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How to Stop Habitual Wakings!

Updated: Apr 3

Is your little one is consistently waking up at the same time!? Like clockwork, they wake at 4:32am and are difficult to get back down?! Well, you have come to the right place! The “wake to sleep” method is used for babies that tend to wake up around the same time every night, or early morning. So, whether they are waking at 11:00pm, or 4:00am, you can implement this approach and help them learn how to sleep through this (annoying) waking!

First of all, what is a habitual waking? This is a term used to describe when a person wakes up at the same time constantly. For our babies, they often get into a habit of waking up for milk or cuddles. When we drop a baby’s night feed, sometimes their bodies will continue to wake up at that time, even if they are not truly hungry or in need of a feeding. There are a few different things that we can try before implementing the Wake to Sleep Method, to help them get over this habit!

  • PAUSE. We should always wait for 3-5 minutes before rushing to our child’s aid when they wake in the night or from a nap, because that is how long it takes them to fully wake up from a sleep cycle. We don’t want to rush into the room and potentially wake them up, when they may have transitioned to the next cycle on their own. Remember that babies are very loud and active sleepers! It may sound (and even look!) like they are awake, but they are actually just trying to get comfortable so that they can transition to the next cycle.

  • After you have paused, if they are truly awake and in need of help, go give them some support. Do your best to help them back down by comforting from beside the crib. I would only pick them up if you have the intention of feeding!

  • Move bedtime 15 minutes earlier. Often babies that are overtired will wake more often in the night, or in the early morning. By moving bedtime earlier, we can help prevent that overtiredness.

  • If all of these efforts fail, then I would move on to attempt the “Wake to Sleep Method”.

The idea behind this technique is to reset your child’s pattern of habitual waking, by restarting their sleep cycle before they wake up on their own. This will extend their sleep past the time they typically wake. This approach usually works within one week, with consistency on your part! Here is how it works!

1. Set an alarm 1 hour before your baby typically wakes up in the night. If they are consistently waking up at 4:00am, I would set the alarm for 3:00am to start, as an example.

2. Quietly go to their crib and gently rouse them into a semi-conscious state. To do this, you can move them slightly, or rub their back/tummy. Remember, you don’t want them to fully wake, we just want to make them stir, so their sleep cycle restarts.

3. Leave their room immediately!

If they wake up fully during your rousing, you will want to reduce the time you set your alarm for by 15 mins (so attempt 3:15pm the next day). Our goal is to get to them when they are in a deep sleep, and restart the cycle. Continue shifting the time by 15 minutes later if they wake up, until you find a time that works. Sometimes this requires some trial and error, because every babies sleep cycle is different! Usually, you need to do this for about 3-5 nights (successfully), and then the habitual waking should be a thing of the past! Don’t set your alarm on the 6th or 7th night and see what happens!

I know this method can sound a bit scary, not to mention a bit of work! Nobody wants to get up in the night and go touch their baby and potentially wake them up! That's why I always suggest the above changes first! If your not finding success with those tweaks, then Wake To Sleep is a really great way to solve your problem! maybe I'm a sleep nerd, but I think it's pretty cool 🤓

P.S. If you are struggling with an issue like this, it would be a good idea to check in with a Sleep Coach 😉 There are likely some other scheduling/foundational issues involved that are contributing to this! Book a free call with a sleep expert today!❤️

P.P.S I would recommend that you only use WTS with babies over 4 months old, and out of the newborn phase!

-Jane Anderson


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