Only the parent of the poor sleeper can understand what it feels like to have less than eight hours of sleep for three solid years. The parent of the poor sleeper knows that taking a shower in the morning is off-limits as it can wake up the incredibly light sleeper upstairs. The parent of the poor sleeper practically cried when he heard about babies as young as six months sleeping twelve hours a night. While some babies seem to be born to sleep, others take a while longer to learn the art of a good lie-in.
1. Your Child Is Sleep Dependent
Just as you can become dependent on a certain pillow or a certain ritual every night before bed, so can your child. And if that ritual isn’t followed, your child might just demonstrate his discomfort with the idea by sleeping badly. The most common examples of this are the child who requires rocking or nursing to fall asleep and the child who needs a pacifier.
If you nurse your child to sleep or rock him until he is sound asleep and then tip-toe out the door, you’re setting yourself up to keep up the routine every time he wakes up until he learns to fall asleep himself. The same is true of the child who needs his pacifier, but can’t seem to get it into his mouth himself when it falls out. To break a sleep dependent habit, you can vary your routine slightly to show your baby it’s okay to fall asleep without every detail being covered. You can also start to put him down almost asleep as opposed to completely asleep. This will help him learn to fall asleep on his own in the middle of the night if he wakes up a bit.
2. Your Child Naps Poorly
If your child takes poor quality naps, it’s likely he’ll sleep poorly at night. Bad sleep begets bad sleep. Unfortunately, many parents try to “fix” bad sleep at night by keeping their babies up during the day to “wear them out.” This only makes the baby sleep worse at night as they are jittery from the lack of sleep. Encourage your child to nap properly in his cot or on your bed with you beside him for safety, of course. Napping in the car or the swing is more of a doze than a long, deep sleep – it might just make your child more tired in the long-run.
3. Your Child Has Allergies
If your child has an ongoing case of the sniffles, it’s hard to get much rest at night laying on a flat surface. Hay fever and other household allergies, such as being allergic to dander or dust, can be helped by elevating the mattress (not your baby’s head) to help the extra mucus drain away. At the same time, you should use specialized air filters and keep pets out of your child’s room. Dust the room frequently as well and avoid opening the window if pollen or other outdoor stimulates seem to be a problem.
4. Your Child is Teething
For some children, teething is mildly painful and their sleep is generally not affected. For other child, sleep is the first thing disturbed as a tooth starts moving deep in the gums and the last thing to go back to normal when that tooth comes through. If your child’s sleep is affected by teething in this manner, the sheer number of teeth cut in the first eighteen months might make it seems as though your child never sleeps through the night. Topical treatments might help to relieve some of the pain during the night and encourage better sleep, but always ask a doctor before using any kind of medicine – herbal or otherwise on a young child, especially if the condition doesn’t seem to be improving.
5. Your Child Might Enjoy Your Company
The savvy, older child knows that you are out there somewhere. If he wakes up during the night, he might cry out to you in hopes that you’ll come and spend some time with him. After all, it’s much more fun to fall asleep help by your mother’s loving arms than by yourself in a dark room. Fun or not, spending time in the middle of the night with your child is rewarding the behavior, especially if your child forces himself to stay awake to spend more time with you.
To resolve this particular problem, wait a mument before going to your child to see if he’ll fall asleep again. If not, go to him, but avoid eye contact. Tell him to go back to sleep or offer him a sip of water without speaking. Don’t engage him in any kind of discussion, and soon it won’t be as much fun to spend time with you after all.
If you enjoy your child’s company in the middle of the night, you aren’t alone. Many working parents especially like to spend time near their children at night to help offset the many hours they spend apart. If this is the case, you might consider a safe version of co-sleeping or allow your older child to creep into your bed in the middle of the night if he awakens. So long as everyone goes right back to sleep, there is little harm.
6. Your Home Might Be Too Noisy
If you put your child to bed, then crank up the television and talk on the phone, you might be the reason for your child’s poor sleep. Even if you’re quiet in the home after night-night time, the noise on the street, barking dogs or even the creaking and groaning of pipes during the night can arouse a light sleeper.
Help your child sleep through these sounds by putting white noise in his room. A noisy fan or a machine that produces a steady white noise can help to mask sounds from the house and the street. White noise might also give you a chance to flush the toilet or take a shower while your child is sleeping – again, only parents of light sleepers can understand what a luxury that is.
7. You Child Might Have a Medical Condition
Sometimes the child who wakes up frequently has a bona fide medical condition. Reflux or another digestive disorder might be to blame for the broken sleep. Painful digestion or acid creeping up the esophagus while laying prone in his bed could be responsible, or at least a symptom, of broken sleep. If you have suspicions that you child has other symptoms of a medical condition, such as reflux, speak to your doctor immediately to help find a solution.
8. Your Child Might Have Gas or Intolerance Issues
Surprisingly few babies are actually lactose intolerant, but many more are sensitive to the enzymes that appear in formulas based in cow’s milk and later the milk itself. Considering a bottle or cup before bed is customary for many months, if not years, that gas or pain caused by milk products could be causing poor sleep every night. Symptoms caused by milk or other food sensitivities should be evident in the daytime as well as the night if your child is receiving milk or the item in question any time other than bedtime.
9. You are Putting Your Baby to Bed Too Late
Many parents don’t realize that babies and children as old as seven or eight should be in bed well before nine o’clock at night. The conventional wisdom is that babies who go to bed late, sleep late in the mornings. While this might be true for some, for many others, there is an internal alarm clock that wakes your baby close to a particular hour every morning – regardless of bedtime. By putting your baby to bed close to your own bedtime, you’re shortchanging her sleep making her overtired. When she’s in a state of being too tired, she might fall asleep almost immediately, but she’ll toss and turn as well as wake frequently as it’s hard to sink into a restful deep sleep.
10. Your Child is a Light Sleeper
As adults we can easily discuss our own sleeping habits. You might be a heavy sleeper who customarily sleeps through alarm clocks. Your wife might be the light sleeper of the family who has to move to another room when you start snoring or even breathing too heavily. Likewise your child can be gifted your sleep style just as any other of your traits. If you are a light sleeper, there is no reason to suspect your child won’t be a light sleeper, too. If you wake up during the night, your child might also. So long as he knows how to roll over and go back to sleep the way you do, you should be okay, however.
Likewise, although many parents will swear they’ve done something to cause it, some babies are simply born deep sleepers. They fall asleep easily and sleep through the night every night. If you’ve done your research, provided white noise, done a bit of sleep training and know you’re doing everything you should be doing to encourage solid sleep and you’re still not getting it, rest assured that this rough time will pass and someday in the not-too-distant future, you’ll be fighting your child to get our of bed not to get back in it.