Stages of toddler sleep

Judging by the behavior of our kid, falling asleep is apparently a learned behavior. Like many things about babies, this came as a complete surprise to me. Like many other things in life that occupy more or less all of your available time, I’ve come to (um) enjoy distinctions in the phases and qualities of a child’s sleep that I never knew existed.

Falling asleep –

Stage 1: Cranky. Much crying.

Stage 2: Eyes slowly getting heavier, ever heavier…

Stage 3: “Hey, I forgot to complain about…” More crying. The cat meows a little in worried sympathy (awww, that’s cute).

Stage 4: Eyes closed. Rapid breathing. Slowing, slows, maybe this is —

Stage 5: Blind panic. Arms windmill against the matress, feet pump up and down, head whips from side to side; it’s like he’s possessed by a jack hammer. Ear-piercing wailing. The cat bails to the other side of the house.

Stage 6: Utterly instantaneous transition to sleep.

It is frankly amazing that any of us lived to be grown-ups.

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8 Responses to Stages of toddler sleep

  1. Ciaran says:

    And likewise, surprising any of us have more than one child. 😉

  2. Raoul Duke says:

    @surprise, enjoy.


  3. Omer says:

    wow, man.

    You’re saying this is happening to him -every night-?

  4. James C says:

    These sleep stages are remarkably similar to the 6 stages of our Engineering Team meeting every Tuesday @ 9am.

  5. Ah, Landon, this brings back the memories… and reminds me of something I used to say…

    Q: Why do babies smell good? (When they haven’t just dumped a big load in their diapers, that is…) (Yes, some people thing babies smell good

    A: It’s a defense mechanism…

  6. Mark Poling says:

    Ah, try it with twins hitting each of the stages out of phase.

    I can’t remember being young any more.

  7. sharks says:

    G’day, great mysteries indeed, its like the old saw about the only intuitive interface being the nipple … obviously not invented by someone who’s had to “teach” breastfeeding …

    Re: the jerking around thing, we found that wrapping Charlotte up snugly stopped that happening and got her off to sleep quicker … also stopped her doing it at 3am and waking herself up.

    But yeah, how did we not all get eaten by timber wolves? Some smart monkey …


  8. bbot says:

    This sounds somewhat like a Hypnic Jerk. (

    The germane sections of the wikipedia article:

    A hypnic or hypnagogic jerk is an involuntary myoclonic twitch which occurs during hypnagogia, just as the subject is beginning to fall asleep. Physically, they resemble the “jump” made when a person is startled.

    Often accompanied by a falling sensation, it is commonly caused by irregular sleep schedules.

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