If Your Baby Keeps Waking Up At Night, Check For These 9 Problems
10 mins read
Health & Safety for New Born, Baby
Is your child keeping you up at night? Does she have difficulty sleeping through? This is a familiar story for most of us parents with young children. However, if your little darling seems to be waking up more frequently than usual or has difficulty falling back asleep, there may be a deeper reason that you need to be careful about.
Children need proper sleep in order to grow and develop well, especially in their early years. While it is normal for babies to wake up for feeding or give you sleepless nights simply because they want to play, it is important to be careful. As parents, if you observe that your baby keeps waking up at night, more frequently than normal, or if they wake up scared and irritable, it can indicate a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders or problems are an interference in the sleep patterns of children. While they’re not usually indicative of a serious medical condition, they can cause tiredness and crankiness and make the little ones wake up again and again every night. Check the signs below to find out if one of these problems could be behind your baby's wakeful nights too, and what you must do.
Find out the Reason for Why Babies Wake Up Crying
If your baby keeps waking up at night, chances are there is something that is causing it. This is especially true for really young babies, as they should ideally be spending most of their time sleeping! Here are the most common reasons why your baby is crying at night and keeps waking up!
Diaper-Wetting / Bedwetting:
This is perhaps the top cause of poor sleep in babies - a wet diaper and/or bed! If your baby is wearing night-time diapers but still wakes up cranky, it is possible that the diaper may be too tight/loose and hence uncomfortable. The absorbent-nature of the diaper may also be inadequate for the entire night. If your child is now potty trained but still wets the bed on occasion, it is a key factor affecting his sleep. Bedwetting in toddlers is a common and persistent problem in many children which can remain for a long time. It can not only affect sleep but also cause embarrassment and a sense of shame in the child.
What to do: For small babies, double check the diaper's size, absorbent-capacity and fitting. For toddlers, it's best to consult a physician who can show you continence-training techniques and also provide medication, if needed.
Next to diaper and bedwetting problems, the most common factor for your baby crying at night might be colic. Infants who exhibit unexplained crying spells could be suffering from a condition called colic and end up waking up more frequently than kids of their age. While there is some medical dispute over whether or not colic is real, there is no definite answer. To be safe, it is best to careful of possible signs and take corrective action.
Signs: If your baby has colic, he may also face tummy problems and pass gas frequently. Check if he arches his back and clenches his fists too.
What to do: A gentle massage and swaddling will provide relief to your baby and help him sleep. Also check his feeding patterns before sleep-time and avoid feeding gas-inducing foods such as cauliflower. You can also try some of these home remedies for colic suggested by a mommy blogger from her own experience.
Restless Legs Syndrome:
Imagine: will you be able to sleep if you keep feeling a creepy, itchy sensation in the legs and want to keep moving them? Restless Legs Syndrome is a neurological disorder that makes babies want to - uncontrollably - move their legs. This uneasiness becomes worse in the night and the result is that your baby either cannot sleep or keeps waking up every few hours.
Signs: Your baby may experience pains and aches in his legs. During the evening, he will seem to be restless and agitated.
What to do: It is best to take the paediatrician's advice if you notice these symptoms. He will be able to give you the right diagnosis and suggest cure. Treatment usually involves dietary changes and medication, if needed. A recent study by Mayo Clinic suggests that Restless Legs Syndrome is linked to a family history of restless legs syndrome and iron deficiency. Check for these two factors and discuss them with your doctor to ensure your child gets the right advice.
Though this sounds terrifying, night terrors are actually a fairly common problem that could be ruining your little one's sleep. It happens due to fever, an unfamiliar environment, or even as a response to some new medication. This problem is usually seen as your baby grows up, with night terror in toddlers becoming most prominent between 3 and 8 years of age. In fact, night terrors could be a fairly common reason why your toddler wakes up crying every night. However, it can show up as early as 18 months of age.
Signs: Your little one has been asleep for around 90 minutes. And then suddenly, the child may suddenly sit upright and scream. You may find his eyes open but he may not acknowledge your presence in the room. It can be very traumatising and make it difficult to get back to sleep.
What to do: If your child suffers from it, just console her the best you can using a soothing voice and by caressing her. Using white noise to cancel out other sounds may be soothing as well. See this guide on dealing with night terrors in children for further help.
Finally, another sleep problem you may encounter as your child grows up into a toddler and learns to walk is this: walking in sleep! It usually occurs in response to illness, stress and lack of sleep, though it may also be hereditary. Sleepwalking in toddlers is seen more in boys than girls. Signs: Your child’s eyes are open but 'unseeing', speech is mumbled, and she may appear to be confused. It can also be accompanied by sleep-talking.
What to do: Sleepwalkers can walk about, so special care is needed to keep them safe. Make sure your house is childproofed with necessary gates to stop your child from venturing out and getting hurt. Children usually outgrow sleepwalking (and talking) by the time they reach adolescence.
Another reason why babies may wake up in the night and cry is because of separation anxiety. As we try to make our babies sleep independently, many mothers may try and develop this habit by putting their baby down to sleep in a crib or cot, away from the bed. While this may not be difficult initially, if the baby realises that she has been separated from her mother, she may wake up and begin to cry.
Signs: Your baby has no trouble falling asleep at night, but cannot go back to sleep after waking up and finding that you are not around.
What to do: While your intention maybe noble, it could be too soon to try and make your child sleep independently. Continue to co-sleep with your baby till she is old enough to understand that just because mommy is out of sight, doesn't mean she is gone forever!
This one applies to older children and grown-ups too. If you are feeding your baby right before her bedtime, it might be difficult for her to fall asleep. This happens mainly because the body remains awake to digest the food. On the other hand, if tiredness takes over and your child does fall asleep after dinner, chances are the food will not be properly digested! Either way, this is a bad habit.
Signs: Your child, who seemed to be sleepy and about to doze off, is fully awake after having dinner.
What to do: It is advised to feed babies at least 45 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime. Never give children foods that are difficult to digest close to their bedtime. Dinners should be filling but light.
Contrary to the above point, a child might even wake up in the middle of the night because she is hungry! Even as adults, we may have experienced this at some point: on a day when you have early dinner, or eat very little for your last meal of the day, you might wake up hungry in the middle of the night.
Signs: Your child is able to go back to sleep after being fed, when she wakes up in the middle of the night.
What to do: Make sure you develop a healthy feeding and sleeping schedule for your baby. Ensure there is not more than an hour's gap between your child's last meal, and bedtime. Anything more than that can potentially cause her to wake up.
A baby's body is not fully developed. Sometimes, if the environment in the room gets too hot or cold or dry, it can cause the baby to wake up in the middle of the night. Adults are able to modulate their body temperature - if it gets too hot, they sweat, while their body warms up in cold temperatures. Babies are not able to do that effectively. At the same time, try and realise: it was much quieter in your womb than it is in the room! There are now a lot of distractions for your baby: light, sounds, smells, etc. which may cause her to wake up more often.
Signs: Your child is able to go back to sleep after you change the environment: either by switching the air-conditioning on, or by covering up your baby, or turning the humidifier on, etc.
What to do: Ensure the conditions in your baby's bedroom are ambient. Try and cut out all unnecessary noise and light from the room.
WATCH: How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Through The Night (Older than 3 Months)
A brief video on tips to help your child sleep through the night and get enough rest for overall development.
Till the time that man evolves enough for babies to start talking at birth, we may never know the exact reason for why babies cry at night! However, with so many years of experience, we can definitely take the above educated guesses now. If your child suffers from any of these sleeping issues, it can be unsettling for her as well as for you and your family. However, remember that most sleep disorders resolve on their own over time. Till then, spot the signs and help your child overcome them through the suggested solutions.
If your child continues to suffer from sleep disorders or the symptoms get worse, make sure to follow the doctor’s orders for treatment. The paediatrician will help diagnose the problem in a paediatric sleep laboratory, using techniques like polysomnography to differentiate between primary and secondary sleep disorders. He will then decide on the best course of action for your child.