One of the most common sleep issues I hear from parents is frequent night wakings. Broken sleep is exhausting and hard on the whole family. If your child has been waking often through the night, follow these 4 steps to help get their body on track and back to restful, restorative, and consolidated sleep!
1. Follow an age-appropriate Sleep Schedule
Sleep needs for children vary depending on their age. Consistently following an age–appropriate sleep schedule will help your child get the right amount of sleep they need in a full 24-hour period. Getting too much or too little sleep will impact your child’s sleep pressure; the increased desire for sleep. Basically, the longer your child is awake, the sleepier they will feel. For your child, sleep pressure builds more quickly because they have higher sleep needs than that of an adult. Too little sleep causes the body to become overtired meaning it will be working hard to stay awake, which will make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Too much sleep decreases your child’s sleep pressure, making them feel less tired and wake more often through the night
Whether your child is on multiple naps or one nap there are certain times of the day when your child will sleep best because it is when their body naturally begins to feel sleepy. Not sure what an age-appropriate schedule would be for your child? Check out this post or contact me and together we will work towards implementing a schedule that will get your child the sleep they need!
2. Establish a Regular Bedtime.
Ever notice how when you go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday, your body eventually adjusts? The same goes for your child. Sticking to a bedtime at approximately the same time every night will help signal to their body that it is time for sleep. Naturally, there will be some irregularity in the exact timing of bedtime depending on the day (especially for children still taking naps - see note below), but do your best to establish a regular bedtime every night.
Side Note: For children still taking naps, if a nap is missed or naps are short, then you will need to move bedtime at least 30-60 minutes earlier. This will help with overtiredness from the lack of day sleep. When you begin to see your child is tired, it is time to start their bedtime routine - even if it is earlier than usual!
3. Consistent Bedtime Routine
Routines are a great way to cue your child’s body that sleep is coming soon! Bedtime routines help your child separate awake times from sleep times; helping their minds wind down, relax, and prepare for sleep. In fact, research has shown a consistent, nightly bedtime routine often results in your child going to bed earlier, falling asleep more quickly, waking less often through the night, and sleeping for longer stretches. Looking for help structuring your bedtime routine? Check out this blog for a routine you can start tonight!
Children are noisy sleepers. They move and grunt and move some more. Not every sound or movement is an indicator of a true waking. As your little one transitions from one sleep cycle to the next, they experience a partial waking where you may see some movement and they may even cry out. If you rush in right away to settle them you may actually be disrupting their sleep because they were not truly awake, but simply adjusting before going into their next sleep cycle. Instead of checking in at every noise, practice this: When you first hear your child start to stir, practice pausing for at least 3-5 minutes before going to check-in. This will allow them the space to transition into their next sleep cycle without disrupting their sleep.
Pro-Tip: I know those minutes can feel like an eternity as you wait. Set yourself up for success by choosing a “goal time” for yourself that you know you will be able to do (start small at 2-3 minutes and build on that every few days), set a timer when you begin to hear your child stir, and Pause. This small pause can make all the difference in your child’s sleep!
If you are struggling with frequent night wakings, begin implementing these tonight! But, Remember…. All of these things take practice AND consistency. You may not see significant changes over night, but when you consistently practice these steps over and over, every night, for at least 2 weeks you will see changes and be amazed at what your child is capable of. Sleep is possible!
If this is something you are currently struggling with check out my free Night Wakings Guide! This guide will walk you through setting up your child's sleep environment, appropriate sleep schedules, and gives examples of bedtime routines. OR if you have tried everything and really would rather have a hand to hold, you can set up a free 15-minute Introductory Call here to get started on your journey to better sleep!