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  • Writer's pictureMary Cantwell

Split Nights: What they are and how to fix them!

Updated: Jun 5


If you’re a parent of a baby or toddler, chances are you’ve experienced the frustration of split nights: those nights when your little one is up in the middle of the night awake, happy, ready to play and is on the struggle bus to fall back asleep, sometimes for hours! Why is this happening?  This is called Split Night! We will chat through what Split Nights are, explore what causes them and tips on how to solve them!


What is a Split Night?

A split night is when your infant or toddler wakes in the middle of the night happy and ready to play, typically for an hour to three hours. No matter what we do to help them go back to sleep, they have a very hard time settling back to sleep.  It’s almost like the sleep spigot got shut off for the night! Split Nights are different from a wake up that occurs occasionally or is sporadic.  A split night is when you see a trend of a child waking up consistently for extended periods of time at night, happy and not wanting to go back to sleep. We typically see Split Nights occur in the age of 6 months to 24 months and can last from 1 to 3 hours.


Top reasons for Split Nights:

  1. Developmental:

Split nights pop up when our babies are about to go through a big development leap or growth.  When babies are about to master a skill, their little brains are in overdrive and the opportunity to try this new skill is something our child wants to practice (even at night!)  

 

How to Solve:

To help move through mastering the current skill which will help with the sleep interruption at night, recommend practicing this skill during waking hours (in and out of the crib) so that they can master it in both places and move on from the sleep side. When practicing in the crib, be sure to do it when the baby is happy, lights on/windows open in the room, fed and well rested (aka not close to nap time!)

 

2.    Getting to much day sleep:

Depending on age, babies only need a certain amount of sleep in a 24-hour period.  If they are front loading sleep and getting a good chunk of sleep during the day, it pierces the sleep pressure for overnight sleep and can lead to them being up in the middle of the night.

 

How to solve:

Depending on the baby's age, refer to an age-appropriate amount of day sleep needs to determine what is the right amount for that age and then work from there to find the perfect amount of sleep for your child. If the baby is at or past the recommended amount of day sleep, then start at the higher end of the day sleep needs for their age and then start to decrease the amount in fifteen to twenty minute increments until the split night resolves.


baby sleeping split nights

3.    Early Bedtimes:

An early bedtime can help resolve a multitude of sleep disruptions, but for split nights a super early bedtime may be contributing to it especially if there is not enough awake time between their last nap and bedtime.   The reason being is that an early bedtime can cause the sleep pressure to be low going into the night and around 2:00 am to 3:00 am baby is ready to start their day.

 

How to solve:

Gradually move bedtime back later in 15 to 20 minute increments until we start seeing the split night resolve.  Look at age-appropriate schedules to get a good barometer on age appropriate bedtime for your child.

 

Split nights can wreak havoc on both parents and babies leaving us feeling exhausted, frustrated, and lost. For infants, not enough sleep may impact their growth, development, and overall demeanor.


As parents, we will most likely see a split night in our child’s sleep journey, but they don’t have to be a permanent fixture. By understanding the causes of split nights and implementing these solutions to address them, we can help your baby—and yourself—get the rest you need. Remember, every baby is unique, so be patient and flexible as you navigate the journey to better sleep. With time, consistency, and plenty of love, you’ll conquer split nights and enjoy peaceful nights of sleep once again. If you feel like you have done everything to help with your baby's Split Night, but they still are persisting, let's schedule a complimentary Discovery Call so that we can get more information on what is happening sleep wise and you can ask any questions you have. 


Sweet dreams!




  




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