flu, or who is extremely hungry, or who wants nothing more than to be finished eating and go out to play. We adapt the context to the task and the task to the context. The child’s learning of the task depends on the context in which it’s learned. Finally, skills that are not yet completely formed, or that are still easily lost or forgotten, are best maintained when we reproduce the context in which they’re originally learned. In other words, kids (and adults, BTW) learn particular skills better when these skills are taught in the same (or very similar) environment, over and over again. Table manners take a long time to perfect. But if we want to keep them from vanishing, then we practice them again and again in a context that facilitates impulse control and pulls for social routines.

The role of context in learning and maintaining good sleep habits could not be more critical. We don’t teach children to sleep on their own when they’re over-tired, or going to sleep at grandma’s house, or when their stuffed animal has gone AWOL. And we make sure that the lights are dim, the room warm, the belly full, and so on. We intuitively understand the importance of comfort and consistency, and we carefully prepare the child’s environment to maximize the chances of successful sleep-training. Then, once sleep-training has begun to succeed,  we’re careful to set up bedtime practices that will ensure its continued success. We wait until the child is tired, but not over-tired, we calm her down with stories and other peaceful activities, we sing the familiar songs, the ones that will become bedrock routine before long, we set the lights at just the correct dimness, and we make sure that every nuance of our own behaviour conforms to our child’s expectations.

So one of the most common causes of sleep setbacks is, very simply, a change in the context of going to sleep—often a change that we’re unaware of (slowly it becomes lighter and lighter outside at earlier and earlier times in the morning), or that we don’t see as important (change in diet, learning to walk), and sometimes a change that we can’t control (the child grows out of the swaddle, an overnight disaster trip to grandparents' house).

We'll talk more about how this basic learning principle — context matters — impacts on sleep issues in the next couple of posts. But I think you see where I'm going… What changes in the environment disrupts your child's sleep patterns? How have you adjusted to those changes?

You say “sleep regressions”, I say “sleep setbacks”…

Call it what you will, they SUCK. But I did want to clarify my thinking about what many folks call "sleep regressions." I realize it's not that important to many people what you call them: they're bad and they mean that yet again you are getting no sleep for some seemingly inexplicable reason. You may have had a child who was a glorious sleeper since she was born.  Or you found the most appropriate sleep-training method to suit your and your child’s needs and you applied this method at precisely the right developmental window. Your child was sleeping beautifully through the night, taking regular naps, you were getting 7 hours STRAIGHT yourself. Your child was a bright, bubbly, joyful child who was a delight to be with most of the time. Your depression lifted, you began to socialize again with friends. You even considered renewing your affection for your partner! Sex was potentially on the horizon! And then Bam!  One day your perfect sleeper goes from sleeping 12 hours through the night to waking up every hour and a half. She’s screaming again, crying for something, waking up and unable to fall back asleep. She is suddenly refusing to nap. The same routines are no longer working to calm her. The same music isn’t soothing anymore, the same bounce loses its hypnotic impact, the same bedtime story is slapped out of your hand in toddler disgust. Maybe it’s just a bad day or night? No, it goes on for days and sometimes weeks or even months.

We’ve heard this account from many parents and have experienced it firsthand. I like to refer to these times as "sleep setbacks", but they are more often talked about as “sleep regressions.” I'm not terribly fond of this phrase because regression implies a return to old patterns, old habits, more infantile forms of behaviour. And these “regressions” are actually the precise opposite: leaps forward, not backward—corresponding to a shift in the child’s stage of cognitive and emotional development.  (As an aside, I was thrilled to read in a Moxie post from more than 3 years ago that she thinks of these "regressions" the same way). However, to parents, they can definitely feel like regressions. After finally getting yourself a stretch of 6, 8 or even more hours of sleep per night, going back to 1 or 2 hour bursts of sleep feels like, well, GOING BACK.  To that dark and dreary place of sleep deprivation that you once thought only little, teeny, tiny newborns inflicted on their parents. And it was bearable in that newborn stage. But by now, most parents no longer have the support of friends and family who were there to commiserate when the baby was brought home from the hospital. Some parents perhaps joyfully announced, maybe even boasted, about their child’s hard-won sleeping skills. And suddenly, with seemingly no rhyme or reason, all those sleeping skills seem to have vanished overnight. What’s happened to your perfect little sleeper?

The short answer is that your child has probably hit one of the big developmental transition periods. (There are also other reasons, like teething, getting a cold, moving to a new house/room, the birth of a sibling, and so on). It's nothing you've done wrong and there's probably not all that much you can do about it.  These more vulnerable stages are the ones more difficult for sleep-training to begin with. These periods are created by cognitive advances and the emotional challenges they engender, and they are particularly troublesome periods for teaching an infant or toddler to sleep on his or her own. In the same way, entry into these stages may be what’s causing the psychological upheavals your child is going through now, and these may be responsible for sleep disruptions when none were present before. So, if your child has suddenly stopped sleeping through the night and/or begun to have napping strikes and she is between 4 and 5.5 months, 8 and 11 months, 18 and 22 months, 2.5 and 3 years, or 3.5 and 4 years, she's probably in one of these "sensitive windows" of development. The good news is that most kids who were good sleepers before these transitions usually become good sleepers again. This may require a little more "re-training," but generally once the transition is over, it's a relatively smooth process. So, again, it DOES pass and just knowing it's temporary may help you get through it with less stress and heart ache. For those kids who were never good sleepers to begin with, the next window of sleep-training opportunity could be just the cognitive-emotional stage your child was waiting for to show his magic sleep-awesomeness.