False starts - whats the go?!?!

False starts - whats the go?!?!


Have you been counting down the hours until bedtime, finally got your baby to sleep, sit down to eat your dinner and….. Boom! They’re awake! 

A ‘false start’ is where your bubby will wake shortly after being put down for bed at night. This usually occurs within the first 30-50 minutes.

So what are the common causes?

Well… the main 2 reasons are linked to how their day sleep is structured and how they are falling asleep initially. But, there are some other reasons why this could be happening.

  1. Milk feed is too close to bedtime, causing a ‘second wind’

When bubs gets a little dozy or glassy eyed on their last feed before bed even if this is just 10 mins at the relaxation station, it can be just enough to give them a little reboot. Space their last feed of the day about 30 minutes before bed and make this an ‘awake’ feed.

  1. Their circadian rhythm is out of whack

It’s recommended to start your day around the same time each day to establish and set bubs circadian rhythm. They will need around 11-12 hour days to then build enough sleep pressure to achieve an 11-12 hour night. If you start your day at 8.30am then try to put them down for bed at 6pm, their sleep pressure is likely not high enough.

  1. Your baby is a newborn (under 3 months of age).

It’s normal for younger babies to have a later bedtime (usually between 8-10pm). If we put them down at 6 or 7, they’ll likely treat this as their last nap of the day. Our circadian rhythms don’t actually develop until around 8-12 weeks of age so this is why establishing a solid routine is often unachievable and we recommend just following age appropriate awake windows.

  1. Their last awake window of the day needs a tweak

Although confusing, a false start can be the result of overtiredness OR under tiredness.

Tweak your last awake window of the day to make it ‘age appropriate’ or reduce it slightly if they’ve had a bad day of naps.

If bub is overtired, their cortisol levels will be slightly elevated. This will also release adrenaline and makes it harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Signs it’s overtiredness: 

  • Longer than recommended awake times

  • Distressed crying

  • Waking after 30 minutes of being put down and appearing upset and tired

  • Pushing away and fussy

If bub is under tired, they are likely only tired enough for a short nap but not tired enough to begin their long stretch of night sleep. Their sleep pressure is simply not high enough.

Signs it’s under tiredness

  • No tired signs before bedtime

  • Fights the onset of sleep and appears happy and playful

  • Shorter than recommended awake times

  • Wakes after 45 minutes appearing happy and alert

  1. Bub is being assisted to sleep or relying on an external association 

When a baby drifts off to sleep in a certain environment, when they rouse between sleep cycles, they’ll likely do a quick check to see whether their environment has remained as it was. If it’s not, they will likely call out wanting you to recreate those same circumstances that they initially fell asleep with.This could be being rocked or fed to sleep or even having the dummy in their mouth when falling asleep but it’s since fallen out and they are too young to find and replace.

Encouraging independent sleep is the foundation of all healthy sleep habits.

Is your little one having false starts?

If you feel like you’ve tried everything and false starts are still an issue in your  household, book a consult with us here. x

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