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Stages of night sleep

Inconsistent night feeds, numerous wakings and not knowing when to offer support and when to give space are all common issues parents face with their little ones. Understanding what causes your baby to wake and why they might be stirring at certain times of the night can aid in supporting you to respond when you are needed.


So let's break it down - what happens to our little one's sleep between bedtime in the evening and day start the following morning?


Stage 1: Bedtime. Offer an appropriate bedtime for your little one, sometime between 6-7pm, depending on their age and day sleep. This is an ideal time for your baby to be snuggled up in their cot as it falls within their biological sleep window, meaning their little bodies are best set up to fall asleep and stay asleep. They will have a strong drive to sleep and their sleep hormone is high.


Stage 2: Waking within the first hour or so of bedtime is usually a sign that your little one is overtired. When your baby has less total day sleep or their bedtime is too late their bodies start to produce cortisol which is a wakeful hormone, affecting the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.


Stage 3: Stage 3 is the stretch of sleep between 9pm and 12am. As mentioned earlier, your baby is in their deepest REM sleep between bedtime and midnight. Wakes around the 9/10pm mark are usually due to stirring between sleep cycles rather than out of hunger. If you have recently dropped a 10-11pm milk feed, whether it was a late feed or dream feed, it will take time for your little one to consolidate their sleep cycles and break that habitual wake.


Stage 4: Midnight is when your babies deepest sleep ends. It is a common times for little one’s to wake for their first feed, or you might just here the call out but resettle themselves.


Just because your little one sleeps through the night without a feed doesn't mean that they won't need your support from time to time.


Stage 5: 12–4am. Wakes between 12 and 4am are often due to developmental milestones impacting sleep. It’s a great time for your little one to wake and babble, sit up and start clapping or you might see them on the monitor on all fours rocking back and forwards. Around 3/4am the air temperature also drops so be sure to dress your little one appropriately to reduce the chance of them getting cold and waking at this time.


Stage 6: Stage 6 falls between 4-7am. As this is your babies lightest phase of sleep and time when lots of little one’s wake, ensuring you have a great sleep environment is essential. White noise, dark room and warm bedding is key at this time.


If you are ever unsure why your little one might be waking overnight and they are upset always seek connection, you'll never go wrong! Even the most independent settlers will need some support, reassurance and to have their love cup refilled overnight from time to time.


Whatever your goals, whatever areas of sleep and settling you would like to work on Little Dreamers is here for you. Reach out, book a discovery call and let's chat about how we can best support your family.

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