top of page

False starts at bed time: What causes them?

You know that feeling, you've just put your baby down for bed time but your heart sinks as you know they will be back awake in 30 minutes. So what is a false start at bed time, and what are the causes? And most importantly, what can you do about them?


A false start is usually when your baby falls asleep initially but wakes up again around 30-45 minutes (roughly a sleep cycle) and can't settle back to sleep. Sometimes it can be a shorter or longer period of time, but generally the average is around the 30 minute mark. False starts can be a regular occurrence or a one off. If they're a regular occurrence it can become disheartening but working out what causes them can help you make some changes to reduce them.


Your baby might need more wind down time before bed time. It's great to have a calming routine which helps promote sleepiness and relaxation. Avoiding screens a minimum of an hour before bed time is recommended as blue light and stimulation can affect their ability to either fall asleep or stay asleep.

What can you do?

Keeping bed time in a dimly lit, quiet room with no external stimulation is ideal. Warm baths can help relaxation, as can baby massage and bonding together reading or looking at books.


You could actually be putting them down to bed too early. If this is the case, they are treating this first portion of sleep as a nap. Sleep pressure needs to build up in order for babies and us, to stay asleep for longer durations through the night.

What can you do?

Have a review of their current day time nap schedule and ensure their last nap is ending enough time before bed time that they have had a chance to build the appropriate amount of sleep pressure to help them stay asleep


Sometimes a false start happens if your baby is over tired, this is because if they are extremely tired (I don't mean just slightly grouchy, but very over tired and have a huge sleep deficit for that day) their bodies produce cortisol to help them cope. This cortisol can often be disruptive and cause them to wake within a fairly short period of falling asleep.

Usually true over tiredness is not a regular occurrence and is due to a day where sleep has been very disrupted and its caused a build up of sleep debt.

What can you do?

Ensure your baby is having sufficient day time sleep for their age, and if they wake very early extend their morning nap to help them gain more sleep. Bringing bed time forward can also be a huge help on these days.


How your child settles to sleep can have an impact on how they stay asleep and potentially their wakes during the night. For example, if a baby falls asleep being cuddled or rocked to sleep, when they rouse in the night they may find themselves confused as to why they're no longer being held, and therefore unable to fall back asleep. You may find dummies can have a similar affect if the dummy has fallen out and your baby is unable to locate it themselves.

What can you do?

Not all babies who are rocked or held to sleep will experience that, and I wouldn't want to tell anyone to stop what is working for them, but, if you are finding this is causing frequent night wakings, it would be worth exploring ways of helping your baby fall asleep independently.


Working out your baby or child's sleep needs can be daunting and it can also cause worry that you may disrupt them or make their sleep more unbalanced that it currently is.

This is where working with a professional can help you look at your little one's current schedule, the issues you're facing and where they are in their development and whats going on in their home life and help you to build a schedule that works for your individual.


If you would like more help with your child's sleep I can help create a tailor made plan for your family based on your individual needs. Explore my packages for something that suit you

20 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page