Ask the Expert: Our baby can’t settle and we are exhausted
Q My 14-month-old son has never been a great sleeper but it seems to be worse lately. He tends to wake up at about 2am and finds it impossible to go back to sleep. We have tried staying in the room and patting his back and so on, and even bringing him into our bed. Although he might stop crying after being brought to our bed, he still finds it very difficult to settle and keeps tossing and turning and keeps us awake.
I would really appreciate your advice as we are both working full-time and we are getting increasingly exhausted, being up all night. During the day he can have a nap for up to one and a half hours but he is not too fond of going down for his naps.
A Getting your child to sleep through the night is a long-term journey with many pitfalls and setbacks. While some parents find themselves lucky, having a baby who sleeps through the night at a young age, these children are in the minority and many other children have intermittent sleep problems throughout the baby and toddler years. Tackling a sleepless one year old or toddler is, in many ways, much harder than doing the same thing with an infant or an older child. At the age of one, your child is old enough to be attached to you and to seek you out in the night for comfort, yet he is too young to understand the reasons for him sleeping in his own room at night and for you to make sure he does not feel rejected or abandoned.
Take time to understand your baby’s
To help your son have more settled sleep, it is important to step back and take a holistic view of his sleep pattern considering his day-time as well as his night-time routine. During a night’s sleep, children tend to go in and out of deep sleep and normally wake briefly a few times before falling back to sleep. Some young children seek their parents to comfort them when they wake and some become dependent on their parents to support them getting back to sleep. Frequently, a period of sleepless nights is triggered by a bout of sickness, or a child going through a developmental change or becoming overtired during
the day. Such events can disrupt their natural sleep pattern and make them more likely to wake and to call their parents at night.
The key to sleep training
The key to sleep training is to help your child have a more relaxed, rhythmic sleep and to learn how to self-soothe and return to sleep by himself if he wakes. Although it is important to have a clear plan on how to respond when your child wakes at night (and we will come to this later), the best place to start sleep training is during the day, in particular ensuring a relaxed bedtime and nap routine.
Children who have good naps and who are well rested during the day tend to sleep better at night.