Why is my baby awake for hours during the night, and what can I do about it?

When people talk about ‘split nights,’ they are normally referring to their child waking and taking several hours before they eventually go back to sleep. Often with a split night, your child may seem quite content, alert and whatever you do, you can’t seem to send them back off to sleep.

So what causes a split night and what can we do?

There are a few possibilities to consider.

  1. Balance of daytime sleep – too much daytime sleep. If your little one is having more daytime sleep than they need, this can result is them being more wakeful at night. Then they catch up during the day and the cycle continues. Please note this doesn’t apply to young babies who need lots of daytime sleep to feel rested and not become overtired.
  • Going to bed too early. Perhaps baby seemed really fussy, or didn’t nap well so you put them to bed early – this can mean that when they do wake in the night, they wake feeling fully rested and ready to start the day. This will be compounded if each night bedtime creeps earlier and earlier.
  • Learning a new skill – all babies go through developmental changes, and they can often practice these skills at night. New skills such as rolling or crawling can be fun to do when they wake (not so fun for the parents !) Have patience and this phase will pass. Make sure they have lots of opportunity to practice these skills in the day.
  • Maybe baby is ready for a nap transition. Its really common that split nights can manifest when your baby is getting ready to drop one of their naps. Their daytime sleep requirement has dropped, but their daytime routine hasn’t quite kept up.
  • Baby doesn’t fall asleep independently. While some babies can be assisted to sleep and have a settled night, many others will wake up searching for what it was that got them to sleep. Once they have slept for a few hours, they find it harder to get to sleep than they did at the beginning of the night. Practicing independent sleep skills can help.
  • Parents intervening too soon. If your baby is happily playing, cooing or crawling around – its ok to leave them. Sometimes when we rush in and they aren’t asking us, they think its playtime. Giving them the space to get themselves back to sleep is a good place to start. If they become upset then of course comfort them, but don’t resort to taking them out of their bedroom, watching tv or playing. This can perpetuate the wake up.

Want more support with your child’s sleep?

If you would like to learn more about sleep and have guidance on how you can approach achieving a predictable routine and well-rested night’s sleep then check out our online courses.

These are designed to teach you all about how your child sleeps and to provide practical suggestions for settling techniques and routines to work towards.

If you would prefer to speak with one of our consultants for a personalised plan you can find out more about our 1:1 packages here.

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