Sleep Learning 101

Timed Interval Method

What is Timed Interval Sleep Teaching?


The most commonly known timed interval training program was developed by Dr. Richard Ferber. Dr. Richard Ferber was the director or The Centre for Pediatric Sleep Disorders in Boston. He wrote a book called “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” in 1985 then revised in 2006. There have been many modifications, adaptations, and versions to this type of method.

For many years some people have classified Dr. Richard’s “Ferberization” as the “cry-it-out” sleep training method. In reality, this method is not a “Cry It Out Method” because you are checking on your child and in some cases offering support if needed. The Ferber method, or variations of this method, can also be called “Controlled Crying,” “Timed checks,” “Progressive Waiting”, “Leave and Console” or “Leave and Check.”


What do Timed Interval Methods aim to achieve?

The goal is for your baby or child to fall asleep independently, intermittent parent intervention that is faded out over a period of time. It aims to eliminate any negative sleep associations like rocking, feeding to sleep, pacifier, cuddling to sleep, co-sleeping etc.


So how do the Timed Interval Sleep Teachings work?

In a nutshell, you place your baby or child into the crib or bed, awake as possible, say your nighttime phrase (‘Night Night”) and leave the room. You set a timer to check back on your baby/child. You re-enter the room, say a nighttime phrase, you may or may not offer some touch or a cuddle, you leave the room again for a set time. The time intervals can be gradually increased either between each actual check or each new night.

The original Ferber Method advocates no physical touch and the checks are set at very specific time intervals. Other adaptations are slightly different in the actual timing of the checks and whether a touch is to be offered or not. Ideally, if physical touch is offered, it is eventually faded out. Another thing to note is that you can continue to room share with your baby (not co-sleep) if you wish.

There are many ways to set the time intervals. Here are 3 different examples.


Example 1:

Day Check 1 Check 2 Check 3+
1 3min 5min 10min
2 5min 10min 12min
3 10min 12min 15min
4 12min 15min 17min
5 15min 17min 20min
6 17min 20min 25min
7 20min 25min 30min


Example 2:

Day Check 1 Check 2 Check 3+
1 1min 2min 3min
2 2min 3min 4min
3 3min 4min 5min
4 4min 5min 6min
5 5min 6min 7min
6 6min 7min 8min
7 7min 8min 9min
8 8min 9min 10min
9 9min 10min 10min
10+ 10min 10min 10min


Example 3:

Day Check 1 Check 2 Check 3+
1 5min 5min 5min
2 5min 5min 5min
3 5min 10min 10min
4 10min 10min 10min
5 10min 10min 10min
6 10min 15min 15min
7+ 15min 15min 15min


Pros of the Timed Intervals
  • You can continue to room share.
  • You can continue to night-feed.
  • You are able to offer physical and verbal comfort.
  • You can adapt the time intervals to suit your baby or child.
  • There can be less overall crying than other methods.
  • This method works well if you have more than one child at home.


Cons of the Timed Intervals
  • There can be a lot of crying if your baby or child becomes distressed with the constant comings and goings.
  • The re-entering of the room may wake your baby or child as they initially drift off.
  • It may take longer to see progress compared to the Extinction Method.
  • The time intervals can become confusing for parents especially in the middle of the night.
  • This method isn’t suited well for children sleeping in a bed as the child will often follow the parent out of the room.


If you offer gentle touch or visit often AND can clearly see that your repeated presence is making it more difficult for your baby or child, then you may need to increase the time between checks or choose a different method altogether.