My Child Wakes Up 20 Minutes After Falling Asleep at Bedtime

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  • May 07, 2013
child wakes up

child wakes up

Hi, Kim West, the Sleep Lady and in this video, I have an answer for this mom whose child wakes up shortly after going to sleep. She wrote in:

“My 8-month old is sleeping beautifully thanks to your program except that every night after she goes to bed, my child wakes up after about a half an hour and cries for at least 20 minutes. She goes to bed at 7:30 p.m., but even when we try a different bedtime, she’s waking up. She sleeps through the night for 11 hours and takes one or two naps, for an hour and a half to 2 hours during the day. We followed your plan and it’s worked for us. She’s sleeping finally. We thought she was teething but it’s been since she was 4 or 5 months old and she’s been doing this no matter what we do. Is this just a baby sleep problem that she’ll grow out of or has it become a habit? And if it’s a habit, how do we break it?”

Night Terrors or Too Drowsy?

One option is that she could be having a night terror. Night terrors usually happen after 13-15 months of age, but I have seen it in younger children. One of the most common causes of night terrors is going to bed too late, so I would just try to shift her bedtime to 7 o’clock for at least a week or two and see if there are any changes.

The second thing I commonly see when kids wake up just minutes after they go to sleep is that they’re put down to bed too drowsy. So, if you’re nursing her before bedtime, be sure to do it with a light on, or maybe even read a little book afterwards. Make it so that she’s more awake at bedtime. It could be the case that when you did The Sleep Lady Shuffle originally, she really didn’t fuss or cry too much at bedtime, and she may have been put down too drowsy.

RELATED: Drowsy But Awake: The Cornerstone of Successful Sleep Training

Shift Things at Bedtime

Being put to bed too drowsy is the number one reason children wake up after going to sleep.

I would recommend that you shift things up at bedtime so that she is more awake before going to bed. If she does begin to fuss or cry at bedtime I don’t want you to say to yourself, “Oh, no. Now, we’ve ruined bedtime!” I’d rather you say, “Aha! That’s it. She was just too drowsy when I was putting her down.”

Those are the two things I would recommend for this problem. Try to make that bedtime just a little bit earlier and make those naps in-sync with her circadian rhythm (around 9am and 1pm). You may even need to do a third nap on some days as nap deprivation can lead to this waking after bedtime also.

And as always, make sure you talk to doctor and rule out any underlying medical condition that may be causing your baby to walk up 20-30minutes after falling asleep at bedtime.

I hope this helps and that she can start to sleep through the night and stop waking up after 20 minutes. Good luck.

Video filmed by In Focus Studios

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20 Comments

  • MommaratziToFour says:

    We had terrible sleep issues with our third child and while he is finally sleeping through the night (he is now almost two years old), I want to avoid the issues we had with him with our 4th baby who is three months old. #4 is sleeping VERY well right now: as much as 8-12 hours overnight! But the four-month sleep regression is around the corner and I am so worried that his sleep with deteriorate when we hit that milestone. What can we do now to prevent issues with his sleep next month?

  • MommaratziToFour says:

    We had terrible sleep issues with our third child and while he is finally sleeping through the night (he is now almost two years old), I want to avoid the issues we had with him with our 4th baby who is three months old. #4 is sleeping VERY well right now: as much as 8-12 hours overnight! But the four-month sleep regression is around the corner and I am so worried that his sleep with deteriorate when we hit that milestone. What can we do now to prevent issues with his sleep next month?

  • breefawn says:

    Hi SamHeim! I am sure that is very frustrating. You may want to take a look at this article: http://www.sleeplady.com/toddler-sleep-problems/my-toddler-is-scared-of-thunder-and-wont-sleep/, as well as this article, if you think that he may be having nightmares: http://www.sleeplady.com/toddler-sleep-problems/how-to-deal-with-nightmares-and-monsters/. I would also post details (your nighttime routine, bedtime, how long he naps and when, and how frequently he’s waking) on The Sleep Lady Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/thesleeplady), so that a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach can point you in the right direction. I hope that helps!

  • breefawn says:

    Hi SamHeim! I am sure that is very frustrating. You may want to take a look at this article: http://www.sleeplady.com/toddler-sleep-problems/my-toddler-is-scared-of-thunder-and-wont-sleep/, as well as this article, if you think that he may be having nightmares: http://www.sleeplady.com/toddler-sleep-problems/how-to-deal-with-nightmares-and-monsters/. I would also post details (your nighttime routine, bedtime, how long he naps and when, and how frequently he’s waking) on The Sleep Lady Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/thesleeplady), so that a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach can point you in the right direction. I hope that helps!

  • breefawn says:

    Karine Belanger, that is wonderful! Thank yo iso much for sharing your success!!

  • breefawn says:

    Karine Belanger, that is wonderful! Thank yo iso much for sharing your success!!

  • WGWALLEN says:

    My son is 12 weeks old.  Right now, he sleeps with me at night.  He will only sleep face down on my chest.  If I lay him on his back beside me, he squirms and is very restless, even though his eyes are closed and he appears asleep.  He was the same way for naps, but about 2 weeks ago I went back to work, so the week before I worked with him on naptime so his grandmother wouldnt have to hold him all day during nap time.  I was able to get him to sleep in his swing for 1-3 hour naps several times a day. I put him down awake and he put himself to sleep. The first week my mother-in-law kept him, she says he slept in his swing just as he had been doing with me. As of this past weekend, he will still put himself to sleep during naptime but will not sleep longer than 30 minutes. He will sleep on me for longer.  Why the sudden change?? I am still putting him down awake. His eyes are wide open.  I tried this at bedtime, with the same results.  Sometimes he even wakes up after 10 minutes.  What am I doing wrong and how can I get my son to sleep somewhere besides on me?

  • WGWALLEN says:

    My son is 12 weeks old.  Right now, he sleeps with me at night.  He will only sleep face down on my chest.  If I lay him on his back beside me, he squirms and is very restless, even though his eyes are closed and he appears asleep.  He was the same way for naps, but about 2 weeks ago I went back to work, so the week before I worked with him on naptime so his grandmother wouldnt have to hold him all day during nap time.  I was able to get him to sleep in his swing for 1-3 hour naps several times a day. I put him down awake and he put himself to sleep. The first week my mother-in-law kept him, she says he slept in his swing just as he had been doing with me. As of this past weekend, he will still put himself to sleep during naptime but will not sleep longer than 30 minutes. He will sleep on me for longer.  Why the sudden change?? I am still putting him down awake. His eyes are wide open.  I tried this at bedtime, with the same results.  Sometimes he even wakes up after 10 minutes.  What am I doing wrong and how can I get my son to sleep somewhere besides on me?

  • breefawn says:

    WGWALLEN  First of all, you aren’t doing anything wrong! Newborn babies have very unpredictable sleep patterns. In fact, sleep doesn’t normalize until around 6 months. I think that this article will help you: http://www.sleeplady.com/baby-sleep/simple-ways-nurture-good-sleep-patterns-newborn-baby/

  • breefawn says:

    WGWALLEN  First of all, you aren’t doing anything wrong! Newborn babies have very unpredictable sleep patterns. In fact, sleep doesn’t normalize until around 6 months. I think that this article will help you: http://www.sleeplady.com/baby-sleep/simple-ways-nurture-good-sleep-patterns-newborn-baby/

  • Karine Belanger says:

    Whitney Allen: 

    Waking up is most often due to the child needing a “sleep crutches” to remain asleep (be able to go through the light sleep cycle back to deep sleep without waking up). 

    Some “crutches” are not as obvious as you may think, like giving milk or food within the last half an hour before bedtime. (Always offer food/milk when baby gets up is also a good idea)

    Some are difficult for the parent to take away, like taking away the soother.  Taking the soother away will likely result in the baby taking longer to fall asleep and likely needing to cry a lot more to put himself to sleep, even if the baby was not crying at all before to put himself to sleep

    The above 2 advices were the last missing pieces of my puzzle  to sleeping through the night with no wake up, and to resolve the  30-45min wake up problem.which was so frustrating. I tried the milk/food advice alone but it didn’t work, needed to take the soother away to make it happen.

    I’m sure you already have a good & consistent bedtime routine and that your crib has no distractions as your baby does fall asleep on his own, so you are doing great and probably only need to fix one little thing to see the results of all your sleep training efforts.

    If you didn’t know already, ideal biological start time for the naps or night are 9-10am. noon to 2pm and 6pm to 8pm.

    Good luck!

  • Karine Belanger says:

    Whitney Allen: 

    Waking up is most often due to the child needing a “sleep crutches” to remain asleep (be able to go through the light sleep cycle back to deep sleep without waking up). 

    Some “crutches” are not as obvious as you may think, like giving milk or food within the last half an hour before bedtime. (Always offer food/milk when baby gets up is also a good idea)

    Some are difficult for the parent to take away, like taking away the soother.  Taking the soother away will likely result in the baby taking longer to fall asleep and likely needing to cry a lot more to put himself to sleep, even if the baby was not crying at all before to put himself to sleep

    The above 2 advices were the last missing pieces of my puzzle  to sleeping through the night with no wake up, and to resolve the  30-45min wake up problem.which was so frustrating. I tried the milk/food advice alone but it didn’t work, needed to take the soother away to make it happen.

    I’m sure you already have a good & consistent bedtime routine and that your crib has no distractions as your baby does fall asleep on his own, so you are doing great and probably only need to fix one little thing to see the results of all your sleep training efforts.

    If you didn’t know already, ideal biological start time for the naps or night are 9-10am. noon to 2pm and 6pm to 8pm.

    Good luck!

  • breefawn says:

    Karine Belanger  Thank you for being supportive  and offering your own experience as support. Indeed the bottle and pacifier are both sucking actions and can be sleep crutches so addressing one alone wont do the trick!

  • breefawn says:

    Karine Belanger  Thank you for being supportive  and offering your own experience as support. Indeed the bottle and pacifier are both sucking actions and can be sleep crutches so addressing one alone wont do the trick!

  • breefawn says:

    Neilxavier That sounds frustrating! I would recommend that you post your question, and include bed/nap times on http://www.facebook.com/thesleeplady so that the Gentle Sleep Coach can help you.

  • breefawn says:

    Neilxavier That sounds frustrating! I would recommend that you post your question, and include bed/nap times on http://www.facebook.com/thesleeplady so that the Gentle Sleep Coach can help you.