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Split Nights - Why is my baby up for hours in the middle of the night?

Does your baby sleep soundly then suddenly they are awake having a midnight party for a few hours at a time? Then it sounds like your baby is having a split night.

So what actually causes a Split Night?

  1. Often this lies in the sleep pressure during the day! More commonly, where there is too much day sleep, so once they have the solid night sleep the sleep pressure is eased and they are more wakeful in the night. It can sometimes be the opposite where there isn't enough day sleep, and the cortisol built from the overtiredness brings the split but this is less common.

  2. Bedtime is falling too early and too close to the last nap. This is also common when they are nearing a nap transition, as their day needs change and they can last longer between sleeps!

  3. Developmental - often split nights are signs of a sleep "regression"/development leap. Where they are fully awake and no matter how much we try to get them back to sleep, often we don't succeed! Their brains are wired to be awake during this time, and they may be practicing new skills - but it's a temporary phase!

  4. There is too much going on in the resettle. This can be a big one - where the resettle methods aren't consistent and they don't know what's coming next, or their is a hold out for a certain settle. Working on the settle rhythm so they know what happens every time and falling back asleep in their own sleep space can often be a key fix for split nights.

A boy awake lying down on bed.
Awake Time!

What can we do about them?

  • Monitor the day sleep - if they need increased sleep pressure push back bedtime to support in this. Are they nearing a transition? Do you need to cap the nap? Keeping a sleep diary here can help!

  • If it's developmental and the split nights have been pretty sudden - don't reintroduce a tonne of different settle rhythms in hope it will work - it will make the leap harder to get out of! Keep consistency, and if they are happy kicking around chatting to themselves, let them be!

  • If they are struggling to self settle and that's where the focus needs to be - then work on this and a gradual and responsive method will help. Consistency in this and working on them falling asleep in their cot will be key.

Split nights can be tough, and frustrating too when we are so desperate for them to fall back asleep. Sometimes it can be out of our control when it is developmental, but where we know changes can be made it can be easily solved.

If you're struggling - don't do it alone and reach out for support!

These are topics that we work through often in the "Exhausted to Thriving Membership" - you can join us here to help navigate through the ongoing changes in sleep!

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