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Why Is My Preschooler Waking At Night?

Baby Sleep

Why is my preschooler waking at night?

Has your preschooler suddenly started waking at night? You aren’t alone. Many children who have been sleeping well can start to experience night wakings without warning. Here’s what might be happening and how you should address it.

Ear Infections

Any encounter with illness can lead to night wakings and some regression in sleep, but ear infections can be a particularly difficult condition to detect. While common symptoms of ear infections include fever and actual ear pain, fluid build up prior to infection setting in can cause discomfort while lying down.

If your child wakes at night and seems in pain, but doesn’t display any other signs of illness, it’s worth having their ears checked to rule out a potential ear infection.

Too Much Daytime Sleep

Most preschoolers require a nap during the day, but the duration of that nap will vary tremendously based on your child’s individual needs. If your child is napping for a 3 hour period mid day, it might be too much daytime sleep. Consider capping nap length at 2 hours (or even as little as 1 hour for older children) and see if this reduces the frequency and duration of night wakings.

Full disclosure: Some children don’t respond well to being woken from a nap. Be prepared for irritability for a week or so as your child adjusts to less sleep during the day. If reducing the length of your child’s nap doesn’t work with well for their personality or your family’s schedule, you can always opt to move bedtime a little later instead.

Separation Anxiety

Scenarios leading to separation anxiety include, but aren’t limited to: a parent returning to work, or working longer than normal hours; major changes in routines or care giving arrangements; moving to a new home; divorce; or the birth of a sibling.

Try incorporating a little more dedicated one-on-one time with your child during waking hours and try to stick to their routines as much as possible to maintain consistency and predictability in their day. You could also consider giving your child an object of your clothing to provide comfort to them when they wake at night.

Quick Tips

  • Rule out illness like ear infections.
  • Determine if your child’s daytime sleep schedule needs to modified.
  • Keep consistent routines in place.
  • Avoid introducing props, like lying down with your child to help them fall asleep during a night waking.

Doctor Dina Health Advice for Kids - waking at night

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