Night Wakings Out of Nowhere

Infant Sleep

The Potential Reasons Your Independent Sleeper May Suddenly Be Waking

When your great sleeper suddenly starts waking, in the night, it can be alarming. Could something be wrong? Fortunately, there are a few common reasons why a solid sleeper might suddenly start waking up out of the blue, and knowing what to look for can make the difference between one bad night and a two-week sleep regression.

1. Check Basic Needs

One major benefit to teaching your baby independent sleep skills is that you know when something is really wrong. That is because it is uncommon for your little one to wake crying in the night. After weeks or months of sleeping well, if your baby wakes up crying one night, we recommend going in to check on your little one. Check the diaper, ensure she doesn’t have a temperature, make sure she’s not too cold, and even check her toes for a tourniquet, which is when a hair gets wrapped around it and cuts off the circulation. 

2. Rule Out an Ear Infection

Night wakings that seem completely out of the blue can often be due to an ear infection. Ear infections are quite painful, especially when laying down. If your baby has recently had a cold, other illness, or is teething, an ear infection is even more probable. You might see a baby with an ear infection putting his hands to his ears. However, only a doctor can tell you if that is what it is with certainty.

3. Survey Your Sleep Environment 

If you haven’t been using white noise or a blacked out room, definitely consider doing this, even if your baby slept fine without these things before. Developmental strides can change a baby’s level of awareness, making them suddenly more sensitive to light and noise. 

4. Milestones Matter

Developmental milestones can certainly impact sleep. Rolling, talking, standing, etc. are big milestones for your little one! We have seen many a middle-of-the-night waking caused by a child working through some of these milestones. The brain has a biological urge to practice new skills. Our best advice is to offer plenty of “practice time” in the daytime hours. Most importantly, resist introducing a prop into sleep when dealing with those night wakings.

5. Be a Sleep Prop Detective 

Most likely you have already done some work on independent sleep, but you may need to go a little further with this if your baby starts waking more routinely again. Anything that you do to lull your baby to sleep becomes something he may call out for when he stirs in the wee hours. This includes anything you do to get him drowsy, such as a bottle or a lullaby. You don’t have to take these special parts of your bedtime routine away. However, consider moving them to the start so that your little one is wide awake when laid down in the crib. 

6. Tweak the Schedule

It’s possible that your baby is ready to drop a nap or needs a later bedtime in order to build enough sleep pressure for a solid night of sleep. Check out our age-appropriate schedules if you need some guidance with typical awake time increases.

7. Get Back to the Basics 

If you can rule out a wet or dirty diaper, sickness, and environmental factors, go back to your sleep training basics. Continue with whatever method you used before, and trust that with consistency, you can get right back on track. Sometimes children become curious after we react differently when they are sick or when we travel. Thus, they need a reminder that it’s time to revert back to the regular routine. After a comfort check, put your little one back down while he’s still awake so he can maintain his independent sleep skills with longevity.

Night wakings can be concerning, so trust your parental gut instinct! If you rule out potential disruptions, rely on your little one’s ability to overcome any sleep hurdles (illness, milestones etc.) with independent sleep skills.

By Katie Pitts, Founder & CEO of Sleep Wise Consulting

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