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  • Writer's pictureAdela

Why Baby Wakes an Hour After Bedtime. All About False Starts

Unless you’re very lucky, I mean exceptionally lucky, you’ve experienced one of the false starts firsthand. You put your little one down for the night, they close their eyes, nod off, and then wake up again in about 20-30 minutes. That specific situation is what we’re referring to here.

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Night Waking Versus False Starts

The reason it’s important to distinguish between this scenario and the regular old “nighttime wake up” is because they’re caused by different things and therefore have different solutions.

A nighttime wake up is similar, obviously, but occurs after baby’s been asleep for at least an hour or so. Nighttime wake ups are usually the result of either hunger or a baby’s inability to string their sleep

cycles together. If your baby’s over six months of age and had a full feed before bed, then hunger likely isn’t the culprit, and if they’re unable to string their sleep cycles together, well, that’s another conversation altogether, and a great reason to hire a pediatric sleep coach. *Wink wink*

But false starts, as I mentioned, are a different animal and the causes are different. False starts can be more easily resolved as compared to nighttime wakings.

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Three Cause for Bedtime False Starts

1. Discomfort

If your baby’s uncomfortable, there’s a good chance they won’t sleep well, as is the case with anybody of any age. Teething, gas, reflux, or even just being too warm or too cool can all cause baby to wake up quickly after they first manage to settle. You can likely find remedies, temporary or permanent, to the first three by talking to your pediatrician. As for the temperature issue, I have a really handy guide to dressing your baby appropriately for different temperature nurseries that I’d be delighted to share with you free of charge, just shoot me an email.

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2. Lack of Pressure

There are two things that help us fall asleep. One is our circadian rhythm, which signals our brain to start producing melatonin when it gets dark, and our sleep drive. Sleep drive is the body’s natural urge to sleep as we spend time awake, exert ourselves physically, heal from sickness or injury, or experience exciting or stressful situations.

Given how quickly babies grow, their sleep drive builds up much quicker than it does in the average adult. (A big part of the reason they need so much daytime sleep.) But that sleep drive/pressure accumulation starts to slow down eventually, and it requires more time awake between naps to build up to the point where a baby can fall asleep, and stay asleep, at bedtime. If your baby takes a long time to fall asleep when you first put them down for the night, and seems active and happy during that time, low sleep pressure could likely be the cause. This means it may be time to either drop a nap or reschedule their naps in order to allow that pressure to build up appropriately before bedtime.

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3. Overtiredness

This is where things can get a little challenging, because contrary to popular belief, overtiredness doesn’t look like a more intense version of regular tiredness. Overtiredness causes cortisol secretion at the time when we want it the least, and actually causes baby to get quite energetic, making it difficult for them to get to sleep. In this case, you might want to move bedtime up by 20-30 minutes.

In contrast with the earlier scenario where baby is not getting enough awake time before bed, this situation is when baby has had too much awake time. Two completely opposite causes resulting in very similar symptoms, but requiring opposite solutions, which makes it difficult to know which course of action to take to remedy the situation.

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So, how do you know which scenario you’re dealing with and implement the right fix? Download my FREE Sample Sleep Schedules by Age PDF to reference a sleep schedule that might work for your little one. Otherwise, trial and error with bedtime by first moving bedtime up. Overtiredness is a vicious cycle once it takes hold. Baby doesn’t sleep well which results in short, fitful naps the next day, which leads to bad sleep at night, and on and on it goes. It’s much safer to move bedtime earlier and see if that solves the problem.

Hopefully one of these solutions takes care of your little one’s false starts, but if the problem persists, my 1-1 sleep support can help you make it disappear. Click here to book your free sleep assessment.


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