Once you’ve got your little one on solid footing with respect to having a healthy relationship with sleep, it can be challenging to test the waters and step away from the routine and schedule that you’ve worked so hard to achieve.  And really, when things are going well from a sleep perspective, who in their right mind wants to rock that boat?

When working with clients, I always ask for a minimum of three week’s dedication to a consistent sleep environment, routine and timing of sleep to give their little one the absolutely best chance of settling into a stronger sleep pattern, which will then become their norm. It’s important to consider that each baby, toddler or child is unique in terms of how quickly they will settle in and draw comfort from the new pathway for sleep and really, I believe that to be fair. When we consider rolling, crawling, standing or language skills, as parents, I believe we accept that each child will move at their own pace…same should be considered for sleep.

Once you are past that initial few weeks though, many families are ready to test the sleep waters…whether that means shifting the timing of a nap, having a nap on-the-go, or pushing bedtime a bit later. The time will come when attending a birthday party, a doctor’s appointment or family event will impact sleep routines and really, not each and every day can revolve around sleep. So, now what?

The 80/20 Rule for Sleep

Simply put, it’s about finding a balance that allows you and your family to get out and “live life” while still respecting the healthy guidelines for sleep that your little one has come to rely on and draw comfort from. If we were to consider a week’s worth of sleep, 80% of the time you would continue to make sleep a priority. Your baby/child is still offered sleep at the times of day that best compliments their natural sleep rhythms and in an environment that is stationary and conducive to deep sleep. And the other 20% of the time, we don’t. We push a nap. Bump a bedtime. Catch a nap on-the-go.

The Result?  

It’s really depends on the child.

Robust sleepers don’t seem phased by a sidetrack to their regular routines. While it may take them a little longer to settle in for that nap on-the-go or down for sleep at bedtime, they are able to keep on track sleep-wise with very little impact.

Sensitive Sleepers tend to let you know what their threshold is pretty quick. It may be that deviating from their sleep norm doesn’t go as well as planned and it means for a more difficult time for sleep that evening and into the next day. You may find (through process of elimination) that a nap on-the-go isn’t a big deal, but that bumping bedtime just isn’t worth it. You’ll only know when you try.

The key to it all is to remain calm and confident in your approach and if things go sideways, get right back on track the following day and be sure to compensate with an early bedtime until they have settled in once again. It’s a reasonable goal to have “life” and healthy sleep intermingle successfully, and keeping that 80/20 philosophy in the back of your mind when planning life’s activities can lead to a much smoother road than you might have thought possible.


Written by a Good Night Sleep Site Consultant.

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