If you’ve heard the term before but aren’t sure what it means, consider yourself lucky. The “split-night” can be a real parenting headache, and it’s tough to remedy if you don’t understand what’s causing it.
Simply put, a split night is when your little one wakes up in the middle of the night, full of energy, and refuses to go back to sleep for a significant amount of time. They’re often not fussy or cranky, and they actually often seem pretty well rested. The only problem is that it’s 3:30 in the morning and nobody else in the family particularly wants to join the party
In this week’s video, I’ll explain the origin of this little phenomenon, along with some helpful tips on how to avoid it.Rather read than watch? Click here.
Have you ever heard of something called a split night? I’m gonna explain a little bit more about what that is and what tips I can share for getting through it. So way back in time, it was really common for people to sleep half of the night, wake up for a couple of hours, and then go back to sleep for the rest of the night.
A lot of people lived in a community environment so they would wake up halfway through the night, and it’s not like they would get up and, you know, start getting to work. It was usually a relaxing time. Sometimes people would sing together or have a snack or just have some quiet chit-chat together in these middle of the night hours. It was very, very common. So that still, that little piece of our history still lives within our DNA somewhere.
And so it usually shows up in children, and you might notice that your little one, usually in the toddler years is where I see it the most, happily goes to bed at say 7:30, sleeps until midnight, and then has a little party for a couple of hours in the middle of the night. And usually they’re not upset. They’re chatting or talking or kind of cruising around the crib, and it can last for one to two hours and then they eventually do go back to sleep for the rest of the night. And it’s not alarming, it’s nothing to worry about, but it can be a little bit frustrating for us adults who have like weaned ourselves out of split nights and are now sleeping a full night. To have this little 2:00 AM singing concert in the next room can be a little bit tricky.
So here’s a couple of things to think about. Could your child be getting too much daytime sleep? Sometimes if there’s not enough sleep pressure, that’s what we call it, so as we go through our day, our sleep pressure builds and then when we go to bed at night, hopefully there’s this perfect balance between our sleep pressure and how much sleep we’re gonna get that night that sort of alleviates all the pressure. We start our day off fresh. And if a toddler’s getting too much daytime sleep for their needs, there’s not enough pressure at bedtime to get them all the way through the night.
So have a look at that. Maybe try just shortening the nap by about 30 minutes and give it a few days and see if that helps alleviate or minimize these middle of the night wakings. You also wanna look at how your child’s falling asleep. So if at bedtime they’re getting a lot of assistance from you in how they fall asleep, either you’re rocking them or holding them or feeding them or laying down with them, then that is what we call a prop association, and that could be why your child is waking up in the night and having a hard time getting back to sleep without your help. Normally though, in these situations your baby will be angry. Your baby will be crying.
So that’s kind of two different conversations, but we’re talking specifically about split nights, which means a child is just waking up to have some quiet time in the middle of the night. Also look at bedtime. Could they be going to bed maybe too late or too early? And I know that this is a fine line between too early and too late, but just finding that sweet spot where your child is fatigued enough that they’re gonna make it through the night but not overtired.
If your baby’s going to bed too late, then they’re overtired when they fall asleep. And we know that overtired sleep leads to more fragmentation, leads to actually less deep restorative sleep. So there’s lots of like shallow sleeping with wake-ups in between. So that could be part of the problem. Have a check into that.
In The Sleep Sense Program I give you some pretty specific guidelines for how much time awake your child needs at the different age. So check that out. And then if everything’s checking off there, you know, is there anything that could be waking them in the middle of the night? Is the furnace kicking in at that specific hour? The slightest little environmental change can stimulate a wake up depending on which part of the sleep cycle the child’s in. If she’s in the really light phase of the cycle, when the furnace kicks in, that could wake her up and now she is ready to have a party for the next couple of hours.
If everything checks off though, here’s the good news. It’ll go away. It will. It’ll fade, and it’s nothing to worry about. It’s just part of our human biology. And my advice would be to get some earplugs for yourself so you don’t have to listen to the party, and just wait for it to pass.
Thanks so much for watching today. Sleep well.
If your baby, infant or toddler is having trouble sleeping through the night, help is just a click away! The Sleep Sense Program has helped over 107,000 parents to get their kids sleeping 11-12 hours through the night AND taking long, restful naps during the day. If you’re ready to get started – I’m looking forward to helping you!
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