Could My Toddler Be Too Drowsy for Sleep?

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  • December 10, 2013


Would you like me to answer your baby sleep problem in my next video? If so, scroll down and submit your question in the comment section below. I will pick several questions a month to answer and post them here on the blog!


Hi, I’m Kim West, The Sleep Lady. Today, I’m going to answer Katelyn’s question:

“My 13-month old is all of a sudden fighting going down to sleep at night. We’ve had an established bedtime routine for months with dinner, bath, books, bottles, snuggles in bed and she puts herself to sleep drowsy but awake. She didn’t sleep completely through the night until 6 months but has been great ever since.

“However, now whenever I put her down to sleep in her crib, she either immediately sits up and starts crying or falls asleep for 15 minutes and then wakes up screaming. The only thing that calms her is if I pick her up. This goes on for hours and it happens at night only. She might cry for a minute at the start of her daytime naps but it’s nothing compared to her nighttime struggles. Do you have any advice? Is this a sleep regression? She knows how to crawl but she doesn’t walk yet.”


Identify a Possible Sleep Regression


Katelyn, this could be a sleep regression, especially if you see her pulling herself up and maybe letting go a little bit (off of the couch as an example), and experimenting with standing without holding on to anything. Or the problem could be that she’s not awake enough at bedtime. Lots of times when I see babies who go to sleep okay and then wake up within 30 minutes hysterical (unless of course it’s reflux or an underlying medical condition), it’s often because she’s not awake enough at bedtime.

Babies who are too drowsy will wake up 30 minutes later and say, “What the heck? How did I get in here? I don’t know how to do this without some help. I need you to get back in here.” Now, you may say, “No, Kim, I promise you she is really awake.” If this is the case, I think it’s worth tweaking bedtime. I noticed that you said that you give her a bottle. I don’t know if you have a plan about her bottle, but you have bottle and snuggles and then to bed.


Make Sure You’re Not Giving the Bottle Right Before Bed


toddler with bottleYou might want to move her bottle slightly earlier, and maybe even switch to water if she’s still drinking milk or formula so that she’s not going to sleep with milk on her teeth. When you give her a bottle and the light is dim and then she snuggles, that can get her too far along in the drowsy journey so that when she goes in to her crib, she’s like, “Oh, I’m almost there. I can easily go to sleep.” And then she starts to become more and more aware and wake up either right away and sit up like she’s also doing, or wake up 30 minutes later.
I really think making her more awake at bedtime is going to be your secret. Decide on her bedtime routine so that you do put her to bed awake; lights on for the bottle and snuggling and more awake and into the crib. Decide what you are going to do when you put her in the crib awake. Are you going to do time checks or are you going to sit by the crib and do The Shuffle?

If you put her in to the crib and she cries and she hasn’t been crying like that before, please don’t panic and say, “Oh, great. Now, I’ve ruined bedtime.” I want you to say, “Aha, she probably was too drowsy when I put her in her crib. I’m really glad I’m doing this.” And then proceed in whatever sleep coaching method you can follow through with consistently: timed checks or The Shuffle.

Video filmed by In Focus Studios

If you have experienced a baby who is too drowsy, please share your experience below. Please click the “reply” link under this article and leave this mom a comment. Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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