Baby sleep is one of those things that goes through many phases. For example, your little one could be a brilliant sleeper at four months, but this could all change at six months. Rest assured that this is completely normal.
One mother contacted us to ask if we had any advice to help her energetic 12-month-old, who was previously a good sleeper, to settle down to sleep at night.
Sleep expert Maria Murphy had some great advice on how this mum could help her baby to sleep.
- My just turned one-year-old was a great sleeper up until a few weeks ago, but now she won't settle at all and is awake till after 12. I don't let her over-nap. She's not cross while awake, just full of energy. I could get her asleep five times in the evenings and she wakes full of energy for a few minutes until I get her back to sleep. This goes on for hours. I do have a routine in the evenings that I stick to. She used to go down at 7pm every night on her own in her cot. Not even my bed will do now. Any advice please?
It's not uncommon for children who are great sleepers to suddenly change, you are definitely not alone. Sudden changes in sleep patterns can be due to a number of factors, making it a very complex puzzle to figure it out.
Children's sleep patterns can change with their age and as they develop through milestones. As they grow their stamina naturally increases, therefore they just don't need the same amount of sleep as they used to, sometimes this can change on a monthly basis. Reaching milestones can be a big contributing factor and impact their ability to sleep as well as they used to e.g. if they are learning to walk they may wake up and want to practise this new skill at bedtime or in the middle of the night.
Tiredness can play a role
Another big factor can be over-tiredness or under-tiredness. Of course there's always a possibility they may be testing boundaries too. If your child is doing something that causes a parent to react differently to the norm and the child is getting extra attention for it, then they will continue to do this action to get the reaction they want from parents.
The long period of wakefulness at bedtime suggests to me she doesn't have the correct level of tiredness for sleep. The average length of time to go from awake to asleep with the correct level of tiredness is about 10-15 minutes. If she is happily wide awake for these really long periods of time going into bed it suggests to me she is possibly under-tired. If she was over-tired I'd be expecting struggles and some protest at bedtime.
Change in naps?
It is likely she is approaching a nap transition. I don't have any information on your daughter's naps to advise you properly, however nap transitions don't always occur naturally. Generally you will start to notice sleep deficits show in other areas and this could be the reason for the long periods of staying awake at bedtime. If you find sleep deficits showing continuously for a few weeks that's usually enough time to know that something needs tweaking in her sleep schedule.
I suggest you reassess her daytime sleep to ensure that her awake time is balanced correctly throughout her day. Once you are happy with her nap timings then consider her nap length. You can tweak the nap length by shortening it for a few days to see if that helps her settle quicker at bedtime. A few tweaks may be necessary before you get it right – trial and error is the only way to tell what's right for her sleep needs. A child's bed should be kept as clear as possible to avoid them becoming overstimulated.
One thing I always recommend to families I work with is to have your little ones (12-months and up) sleeping with a small stuffed animal or a favourite teddy. If they have a bond with an item they will look for it when they wake and helps prevent them instantly calling for a parent. This should be something large enough that they can find in their cot easily but not too large that it will cause safety concerns or a SIDS risk. It's really important that you do not use something unless you feel it is safe and you should always follow SIDS guidelines.
Maria Murphy. "What Are The Best Ways To Get My 12-Month-Old Baby To Sleep At Night?"