11 month old baby has trouble getting into deep sleep

by Emily

Question: Hi, My 11 month old baby has always been a good sleeper right from the word go. She is very active and on the go all day so at night she hardly even stirs and usually sleeps 12+ hours. We even went on a trip this summer when she was 8 months to Sinapore and China...even then her sleeping was brilliant.

Now I've just started back at work, my husband who is a teacher has just started term and my daughter has just started nursery. In the last 3 weeks she has picked up a few illnesses from nursery and been very run down. She has also just started to take her first steps.

All of a sudden her sleeping has gone downhill rapidly. She is still able to self soothe but doesn't appear to be able to get herslef into a deep sleep. She moans for half an hour to an hour then falls asleep for 2 hours then repeats the process all night. Any little noise will wake her.

I understand there are big changes going on for her right now but hadn't realised they could disrupt sleep quite as much as they are doing.

My question is can I do anything to help my daughter sleep deeply and peacefully at night as I am worried that this will adversly affect her and begin to impact her life in a detremental way.

Many Thanks

Heidi's Answer: Dear Emily,

It's lovely to hear how well your little girl has been sleeping. Having pleasantly gotten used to that though, I know it's extra tough now ...

First of all, I don't want you to be worried about the detrimental effect on her life. Of course she may be less content and not as well-rested as usual for a while. But that is not going to have a lasting negative effect.

Even if you had named only one of the changes since the start of the school year, it could have very well explained the sleep retrogression. Even for the very best skilled sleepers, sleep is still fragile and can be different for a while, sometimes spectacularly. The 3 of you starting work/nursery and then the illnesses, and the walking ... that's a lot to deal with for such a young little mind.

There are 4 main action steps I want to recommend:

1. Keep up the routines and good habits you had so far. That may seem trivial but it is very important.

Now is not the time to doubt about the bedtime routine or the putting down/self soothing habits. Sticking to them is more important than ever, it is the steady base that will help her back on track as soon as she can.

The more lighter sleep she seems to be having can be a simple shift in sleep patterns, which are still maturing. Again that passes, and at best when that steady base is there.

2. Ensure ample winding down time. I can imagine that now on the daily work schedule, your evenings are busier than before. Even if your daughter does not have to “do” any of the things you need to get done, there is most probably simply more activity around the house.

That is not a bad thing at all, but it does give her more excitement and less quiet winding down times. So in any way you can, try to give her the most quiet evenings possible, keep her “out of the buzz”.

You may want to postpone some chores, stick to the simplest dinners or pre-prepare them … I know it's not easy all but every little will help here.

3. Your daughter may also be going through a phase of separation anxiety. You may notice the typical signs of clinging to you more than usual, feeling less comfortable with others, … but on the other hand, it may no be so clear.

She may simply take in the impressions from being at the nursery, miss you without realizing fully … and then can explain some of the restlessness at night.

There's no better “cure” to this than give her a lot of reassurance (extra cuddles allowed ;)) all while instilling her confidence (brief goodbyes without hesitation from your side). Have a look at the separation anxiety page for ideas.

4. You could also benefit from a slightly different timing. Do you have the impression she is very very tired at bedtime? Then go slightly earlier (15-30 minutes). Again that may be tricky because of your evening schedules but it's worth a try.

Less likely, but if you find her content and happy (but not over-active because that “second breath” is a sign of over-tiredness, which you need to avoid to get restful and deep sleep), you may choose a slightly later bedtime. I'd rather expect her to be more tired rather than less, but you never know, nap times at nursery may be different and she might just sleep more there due to being together with peers.

Finally, teething and the infections or illnesses she has picked up can also simply make her uncomfortable. Relieve those as much as possible (all while keeping up the good habits as said above), see a doctor if you are concerned there may be something lingering. The simplest remedies for teething usually work really well.

Best of luck,

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