Question: My son is 1 year old. We have had sleep issues with him from the beginning and they just kept getting worse, no matter what we tried, until he was about 7 months old. At this point he was only sleeping 4 hours a night and taking one 2-3 hour nap during the day. This does not seem like nearly enough sleep to me for a baby when the norm is over 12 hours a day (total, not just night time)for most babies. I was at my wits end, and because my pediatrician did not take me seriously, I started to research on-line where I found the Ferber method. After using this method, my son began sleeping better and eventually got up to about 10 hours a night with one 2 hour nap in the afternoon. About 3 months ago the amount he slept each night started to decline again. He now goes directly to sleep when I put him down about 9 pm, but wakes between midnight and 2 am and stays awake (playing-not crying because he is playing I do not go in his room, that just makes him start crying and he's awake even longer) until 5 or 6 in the morning and then wakes again at 9 am, making his daily sleep total between 7 and 9 hours a day. This behavior seems odd to me and I feel like he needs more sleep than this. He is consistently demanding/cranky, so I have to assume he's not well rested (all other causes--colds, teething, etc.--have been ruled out over time). My peditrician tells me "everyone is different" and leaves it at that. Am I being overly concerned? Should I take him to a specialist of some sort?
Heidi's Answer: Dear Mag, No you are not being overly concerned: you are a loving mother listening to her instincts, which tell you your son is not getting the sleep he needs. If you as a mother are concerned and want to have your son checked by a sleep specialist then you should do that and I must advise you to. That said, I do have a few things you can try first.
You have been doing well with helping him get more sleep, and regularity. The fact that he goes to sleep so nicely when you put him down at bedtime is really good, and something to cherish.
The fact that he plays at night and does not cry is also positive: it shows that he is not anxious but feels comfortable. I know, you are probably often awake listening to him too, waiting for him to go back to sleep so that makes it extra hard on you.
But the fact that he does not cry, makes it not unpleasant for him. I know it seems odd to you but it does happen. And it usually passes after a few months. It's good not to interact, as you are doing.
The 7-9 hours of sleep a day are not much, I agree. And his crankiness during the day does indeed point to not being fully rested. But his amount of sleep is also not impossibly low.
Either way, what I advise for you right now is to simply change his schedule a bit. An earlier and restful start of the night can make a huge difference. So to start, go from the 9pm bedtime to 8pm. You can do this in steps of 10 minutes per day, or go 'drastically' and shift with one hour straight away, whichever feels best to you. You may even go to 7.30pm if that feels right.
You haven't mentioned when his nap is, but you may need to fiddle a bit with that too, to have it start between noon and 1pm.
Give this 2 weeks, without changing anything else and see what happens. These schedule changes can be very powerful.
Do contact me again then with any changes that occured, or also if nothing at all changed. We will then take it from there.
Good luck, take care, Heidi
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