Simple Parenting

Night Waking is Normal (And it Gets Better)

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The Big Idea: Night waking is much more common than you might think–but eventually it gets better.

Google when kids sleep through the night, and you could easily come away with the impression that most  kids over six months are sleeping peacefully between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. while, presumably, their parents sip wine and catch up on Game of Thrones.

The truth is, if your kid is waking up multiple times at night, you’re in good company. Most kids wake up at night sometimes, for a variety of reasons:

  • One study of 640 babies found that only 16% of babies sleep through the night at 6 months.
  • A study of Swiss children found that at three years old, nearly a quarter of kids woke up every night, and even at four years, half woke up at least once a week.

simple parenting night waking 2

In other words, if your little one (or big one) crawls into your bed at 3 am, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong.

But here’s the good news: Things DO generally get better with time. A survey of over 3,000 Australian families, for example, found that disruptive night wakings decreased significantly after 24 months.

Meanwhile, if you’re struggling to function on five hours of sleep, sleep training *can* help, even if it doesn’t eliminate all night waking (Good Night, Sleep Tight and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child are two of my favorite books on the topic).

It’s also worth working on your own sleep habits, so you can make the most of the time when your little one IS asleep. This blog post from Harvard sleep experts suggests cutting down on devices in bed, and 11 other helpful steps.

Sleep deprivation is rough, no doubt. But remember–at least you’re not alone. And next time your friend humblebrags about her 10 uninterrupted hours of sleep, put her to work folding laundry, since she’s so well-rested!

One last note: normal sleep patterns vary, but there can definitely be medical reasons why kids wake up frequently, from acid reflux to anxiety. If you’re concerned, speak to your pediatrician.

Ailen is the Managing Editor at ParentsTogether. She lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband and two spirited boys.