Is your family exhausted? Is your child waking multiple times a night, each time relying on your to help put him or her back to sleep? Is bedtime a battle? Do you find yourself dreaming about the day when your child will sleep well at night and wake up feeling refreshed in the morning? If any of this sounds familiar, check out these 5 things that could be contributing to your child’s night wakings or early rising.
Too Late Bedtime: Going to bed too late means that your child is overtired when he or she is going to sleep. When your child is overtired, it becomes harder to stay asleep, contributing to more night wakings. Bedtime can be dependant on how well your child naps but typically anytime between 6:30 and 8pm is an appropriate bedtime for most children. As many parents learn the hard way, going to bed too late often leads children to wake earlier in the morning.
Nap Deprived: Most children under age 3 nap regularly. The number of naps a child takes and the amount of day sleep required varies by age. By about 4 months, most children need 3-4 hours of day sleep, spread among 3 (sometimes 4) naps. Between 6 and 9 months, the third nap disappears and two naps remain—a morning and an afternoon nap with a total amount of day sleep from 2-4 hours. Between 12 and 18 months, most children drop the morning nap and take one longer afternoon nap, usually between an hour and a half and three hours. How long your child will continue to nap is very individual. Some children will try to drop their nap as early as 2 years old (not that they don’t still need it but some will try), others will start to nap sporadically as they approach 3, while others will continue on full steam ahead as napping rock stars until the kindergarten day forces them out of it. When children whose bodies require daytime sleep are not getting it, it will often lead to night waking due to being overtired. If your child still needs a nap and isn’t taking one, it is a good idea to move bedtime earlier to help your child get more night time sleep.
Already asleep when put in crib: When you put your child in bed already asleep by rocking or feeding, when he goes through a partial awakening, whether it is an hour or 5 hours later, he will require the same external action to return to sleep. In addition, without the skill to put himself to sleep at bedtime, he will not know how to do this at other awakenings throughout the night. The skills your child uses to put himself to sleep at bedtime are the same ones he will use to return to sleep throughout the night and early in the morning.
Parents’ inconsistent response: It is very confusing and unpredictable for a child when your baby wakes and is responded to differently at each waking. Every time you address night wakings, address it in the same way. By responding inconsistently, this leads to increased anxiety and more waking. It is always best to decide how you are going to respond to wakings before they happen. 3am is never a good time to be making decisions.
Medical conditions: Asthma, allergies (particularly uncomfortable eczema), reflux, and obstructive sleep apnea are the most common medical conditions that interfere with sleep. As one would expect, when children are uncomfortable, they are going to find it hard to sleep. Before working on making changes to your child’s sleep behaviors, medical problems must be addressed by your child’s health care professional and resolved in order for you to be successful with any sleep behavior changes.
If you want to make changes to your child’s sleep, I strongly encourage you to have a well thought through plan for how you are going to address it. Creating a plan that provides your child with a consistent response at bedtime and the middle of the night will give you the greatest chance of being successful. For help understanding what is expected of your child based on their developmental stage and putting together a plan to make changes to your child’s sleep, contact Sleep Tight Consultants today.
Copyright 2010 Kim West, LCSW-C, LLC The Sleep Lady® www.sleeplady.com