Baby wakes up every hour? Try these top tips

Medically reviewed June 2022
Baby wakes up every hour Naytal

Like most parents, you're probably wondering why your baby might wake up every hour at night. Trying to get your little one to sleep at night time can be frustrating and exhausting. But don't worry, you're not alone.

Many babies wake up multiple times during the night and there are a number of common causes.

Here are ten possible reasons why your baby wakes up every hour and some top tips to settle them back to sleep.

1. Baby is hungry

A baby's stomach is tiny and can only hold a limited amount of food. So it's not surprising that many babies wake up every few hours during the night to feed.

Tip #1: If your baby is waking up every hour to eat, try feeding them regularly during the day between naps, and offer a top-up feed about 15-20 minutes before bedtime.

2. Baby is teething

Teething can be painful for babies and can often disrupt their sleep. If your baby is teething, you might notice them waking up more at night or taking shorter naps during the day.

Tip #2: To help soothe your baby's pain, try giving them a teething ring or toy to chew on, and massage their gums with your finger during the day and as part of their bedtime routine.

Need help with your baby's sleep? Speak to a baby sleep expert

3. Baby is unwell or has physical discomfort

If your baby is unwell, they may be waking up more at night as their body fights off any illness. Some babies also struggle with staying asleep because of physical discomfort, including excess gas, reflux, allergies, or health conditions like eczema.

Tip #3: If you think your baby is unwell, check for signs of a high temperature of 38°C and contact NHS 111, your GP, or your Health Visitor if you're worried.

4. Baby is too hot or too cold

If your baby is too hot or too cold, they may wake up more at night as their body tries to regulate their temperature.

Tip #4: Try to keep the room at a comfortable temperature for your baby. Babies prefer a cooler room temperature between 16°C to 20°C for sleeping. 18°C is ideal.

5. Baby is overstimulated

Babies can quickly get overstimulated. If exposed to too much bright light, loud noise, or activity before bedtime, they may find it harder to wind down at night.

Tip #5: Try to avoid white or blue lights before bed, including any type of screen-based devices that increase our cortisol levels and wake us up. It's best to create a calm and relaxing environment for your baby to sleep in and use amber lights before bedtime and when you're doing a nappy change at night.

Read our guide on how to make your baby’s room darker for a better night sleep.

6. Baby is overtired

Overtiredness in babies generally results in poor sleep quality. Babies can have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep at night.

Tip #6: Try to create a consistent bedtime routine for your baby, watch their awake windows, and aim to put them down to sleep while they're still awake. This will help avoid the baby getting overtired and make it easier for them to fall asleep independently.

7. Baby has separation anxiety

As your baby becomes more aware of their surroundings, especially if they're seven to nine months old, they may experience separation anxiety when you leave them to sleep. This can often result in your baby waking up during the night crying or fussing.

Tip #7: To help ease your baby's separation anxiety, try staying in the room with them until they fall asleep or sleep in their room with them for a few nights.

8. Baby is going through a developmental leap

During a baby's first year, they will go through several "growth spurts" or "developmental leaps". These periods of rapid brain development can often result in your baby waking up more at night as they adjust to the new changes.

Tip #8: If you think your baby is going through a developmental leap, try offering them extra cuddles and reassurance. You should also make sure your baby gets the recommended amount of sleep for their age throughout the day and try baby massage as part of their bedtime routine to help them feel more comfortable.

9. Baby is cycling between sleep stages

Once babies are no longer newborns, their sleep patterns shift, and they start to sleep in four sleep stages split into REM and Non-REM sleep. In the period of lighter sleep, babies can show signs of wakefulness like jerky movements, muttering sounds, and stirring slightly.

Tip #9: Sometimes, it is best to hold back, observe your baby and try not to disturb them by intervening too soon. They may just be transitioning into a deeper sleep stage all on their own.

10. Baby relies on parents to help them fall back asleep

From about five months, babies can better connect their sleep cycles and stay asleep for longer periods. That being said, it is normal for babies to wake between sleep cycles which last about 60 to 90 minutes depending on the age of the baby.

Babies who are five months or older, and fall asleep independently at bedtime, generally have less trouble falling back asleep on their own when waking in between sleep cycles at night.

However, babies who rely on sleep-onset associations that require their parents’ assistance may have trouble settling upon waking at night. These associations may include being given a dummy or being fed to sleep.

Tip #10: Help your baby fall asleep independently for naps and bedtime using gentle sleep coaching methods.

Want to speak to someone about baby sleep? Book an appointment with one of our sleep consultants at a time that suits you to get specialist advice with any concerns.

References

Martin, J., Hiscock, H., Hardy, P., Davey, B., & Wake, M. (2007). Adverse associations of infant and child sleep problems and parent health: an Australian population study. Pediatrics, 119(5), 947–955. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2006-2569

Miriam, Sleep Consultant

Miriam is a qualified Baby and Child Sleep Consultant who feels passionately about helping other mums experience the benefits of good sleep. Her approach is gentle, relationship-centred and research-informed.

Postnatal
Sleep advice
Newborn sleep
Fourth trimester

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