Updated: May 25
1. Sleep Associations
Throughout the night we all (adults and children alike) move through several sleep cycles, fluctuating between light and deep stages of sleep. As adults we have learned how to put ourselves to sleep when we rouse between sleep cycles. For our babies, this is a skill they must learn.
If your baby relies on an association that requires your help to fall asleep, when they wake, they will look for the same conditions to fall back to sleep. So, if they were held, rocked, bounced or fed to sleep they will cry out for your help. Working on teaching your little one to fall asleep independently will mean they can put themselves back to sleep without your help when they rouse.
2. Sleep Regressions
There are several common sleep regressions that occur during your little one’s first two years. We often refer to these regressions by age, although they can occur at any time depending on your baby’s development. Sleep regressions occur due to changes in your little one’s sleep cycles or when they have just learned a new physical skill like crawling or walking or when they are about to go through a developmental milestone like a boom language. Babies with healthy sleep habits will pass through these regressions more easily than those who are also overtired or rely on sleep associations to fall asleep.
Find out more about sleep regressions here.
A hungry baby won’t sleep. Newborn babies might wake up to three times a night to feed which is completely normal. Over the following months their need to feed overnight will decrease. Usually by nine months, if not before, your little one will be able to sleep through the night without waking for a feed.
4. Too Hot or Too Cold
Becoming too hot or too cold overnight will cause your baby to wake. If possible, aim to have your baby’s room at a constant temperature between 18-22 degrees Celsius. Using a sleeping bag is the best option as blankets can be a SIDS risk and can be easily kicked off during the night. Put your baby in a suitable tog sleeping bag or swaddle for the season and follow the guidelines for what clothes to dress them in underneath.
Depending on your child’s age and their overall sleep habits, teething pain can interrupt sleep. A baby who is already a ‘good’ sleeper may be less affected when teething. Teething pain will likely only cause a disruption to sleep the day before, the day of and the day after eruption, so if your little one seems to have extended pain from teething a little more investigation may be required.
6. Over Tired or Under Tired
Try finding that sweet spot between the two. If your baby doesn’t nap well or goes to bed too late, they will be over tired. An over tired baby releases stress hormones which prevent them from reaching their deepest stages of sleep causing them to wake more frequently. Working on your baby’s sleep during the day can often lead to a better night sleep.
On the other hand, if your baby is having too much sleep during the day, they can have extended wakeful periods at night or wake to start the day in the early hours of the morning. Slowly reducing their day sleep and following an age appropriate routine will help find the perfect balance between day and night sleep.
If you’re unsure where to start or how much day sleep your little one should be having to promote a better night sleep, download my comprehensive feed and sleep routine guide or my quick reference sleep guide.
If your baby is unwell, they may need some extra comfort when it comes to sleep. Depending on how sick they are you may need to put a mattress on their floor and bunk in with them for a few nights. When they are better you can gently encourage independent sleep once again.
Read more on managing sleep through illness.
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