Why is my baby awake for hours during the night?
POV: your baby has woken in the night. You’ve tried feeding, rocking, cuddling, swapping with your partner, a bit more feeding…and they’ve now been awake over an hour. Help! You can’t figure out what they need and why this is happening!
A wake up during the night where your baby is awake for a long duration is called a “split night” and here are a few reasons why it’s happening:
1) They’ve had too much daytime sleep the day before
If your baby is needing around 2 hours of daytime sleep, for example, but has had more like 4 or 5 hours across the day, sometimes they can wake up during the night or early hours essentially because they’re too well rested. So having an age-appropriate routine and knowing roughly how much daytime sleep your baby needs for their age group is key. Check out our sleep programmes if you need help with this
2) They are seriously overtired
If your baby has had little to no daytime sleep in the day or days before and perhaps had a few unsettled nights then they may be awake for a long duration during the night due to overtiredness that has accumulated. Overtiredness means that they have a surplus of the hormone ‘cortisol’ which makes it physically very difficult for them to settle themselves back to sleep. You may be seeing a lot of screaming and a baby who doesn’t know quite what to do with themselves if overtiredness is at play.
3) The re-settling you’re doing is ending up overstimulating them
This is the one that I see most commonly with split nights and that is, the re-settling that you’re trying, be it rocking or cuddling to sleep, has ended up overstimulating and waking them up fully. So they have wound up thinking it’s wake-up/play time. This can sometimes happen because something like rocking – which works well for young babies – stops working so well as babies get older and become more alert. The answer here is often to pull back on the amount of intervening you’re doing and try re-settling them in a non-stimulating way, giving more space. For older babies this usually means coming in and out of the room to reassure rather than staying in the room.