15 answers

Waking at 4Am Every Night

My daughter just turned one this past week and for the past 2 weeks has been waking up at 4am and is wide awake til 6am. At first I thought it was her teeth as she just got her 7th tooth, but now I think it might be a habit? She sleeps in her crib from 8pm til 4am (8 hours sleep) wakes up crying, I bring her to bed with me and she tries to go back to sleep but it takes her 2 hours. I get her right away so she doesn't wake up too much and hoping she will fall right back to sleep but the doesn't always work. She lays next to me in bed and flip flops around really trying. I tried cry it out one night but it was just listening to her cry for 2 hours instead. So please refrain from that advice, I am not going to do cry it out, it didn't work. She can sleep through the night because she has since she was 9 mos old and did once this past week. She goes to bed awake, can soothe herself, naps are no problems.
I am thinking it's teeth? The problem is I work full time so by the time she is back to sleep I have to get up and go to work and I am 12 weeks pregnant so I am exhausted all the time. My husband travels 50% of the time so I usually have to do this alone. Thanks for any advice or thoughts!

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Featured Answers

You might try moving her bedtime earlier. Maybe 7:45 or 7:30pm. Often, babies will sleep longer when they go to bed at an earlier time. A good sleep book is "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child". I also like "The No-Cry Sleep Solution". They both support the early-to-bed theory.

Good luck!

More Answers

when they hit a growth cycle sometimes they need to eat at night even if they didn't the week before; she might be hungry (and therefore unable to go back to sleep until she exhausts herself) ...

1 mom found this helpful

You might try moving her bedtime earlier. Maybe 7:45 or 7:30pm. Often, babies will sleep longer when they go to bed at an earlier time. A good sleep book is "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child". I also like "The No-Cry Sleep Solution". They both support the early-to-bed theory.

Good luck!

I had this problem with my daughter (though didnt bring her to bed with me). I found that when I waited a bit to respond she would often go back to sleep. NOT cry it out, just long enough to be sure she was awake and upset. Sometimes she would cryout a few times, roll around, and go back to sleep. By jumping up at the first cry I am the one who started her habit. It took some time, but she finally got past it.

I am sorry to hear about this. Is she maybe just thirsty? I have tried just water or if needed some milk and it has worked. My daughter just turned one as well. I do not know if it is the teeth.
Best of luck,

My 12 month old goes through periods of waking up for 2 hours a night also. She has never been a good sleeper, however, but I have managed because I do not have to go to work the next morning. I used to just get up with her because I did not want to fight it, and she is generally really happy when she is awake like this. It definitely seems to precede a new tooth however. After 12 months of little sleep, I am only able to be awake so much in the night. I have started a new way of dealing with it that seems to work for us. I have totally baby-proofed our living room, and now when she wakes up, we go there, and I sleep on the floor while she plays around me. (I am never "fully" asleep anyhow). This way she can easily wake me up if she needs me, she gets to play, and I get some much needed shuteye. And she cannot get hurt in the "secured" living room. I know how hard living without sleep can be, but I keep telling myself that it will pass, and someday I will look back and cherish this time in the middle of the night that we had together. Hope this helps, and good luck!

Hi T.,

I have 5 children and none of them ever fully slept through the night on a regular basis until 2-3 years of age. I have tried it all. There were nights here and there that they would, but there were just as many nights that they would climb into bed or wake crying early in the morning.
The one thing I want to say is that (especially with a baby on the way) you don't want to get into the co-sleep habit. It is a very stressful and time consuming thing to break and I have seen it be the cause of major stress in a marriage. That is one lesson I learned with all my kids.
Now kids sleeping patterns change and I think I would take another posts advice and try to get her back to sleep in her room where it's what's she is used to.
I know this is a very hard time for you right now, but it will pass. I got pregnant with my last one when my twins were 8 months old, there were a few nights of tears for me with having to take care of the twins and feeling absolutely exhausted. It will pass and the days keep moving forward. If you have a family member that could maybe do a sleepover with the baby or at your house once a week, it would help you out. Sometimes the older generation has some really good advice or can see something that may be happening with her that you don't think of.
Good luck to you!

Have you tried the partial cry-it-out method where you wait five minutes, go and comfort her, wait ten minutes, comfort her but a little less, wait fifteen minutes, soothe her, wait twenty minutes? I use it with my nine month old when she wakes up in the morning, and it seems to work okay. She usually falls asleep during the ten minute cycle. And having a set time limit on the crying helps my nerves enormously.

My daughter is 14 months and is doing to same exact thing for the last week, wakes at 4 am and struggles to go back to sleep for 2 hours. She has done this before, so I just tough it out and know that she is just going through a phase or something.

I was going to try chamomile tea before bed or Hyland teething tablets. If it is her teeth, a Tylenol might help. I don't think it will be a habit, especially if she wants to go back to sleep. I am sure she will grow out of it.

How many naps are you giving her? It may be time to reduce of naps, the time to reduce or eliminate the nap.

Another option is to increase her exercise during the day. Swimming, gymnastics, preballet, etc.

Good luck.

I'll second that advice on she may need food/drink. I don't think it's a habit if she tries to fall asleep and can't. My son is 2.5 now and we co-sleep and we are still nursing. At one, he was still nursing several times a night. He's finally gotten to just one feeding around 3-5 am. I am assuming that since you are pregnant again, you aren't nursing? You may try some warm formula/milk for her.

Also, consider that the temperature in your room may be different than hers? Does she need more/less blankets with you?

Good luck! I have every hope that she'll grow through this. Rest easy!

to augment the idea that she may be hungry or thirsty - you can leave a sippy cup of water in the crib so she can help herself if she wakes up. (I suppose she may not be old enough to understand that yet, but, it seems like good advice as kids get older.)

It seems like you should try to get her back to sleep in her own bed - maybe go through a shortened, modified, bedtime routine, and then put her back into bed? I notice that my little girl no longer falls asleep so easily in my bed, and generally have better luck putting her back into her bed if i think she is still tired. The more interaction she has with me, the more she seems to think it is time to get up. So maybe that would help?
(It is harder, because you have to sit up for a little while in her room, but, it seems to me that in the long run i have gotten more sleep this way - not less.)

BTW, most of the sleep advice i read suggested that you needed multiple nights of an approach to get it to really work, and often the first couple of nights are harder, not easier. So don't be too discouraged if whatever you end up trying takes more than one night.

Our son does the same thing. We call that the '4am dance party'. Usually a little bit of playtime (nothing vigorous or too rowdy) and a snack and he'll go back down for another few hours. I've heard that you can't mess around with their bedtime - like trying to push it back to make them sleep in the following day, etc. - too much because it just makes them cranky and then REALLY cranky the following day. I feel your pain, though. My son's nearly 14 months and we're doing the same thing. I'll be checking back to hear peoples' comments because I'd like to know what other people are trying. Good luck.

Our 16 month old does the same thing, but he wakes up at 5am every morning! We give him a bottle and put him back in his crib -- he drinks it and falls back asleep afterwards (he gets sippy cups at all other times, but this one-bottle-a-day strategy has really helped our sleep!). We generally give him formula (keep a bottle with the powder already measured out in it in our master bathroom) and then brush his teeth as soon as he wakes up again (between 7 and 7:30).

My girl, 14 months, went through the same 4-am dance party routine. I couldn't ever figure out why, but I ended up just trying to respond to her needs. I agree with previous people it may be hunger or thirst. Or it could be developmental milestones. Rolling, crawling, and walking each brought about sleep disturbances for my girl. I have learned the only thing that helps is to hold her, rock her, cuddle her.
Good luck, hang in there. This stage will pass and you will get more rest soon.

Hi T.,
I just wanted to say that I understand what you are going through. When my son was about that age, he started doing the exact same thing. He would wake up around 3am or 4am and be up for anywhere between 1 and 2 hours. Now, my son didn't really cry, but rather just talked to himself and/or fussed. After checking on him a few times, we would just leave him and eventually he would fall back asleep. I know you said you don't want to cry it out.... my son wasn't actually crying so this worked for us. Anyway, we also decided that perhaps he was a little bit cold. We started dressing him warmer at night and making his room warmer which REALLY seemed to help. You may consider whether or not your little girl's temperature could have anything to do with it.

Also, take heart, because my son seemed to grow out of this stage once we made him a little warmer and just let him work through it. He still does it occasionally, but not very often. Good luck.

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