It is 2 a.m. and your baby seems to be the most energised he has been all day! If you are lucky, you will have this experience once or twice in a week. But a lot of us moms face this MUCH more often than that! So, why does it happen and how should you tackle this? Should you get your child to go back to sleep, indulge in some mid-sleep playtime, or find a way to stop it from happening altogether?
As mothers, we become the very best of singers, rockers and comforters when it comes to lulling our babies into sleep. Come bed-time, we try every trick in the book to make sure the baby drifts off into peaceful sleep and naps undisturbed through the night. We do know and understand that newborn babies take time to fall into a sleeping schedule, and will continue to wake up for feeding. However, how is it that babies are so very active in the middle of the night that sleep seems like a distant dream?! Many of our babies are so wide awake at night (even though our eyes are barely open) that it seems impossible to get them to sleep again…
Most moms usually wait it out till the child finally drifts off to sleep. But what if you could find out the cause and then tackle it for good? More sleep for both of you!
Why Babies Are Sometimes Wide Awake At Night
The first step to tackling this sleep problem is to understand why it is happening at all. As per doctors, the reason behind this is two-pronged:
1. Your Baby Wants to Show Off His New Skills
Studies have shown that when a baby learns new skills, they are eager to keep showcasing these new skills as often as they can, including in the middle of the night! It’s like they cannot believe how at one moment they were immobile and now they can turn over or wriggle their fingers and it really brings them joy! This brings us to the second part of the reason.
2. Your Baby’s Sleep is Segmented, Just Like His Ancestors
Until a couple of hundred years ago, humans used to sleep in two phases – the first sleep and the second sleep. This segmented sleep was divided by a short period of alertness, which ideally lasted for an hour or two. Allegedly, humans fell asleep by 8 and woke up at around 1 am. This 1 am wake-up time was for working or eating or even socialising before returning to bed again. This segmented sleep or polyphasic sleep is actually the natural way for human beings to sleep.
However, due to our societal norms, we have trained ourselves to sleep in the unnatural way that we now know see as normal. Electricity played a major role in these patterns being forced to change. Our unnatural 7-9 hour sleep patterns are actually a mismatch for our babies who naturally follow segmented sleep patterns! The period of alertness, our babies feel, is perfect for showing off those aforementioned skills, which is why this mid-night party occurs so often.
So, How Do We Fix This?
The only way to actually tackle this problem is to train our babies to sleep like we do – unnaturally. This can only be done by gradual training. Babies learn to mimic our patterns and habits and will eventually learn that lights off means that it is time for bed. They will also pick up our drowsy tones in the night as opposed to our more energetic morning tones. If your child is waking up in the middle of the night it is good practice to gently say “It is sleep time now, go back to sleep” and lull them back to sleep.
This means that you resist the urge to play with them till they tire out. Cuddling, night feeds and soothing lullabies will also help your baby go back to sleep. You can try gently stroking their head too, or swaddling them lightly using a gentle, breathable swaddle/wrap. A lot of moms also pretend to go back to sleep in hope that the baby will mimic them. It does work!
However, there’s no real ‘quick fix’ to this situation. You just have to keep at it and it will happen over time.
Meanwhile, remember to enjoy these moments too! As tiring as they definitely are, there will soon be a time where you’ll miss lulling you little angel back to bed after the cheeky party for two you’ve had!