10 reasons why your child doesn’t sleep through the night
Most parents have experienced wake up calls during the night throughout their little ones’ first few months, or even years.
What should we do when our child wakes up repeatedly during the night? This article describes the top 10 reasons why children wake up at night explaining how to identify them and how to find a solution.
It is rare to hear parents who have younger children say that they are well rested. Babies, especially newborns, wake up during the night and of course, so do the parents. At a certain age it becomes normal, which is why the reasons for waking up at night are sometimes obvious – hunger or a wet/soiled nappy. Yet, parents are repeatedly “pulling their hair out” trying to figure out why their child woke up so many times during the previous night.
In a situation when a child is waking up so often, it would be worth considering what the real reasons for the wake up calls are. The ten most common reasons why a child has interrupted sleep during the night are listed below. Luckily, we can find a way to deal with most of them as well as prepare for future night time wake up calls.
- Hunger – During the first few months after being welcomed into the world, babies wake up rather often just to feed, regardless if they are breastfed or formula fed. Normally night-time feeds may be the reason for wake up calls for around the first 7/8 months, but there are cases when a baby needs night feeding after their first 9 months. It is usually said that after 12 months of age, children shouldn’t need to eat during the night anymore. With this, it is good to remember that after 6 months of age, solid foods should be introduced so that wake up calls due to hunger don’t increase.
- A soiled or wet nappy – We can’t do anything about a soiled nappy during the night. It is important to know that most babies at some point stop soiling the nappy, even if feeding during the night is still in practice. However, the need to pee during the night will stay a bit longer, therefore, regardless of the babies’ age, it is worth using high quality ultra dry nappies or try changing brand. This way, you can be sure that even if a nappy is full, your little one won’t feel damp and uncomfortable.
- Inappropriate sleeping conditions – It’s important to remember that the sleep environment is the foundation for a baby’s peaceful sleep. The room shouldn’t be too warm or too cold. According to most sources, the ideal temperature to sleep in for a child is around 16 to 20 degrees Celsius. If it is much warmer, the baby’s amount of layers or clothing should be adjusted to the actual room temperature. The sleeping space should be appropriately darkened – both at night and during nap times, it is best to keep the blinds shut as it can prolong the little one’s sleep. It is also a good idea to make sure that the space in which your baby sleeps is not too loud. If it is, you can play white noise that will perfectly fade louder noises in the background.
- Teething phase or ill – Children when ill, even if it doesn’t bother them too much, can wake up many times at night. An increased temperature, a cough or a cold, and other situations that simply make them feel worse can be tiring for them. It’s the same situation with a child’s sleep during their teething phase – they wake up more often and it’s harder to put them to sleep. This is not an easy time for parents as the baby will be grumpy both during the day and night, not allowing the parents to rest. Luckily, both teething phases and illnesses shouldn’t disrupt the child’s sleep for more than a few days (usually 7-10 days).
- Nightmares or bad dreams – Children under the age of one don’t normally wake up at night because of bad dreams, but we can observe such occurrences in older children. Bad dreams can come from overheating, going to sleep too late, or lack of sleep at naptimes. It is worth paying attention to these factors when the baby wakes up at night crying.
- Digestion issues – Newborns and infants frequently have interrupted sleep due to digestive problems. They frequently burp, spit up, have reflux or wind. As time passes by, most children around the age of 3 months should have these issues disappear on their own. However, if the child still seems to struggle with digestion problems, it would be worth considering whether they are not suffering from more serious issues such as allergies, intolerances or sensitivity to certain food groups. Some older children struggle with reflux, even if they are not spitting up their food, they can still suffer from heartburn. Moreover, food allergies can increase reflux and gastric issues. In this type of situation, it would be best to consult your GP, who can then refer you to a specialist.
- Physical discomfort – Keep in mind that children can wake up because they are being bothered by physical discomfort. With a sensitive child, even a tag left on their pyjamas can make sleeping difficult. While on holidays, mosquito bites tend to be the reason for waking up at night. When children have vaccinations it is especially discomforting for them as they can feel the jabbed area and don’t like it. Where possible, try to help your child get through the worst moments and take away any cause that can disrupt sleep (e.g. cut clothing tags, use mosquito repellents, use mosquito nets during sleeping periods).
- Ways of putting a baby to sleep – Many children fall asleep in a way that requires their parents’ presence or props to fall asleep such as nursing/bottle of milk or a pacifier. While many children do not face sleeping issues because of that, some children with time will need to be more independent while falling asleep. In return their sleep could become calmer. It is worth considering teaching your child to fall asleep more independently with appropriate methods suitable for their age.
- Irregular plan of the day – Both late bedtime and short naps during the day can cause a child to go to be overtired, and this is a direct cause of waking up frequently during the night. Too much sleep and long naps during the day can cause waking up during the night as well as taking longer for them to go down. Keep a close eye on your child to avoid situations like this. If a child has the same day plan for a long period of time and suddenly starts waking up during the night, it might be time to consider adjusting their daily routine. On the other hand, if a child skips a nap during the day or sleeps significantly less and starts to wake up during the night, we can suspect that the little one is overtired and if we want to improve the comfort of their sleep, we should allow them to sleep in.
- Developmental milestones and sleep regressions– During the first 2 years of the little one’s life, they achieve about 10 developmental milestones and have 3-4 sleep regressions. During this period of time, we can’t do much to help your baby sleep better – there are too many skills acquired by them and processing them wakes them up at night. During these developmental phases when sleeping problems are common to occur, try to be patient and avoid introducing new sleep associations.