Why is my kid fighting bedtime and waking up multiple times at night?

Why is my kid fighting bedtime and waking up multiple times at night

Could it be a developmental milestone or a regression? Did he sleep too much during the day? Could he be hungry or thirsty? Hot or cold?

All these reasons could be true. In fact, infant sleep is a complex mechanism and, since our children’s brains and bodies are undergoing continuous change, this is no surprise.

Let’s consider the case of a 3-year-old who goes down easily for his daytime nap and has days filled with stimulating activities but, when bedtime comes, he is full of energy and wants to play instead of going to sleep. Once he finally gets to sleep, he then wakes up several times during the night and is up at 5:30 to start the day (with the whole family, of course).

What’s going on here? Almost certainly, what the kid is demonstrating is that he is too tired. I know this may sound crazy but hyperactivity at night is usually a sign of over-tiredness.

Optimal levels of melatonin are produced as soon as the sun starts setting and the outside temperature goes down. This happens quite early at night (especially in winter) and the more our kids stay awake past this ideal time window, the more their melatonin levels will drop while cortisol will increase as the brain’s response to not being asleep.

So, what can we do to help?

  1. Teach them healthy and independent sleep habits;
  2. Have them in bed before 9 PM;
  3. Offer a consistent bedtime routine;
  4. Avoid any screen time starting from an hour before bedtime;
  5. Make sure their sleep environment is totally dark.

As for nighttime wake ups, there is nothing we can do really to prevent them as they are totally natural occurring events between sleep cycles. Even us adults wake up many times during the night, but we have the ability to put ourselves back to sleep. And we can safely and effectively teach our kids how to do the same. A kid who can count on healthy and independent sleep skills will be able to recognize that he’s safe and in a familiar environment when he naturally wakes up during the night and he will be capable of getting back to sleep on his own.

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