False Start Bedtimes

What are they, why do they happen & and do you stop them?

A false start bedtime can be frustrating for parents. You think you have your baby down to sleep for the night only to find they wake up minutes later. Is this normal? How do you avoid false start bedtimes? Babies are sensitive and therefore, false start bedtimes can be occurring for many reasons. Keep reading as we explore false start bedtimes and how to avoid them.

What is a false start at bedtime?

After putting your baby down for bed, they may wake up shortly after. In the world of parenting, this is known as a false start bedtime. False start bedtimes typically occur about 30 to 45 minutes after the baby goes to bed. While false start bedtimes may leave you thinking something is wrong, they are actually perfectly normal. There are ways to help your baby fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, which we will introduce later on, but let’s start with why false start bedtimes happen.

Why do false start bedtimes happen?

Here are some common reasons why false start bedtimes may occur:

  • Low sleep pressure: Sleep pressure plays a key role in falling asleep and staying asleep. The pressure builds up during the time we are awake and makes us feel sleepy when it’s time for bed. Babies build sleep pressure more quickly than adults which is why they need to sleep more often. We would like our babies to build enough sleep pressure so they fall asleep easily and stay asleep, but if the pressure is not enough, it can lead to a false start baby sleep. If you would like your baby to build more sleep pressure, consider reducing naps or pushing back bedtime.
  • Overtiredness: If your baby is showing signs of overtiredness, such as being cranky before bedtime, they may be overtired. You can solve this problem by moving sleep times earlier. If you are changing your baby’s sleep time, do so gradually starting in 15-minute increments.
  • Pain or discomfort: If your baby is feeling pain or discomfort, they may have difficulty staying asleep. Pain can come from different sources including digestive issues, teething, allergies, headaches or more. It’s important to find the reason for the pain and treat it at its root. If you are unable to figure out the reason why your baby is uncomfortable, a pediatrician visit may be necessary.
  • Disconnected sleep cycles: All humans wake between sleep cycles. Sometimes the periods of wakefulness are so brief, we don’t even realize they are happening. In other instances, we may be unable to fall asleep between sleep cycles due to stress or another reason. Babies are the same. However, their sleep cycles are shorter than adults, typically just 50 minutes. They may wake between sleep cycles and be unable to go to sleep if they are feeling separation anxiety or if they are experiencing another source of stress. Some babies may be comforted if you put a small toy in their bed.
  • Hunger: Babies may experience false starts due to hunger if they are going to bed when their stomach is not full. This is common as many babies fall asleep during nighttime feedings and are unable to get their complete nourishment. Your baby may be crying, fussing, or sucking its hands if it is waking up due to hunger. Sometimes babies fall asleep during nursing feedings because the mother’s flow slows down. You can speed up the flow by adjusting the latch, switching sides, and doing compressions. You can also keep babies alert during feedings by tickling their feet, blowing on their face, or stroking their heads.
  • The day is starting too late: If your baby is waking up too late, he/she may not be ready for bed when you are putting he/she down. Most babies need 12-13 hours of wake time, including naps, during the day. If your baby is not getting enough wake time, consider getting it out of bed earlier.

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When do false starts occur?

False start baby sleep typically occurs 30-45 minutes after you put them down for bed.

Are false start bedtimes developmental-related?

A false start bedtime may be related to development as older babies may need you to adjust their sleep time. If they are waking up shortly after being put to bed, you may need to push their sleep time back.

You may also notice that your baby is taking their last nap later at night. This usually occurs when babies are 2-3 months old. If your baby is taking their last nap from around 7-8 PM, you may have to push their sleep time back as far as 10 PM. Babies are constantly growing and developing so be ready for regular changes to keep up with development.

How do you stop false starts at bedtime?

After you put your baby down, you probably naturally stay awake a little bit longer. Just as you start to let go of your day, your baby wakes due to a false start at bedtime. False start bedtimes are disruptive so you’ll want to do everything you can to avoid them. Here are some ways that can stop false start bedtimes:

  • Make sure the baby is full before they go to sleep.
  • Try having your partner put the baby to sleep and/or respond to false starts. This may help break the pattern.
  • Push your baby’s sleep time back or forward.
  • Consider holding your baby through the first sleep cycle. Then attempt transitioning them to their sleep space. You will know your baby has completed a sleep cycle if they stir slightly, then try to resettle.
  • Limit sugary snacks during the day.

How do weighted sleep sacks and swaddles help babies sleep?

Sleep sacks and swaddles can be ideal for minimizing false start bedtime. They are designed to provide a womb-like experience that soothes your baby, thus promoting better sleep habits. Newborns don’t know how to self-soothe so they truly rely on their parents to comfort them. However, mom and dad need sleep too. Therefore, substituting human comfort with swaddles and sleep sacks can help you and your baby get the sleep you need. Weighted sleep sacks and swaddles are especially recommended and proven to help babies sleep. They mimic a womblike experience and help reduce the moro reflex, thus allowing your baby to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Dreamland’s best-selling weighted sleep sack and swaddle feature CoverCalm Technology that evenly distributes weight from your baby’s shoulders to toes to naturally reduce stress and give your baby the feeling of security and comfort. The feeling resembles a hug - without the need to hold your baby while they sleep.  Evenly distributed weight is proven to help babies sleep. A study showed that 98% saw results in 3 days. Dreamland Baby brand was founded by Tara Williams, mom of 3, that prioritizes her baby’s safety and health above all. The Dreamland Brand allows her to keep top parent priorities at the forefront of every product. Dreamland Baby uses the highest quality materials and always makes safety a top priority. Our products are doctor approved, safety certified, and of course - machine washable.

Dream Weighted Sleep Swaddle, 0-6 months

Dream Weighted Sleep Sack

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Conclusion

A false start bedtime can be stressful for parents and babies. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help your baby sleep for longer periods throughout the night. Dreamland swaddles and sacks, complete feedings, and adjusting sleep times are just some techniques that can help minimize false start bedtimes. While it may be tempting to hold your baby, it’s better to use sleep aids that will eventually help the baby learn to self-soothe.

Dream Weighted Sleep Swaddle, 0-6 months