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4 month old upset (nightmares? ) between sleep cycles

(24 Posts)
SkiptonLass2 Sat 30-Jan-16 22:35:25

Me again, sorry, I'm haunting this board just now blush

Ds is going through the four month sleep changes. I'm trying to get him through gently by having a rough routine and getting more naps in the day.

We've been looking at awake time and going for a nap 60-90 mins after wake up. He's taking well to more naps (I feel a bit bad I didn't do this before, poor little guy was clearly needing more kip!)

Anyway, he's started getting very upset I presume between cycles. He's not much of a crier but he's grimacing then shrieking right out of being asleep. I'm not entirely sure he's awake during these episodes and he's inconsolable and non responsive.
Could these be night terrors? he just conks right back out after and sleeps again.

It's quite upsetting to watch. Any advice?

FATEdestiny Sat 30-Jan-16 22:54:31

There's debate and disagreement in the scientific world if babies dream and at what point this starts. So I don't know if your DS is dreaming or not, there are other plausible reasons for this kind of behaviour.

It doesn't so much matter why, as long as the end-result works. If he's just making some noises, funny faces and wriggling and then going back to sleep - then I would just leave him be. It doesn't matter.

Think what you do between one sleep cycle and the next:
Slightly rouse, still tired, think "augh! I'm still tired, I don't wanna wake up" (baby shrieks because he cant verbalise), grimace because you don't want to wake up, grimace and think "Augh!" again when you notice your arm isn't comfy so you are going to have to move, shuffle around in bed, toss and turn a few times, get annoyed with yourself for not being asleep, shuffle again and then get comfy and go back to sleep.

That ^ is a typical adult between unsettled sleep cycles. Baby doesn't have the thought process to follow the logic, but they are experiencing much the same.

As long as he's getting back to sleep, I wouldn't worry about why.

SkiptonLass2 Sat 30-Jan-16 23:13:00

Hmmm.. Grimacing and grumbling I can cope with ( he does that sometimes- I sit it out until he either gets back to sleep or really wakes and cries) but this is full on defcon one stuff. He is about as distressed as he has ever been - it's horrible to watch sad

Your advice on wake times was spot on by the way. We've been getting along well with it and having some great naps smile

FATEdestiny Sat 30-Jan-16 23:28:31

this is full on defcon one stuff

Is he being left alone for this? Stirs awake, shrieks but doesn't wake up then calms back down and carries on sleeping - all while left alone?

Or are you going to him - picking him up or whatever and he is shrieking while you are there with him?

Long term, if he can go one sleep cycle into the next without your involvement that would be best. So if this all happens on his own, I wouldn't worry at all, just let him re-settle himself and leave him alone. He might screech, but if he quickly goes back to sleep them there is nothing wrong.

If this is happening while you are trying to sooth him from one sleep cycle into the next, then it might be a sign that you are being to distracting in what you're doing and he's getting frustrated.

FATEdestiny Sat 30-Jan-16 23:29:55

oh, and glad to hear he's napping better in the daytime smile

SkiptonLass2 Sun 31-Jan-16 07:33:21

We have a video monitor - if he's grizzly and gripping I just watch from afar but when it tips into 'really upset' I go up and comfort him.

I'll try leaving it a bit longer - it's just that he gets so upset, way past the level I'm ok to leave it. He hasn't fallen back to sleep by himself - only if I'm there.

FATEdestiny Sun 31-Jan-16 08:33:28

If you usually going to him and soothing him back to sleep, I'd carry on doing that for now - for no better reason than it is currently working and he's going back to sleep.

I just meant that if you weren't and he was going back to sleep alone, then I wouldn't worry

My daughter sometimes lets out a really long, loud howl (I cant think of another way to describe it) between disturbed sleep cycles. It sounds like a cat screech warning another cat, a very long, rumbling single sound. This can be quite alarming, if it wasn't that I had learnt it was just a thing she does when going back to sleep.

It is probably just your son expressing his distaste at being woken and still being tired.

SkiptonLass2 Sun 31-Jan-16 09:05:43

Thanks fate! I feel like I should be paying you a retainer!

Appreciate the advice smile

SkiptonLass2 Fri 05-Feb-16 18:01:54


He is in the cot! Asleep! Huzzah!

Major win, even if he wakes up. He has, for the first time, been put in awake and gone to sleep in the cot.

After a few truly dreadful nights which have left me at the end of my tether I put white noise on, laid down and fed him in bed, then picked him up and put him in the cot... firm hand on tummy, no eye contact, held a dummy in. No shhh or pat.

He will not keep the dummy in but it seemed to head off the crying. He was asleep in ten minutes.

FATE, thank you so much for all your great advice. Hopefully we can build on this and get him in the cot for naps too eventually.

rrra Fri 05-Feb-16 19:41:36

Can I jump on this? My DS does this cry too, only if left it just escalates. But his eyes are shut and appears still asleep. If he wakes fully because I talk to him or attempt to change his nappy, he'll open his eyes and stop crying.

When crying with eyes shut often he'll be arching away from me if I try to rock him. I either have to feed back to sleep or jiggle quite enthusiastically.

He is waking frequently at night. Last night had one two hour stretch, after which he woke every hour. He is 22 weeks and I'm exhausted. This started after he was really poorly with bronchiolitis in HDU tube fed at 12 weeks.

Frenchfancies Fri 05-Feb-16 20:54:10

My ds is 20wks... Wakes up every 1-2hrs a night crying but with eyes closed and I breastfeed him back to sleep but he can get himself in a right pickle if I don't react quick enough. Been going on for about 6wks now. It's exhausting! He is such a light sleeper, maybe naps 3 x a day for between 20mins-45mins. I can't believe he doesn't need more sleep, or at least one longer stint at night!? Zzzzzzzzzzzzz

Frenchfancies Fri 05-Feb-16 20:56:41

"Your advice on wake times was spot on by the way. We've been getting along well with it and having some great naps"

@SkiptonLass2 what were these wake times please grin

SkiptonLass2 Fri 05-Feb-16 21:17:35

Fate gave me great advice on looking not so much at the time they're asleep but the length of time they're awake. So after 60-90 mins awake, assume they need a nap.

So from about 70 mins after he's woken I watch him for any sleepy signs and as soon as I see one its upstairs for a nap. Previously he'd been staying up for hours. Sometimes all day, fighting sleep.

I spent a few days just taking him to bed, cuddle and feed to sleep, just so that he slept, without the cot battles. It seemed to work quite well. I'd say 80-90% of the time he slept. If he didn't, no fuss, try again in half an hour.

Fate also recommended trying to get him back to sleep rather than letting him wake and I've been doing that every time he wakes. Again, I've been doing it the easiest way (boob in mouth) with the assumption that just getting the nap extended is priority one. It has definitely reduced the 'not awake wakings.'

He's still obviously getting to grips with the changes in sleep and I don't expect he's going to sleep through. For one thing his appetite has increased massively which I'm relieved about as he's a little scrap of a thing and I think he'd been losing weight. The last few days I've also been concentrating on feeding him as often as I can. It's basically been boob and nap week!

I've had some great advice on here. Thanks!

FATEdestiny Fri 05-Feb-16 21:24:15

Yeah! Fanfair indeed SkiptonLass. grin

put him in the cot... firm hand on tummy, no eye contact, held a dummy in. No shhh or pat

That's exactly what I used to do with DD at sleep time. Once asleep, he doesn't need dummy so it will naturally fall out. It's just for getting to sleep so wont be needed again unless he wakes up.

There'll be ups and downs, there always are. But as long as you are consistent and patient you'll get there.

rrra - My DC2 had a week in hospital with bronchiolitis, you have my sympathies. Back arching is a classic over-tired sign. It means "Augh!, I'm really, really tired and I want to go back to sleep right now! Get off me and get me back to sleep!".

Problem is, if baby doesn't know how to get back to sleep without you, it's a vicious cycle. Sounds like he's not getting enough sleep at all - what's his daytime naps like?


Don't wait for tired sins during the day, these actually indicate an over-tired baby who needed to be asleep at least half an hour ago. The key is to anticipate tired signs.

30-45 minute daytime naps are perfectly usual and normal at this age (until the next time sleep matures at between 5-7 months when you can start teaching baby to link sleep-cycles). The key is to make then frequent. I would limit awake time to 60-80 minutes. If it takes you a long time to get baby back to sleep then factor this into awake time. So if getting to sleep takes 30 minutes then limit awake time to 30-50 minutes and then be getting baby back to sleep.

At 20 weeks I would be using a bouncy chair and dummy for daytime naps. Easy to get baby to sleep and easy to teach baby to go back to sleep and link sleep cycles to extend naps.

FATEdestiny Fri 05-Feb-16 21:26:59

Crossed post with OP - didn't mean to repeat what you'd said smile

rrra Fri 05-Feb-16 21:41:29

He doesn't know how to get to sleep himself. He relies on feeding or rocking, either in my arms or in pushchair. I've been experimenting tonight sitting in bed next to him in cot letting him fall asleep himself. It has been 1h 15m so far and he has almost gone a couple of times but jerks back awake.

He had 3-4 naps a day. Often only 30 mins but occasionally I'll get a longer one 1.5-2h if he goes in pushchair and I push when he stirs. But frequent night wakings must be taking their toll.

He also seems to want to go to sleep from 7 but wakes often during that part of the night, only now doesn't want to be held, be in bouncy chair or be put down.

FATEdestiny Fri 05-Feb-16 22:00:13

Babies don't know how to get themselves to sleep rrra, they physically (and emotionally) aren't capable yet. A parent has to help a baby go to sleep because they cant do it alone. The key is to using ways to get baby to sleep that are sustainable long term and have in mind a way you will wean off using them so that baby can sleep independently (in time).

Feeding to sleep and rocking to sleep are perfectly fine things to do, but these can be hard to wean off doing when teaching independent sleeping. Not a problem for those happy to do so long-term though.

Babies are naturally soothed by sucking and movement - which is why feeding and rocking is working for you. A dummy allows for the natural sucking self-soothing but in a more independent way. Things like bouncy chair or prams allow for movement to sleep but without being held.

rrra Sat 06-Feb-16 03:43:14

Thanks fate. How do I find a way which doesn't require intervention every hour at night? Despite eventually settling with a dummy (unheard of) and some bottom pats, it has been business as usual every 60-90 mins so far.

I'm totally exhausted and run down after 2.5 months of this. Starting to dream about hurting myself just to get away.

Frenchfancies Sat 06-Feb-16 09:59:34

With you on that one rrra confusedzzzzzzz

Frenchfancies Sat 06-Feb-16 10:04:01

Thanks Skipton. Basically I'm too soft on him, and knackered but I'm gonna get focused on it this week.

FATEdestiny Sat 06-Feb-16 10:58:49

How do I find a way which doesn't require intervention every hour at night

Unsettled sleep can be because of either general over-tiredness or general hunger. Not in that exact moment, in the cumulative effect I mean - so not getting enough calories over 24 hours (if hunger) or not getting enough sleep consistently over the last few days.

Good sleep promotes better sleep. So the more sleep a baby gets, the less fretful that sleep is and the deeper it will be - which means less likely to wake in sleep cycles through the night, more likely to have chunks of sleep. Compared to an over-tired baby, who is harder to get to sleep and finds it very difficult to stay asleep between sleep cycles.

There are other factors as well. It is believed that the reason for humans sleeping in sleep cycles is because when asleep, we need brief periodic "environment checks". Left over from hunter/gatherer days, this is a check that all is safe and as it was when last conscious, when going to sleep. In adults this may be just turning over in bed, shuffling and going back to sleep.

In children, the "environment check" can work as it was evolutionary meant to. Child wakes briefly and is barely conscious (could go back to sleep) but notes that he now feels less safe and secure than went going to sleep. So rather than a shuffle and back to sleep, he will wake fully. This may be a baby who was in your arms being rocked or breastfed when going to sleep.

Starting to dream about hurting myself just to get away

Oh rrra, can your partner help? flowers

Is there anyone else who could give you a break in the daytime? A friend or relative? If you ask for help, you will be surprised how many people come sprinting to offer anything they can do.

It might mean then having a bottle of formula (every now and again for your sanity is not a problem) and a dummy and taking baby on a long walk for a few hours.

Can you co-sleep for daytime naps?

rrra Sat 06-Feb-16 16:34:08

My partner helps by doing things with our older child. But I desperately need a break from the baby, as I'm not even getting one at night.

Tried to cosleep for nap earlier as my H took DD out. But only managed to dose for about 20 mins as just couldn't shut off. DS surprised me by sleeping 1.5 hours though.

I have no problem with the giving of formula. In fact I want to start switching to some daytime bottles anyway.

I just can't carry on like this. I just feel so close to the edge.

SkiptonLass2 Sat 06-Feb-16 16:45:11

Sleep deprivation is brutal. I'll not lie, I've had some pretty dark thoughts as well.
Maybe put some earplugs in and tell your partner that you need 5-6 hours of unbroken sleep tonight. Get him to give a bottle and if he has to carry the baby around half the night then so be it.

Ive really found that concentration on daytime naps and getting as much milk into him as possible has helped. It took a few days but he was happier, more relaxed etc. And once he was sleeping more in the day, I found he went down better at night.
It's really tough. Be kind to yourself

FATEdestiny Sat 06-Feb-16 17:18:31

You cant carry on like that rrra, get some ready made formula cartons. Give yourself the night off. It wont be the end of the world and you can still carry on breastfeeding easily, if you want to.

I remember DC1 being about 10 months old, not sleeping. I was 5 months pregnant with DC2 and I was back from maternity leave, full time teaching. I recall driving to work one day and wishing I could be in a car accident. Just so I could go to hospital and have a break for a few days.

I can remember clearly feeling just like you are. It's awful. flowers

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