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Why does my baby like to party overnight? Let's talk about 'split nights'


Does your little one wake in the middle of the night ready to party? Are they happy as larry, smiling and ready to hang out at 1am? Argh split nights!


Split nights are a result of sleep pressure and your little one's circadian rhythm not lining up.


What is sleep pressure?


Sleep pressure is the drive to sleep which is accumulated during awake windows. The longer your little one is awake the bigger the sleep pressure accrued! Sleep pressure is also referred to as the homeostatic sleep drive. This works alongside our circadian rhythm to find the balance between being awake and building up enough sleep debt to be ready for a nap or bedtime. Although we want to beat overtiredness by finding the right wake to sleep balance across their day sleeps we can also use sleep pressure to encourage longer, consolidated naps and night sleep cycles and better settling at bedtime.


What causes split nights?


The most common causes of long, wakeful periods overnight are;


  • developmental progressions (why sleep when you can practise new skills like sitting/standing)

  • too much day sleep which has stolen sleep debt for night sleep

  • illness/teething

  • reliance on a sleep association to to resettle (but may now be the cause of the wake!)

  • low iron/anaemic



Understanding what may be causing (or reinforcing) the split night will help troubleshoot where you need to change something. If your little one is learning a new trick like rolling, crawling, clapping etc these overnight wakeful periods will pass within 2-3 weeks. On the contrary, if this has been happening for some time now you might need to address a few areas;


  • Are they having too much day sleep?

  • Is it time to drop a sleep or cap the nap length?

  • Do they need a slightly later bedtime

  • Is their iron intake good?

  • Are they needing you to do XYZ to resettle them?


How can we support them through it?


  • Split nights can be frustrated, but they are also very normal and often result around an exciting time of change! More often than not it's our little people telling us that something needs to change. So often parents think they need to step in and do the settling for them, especially if their child has been awake for quite some time and they're worried about less sleep overnight.

  • Start by ensuring their day routine is age appropriate. It may mean a tweak in nap timings/lengths or time to drop a nap.

  • Have a look at their calorie intake? Are they getting enough to sustain them overnight?

  • Are their iron levels good? Having protein during the day helps to keep his blood sugar levels stable, preventing night wake ups due to hypoglycemia. Low blood sugar levels will cause adrenaline to be released overnight; which will in turn cause sleep disturbances. To combat this, ensure you offer low GI carbohydrates at each meal (e.g. sweet potato, legumes, lentils, rice, pasta)


Be kind to yourself, share the load with your partner overnight if supporting your little one to settle back to sleep.



If you need some sleep support and you are ready to make a change I'm here for you! Book a discovery call and let's chat about your little one's sleep and how I can help your family get the rest you all need to thrive.





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