Did you know that night waking is one of the most common sleep problems experienced by infants and children? Night waking along with problems at bedtime are the top two reasons little ones, and thus their parents, experience poor sleep. Today we’re going to look at why little ones wake up at night, and how this can lead to poor sleep for everyone at home.
All of us, adults included, have brief periods in our sleep cycle where we briefly awaken and quickly go back to sleep. Typically the next morning we have no recollection of these brief arousals. The thought is for young children who wake up multiple times per night that these disruptive wakings originate from the brief arousals we all experience in our sleep cycles. This is especially true for little ones who do not fall asleep on their own at bedtime.
Imagine this, you rock your 6 month old infant to sleep in your arms. You then place your baby in her crib and leave the room. When your little one stirs an hour later between sleep cycles, she realizes she is now alone in a dark room and no longer in your arms. She is likely to cry out and thus wake you up. Since she cries, you respond right away, entering her room and picking her up. She is quite pleased to see you, her favorite person! You comfort her and help her back to sleep. Does this sound familiar?
Now, how does the above scenario lead to multiple wake ups? If your little one is accustomed to you helping him to sleep at bedtime, he will then rely on that same help when he wakes in the middle of the night. Since sleep cycles last 60-90 minutes, you may be woken up multiple times in the course of the night to help your little one back to sleep. He quickly learns that if he wakes up and cries in the middle of the night, you will attend to him.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Crying is one form of communication. We should be responding to our children’s needs in a timely manner. However, when the time is right, we can also teach our infants and children to fall asleep at bedtime on their own. This then leads to them connecting their sleep cycles without needing your assistance in the middle of the night. Thus leading better sleep for you and your baby!
If the above situation sounds all too familiar and you’d like help, I’d love to connect with you. One of my favorite things to help families with is multiple wake ups at night. I also help with bedtime problems, early rising, the crib to bed transition, and more.