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My toddler keeps starting the day at 3am

18 replies

MayMi · 17/09/2023 21:10

Someone please help.

My 1year 11m old DD has started this habit of waking up at insane hours in the night then refusing to fall back asleep again until around midday. We have tried everything we can think of and there is literally nothing that will make her go back to sleep - she'll only sleep when she has completely exhausted herself. The worst one so far has been awake 2:30am-12:30pm.

This has been going on for at least 4 months now. She'll do this 1-2 times a week and it's an absolute killer, it completely ruins the rest of the day. There was a wonderful break of 2 weeks where she didn't do it at all, we thought it was over. But since Wednesday of last week, she's been doing this every night and we're at our wits end.

Please can someone give advice on what we can do. So as not to drip feed, here's some more info:

Her exercise/activities/naps in the day seem to have no bearing on these night wakings so it's not clear what's causing it. She's not too hot or cold it seems. It's completely unpredictable whether she'll do it or not.

When she wakes in the night, she's always in a good mood and just wants to play. Even if she stays in the room (we're co-sleeping in a one-bed flat; not able to change this right now and they don't sell toddler cots in the country where we live), and there aren't any toys, she'll just invent entertainment for herself e.g. rubbing her limbs against the walls, rolling around, playing with her nose or mouth etc. She can do this for hours even though this would never entertain her for even a fraction in the day.

We've tried:
Patting, calm white music, humming songs, gently placing her back into her part of the bed, keeping the light off. We'll change her nappy if she needs it and give her a drink of water, then take her back to bed. Sometimes I get annoyed and be more firm with her but to no effect.

If hours have gone by and there's no improvement (usually isn't any and me and DH can't sleep anymore anyway) then DH might put her in the car and take her for a drive, or we'll stay home and allow her to play with her toys in the living room with the lights dim, and at some point give her a savoury snack or breakfast.

When she finally falls asleep, it's usually mid-morning or midday, in the car or pram. That's her usual place for falling asleep for naps as well as she won't start her nap at home, but she will allow me to move her from the car/pram to the bed each time so at least we can do that. This nap situation is the same even if she sleeps well at night.

She has no signs of SEN or anything like that. She has quite a sweet personality and rarely gets angry - I don't think she's started terrible twos yet.

Thank you for reading.

OP posts:
ginandtonicformeplease · 17/09/2023 21:15

Probably not what you want to hear, but mine just grew out of it. Nothing got her back to sleep or to sleep later. Some days she even refused a nap. She's got better but I've accepted that she'll always be an early bird.

DustyLee123 · 17/09/2023 21:19

Does she go to nursery ?

PurplePetalPip · 17/09/2023 21:24

Oh dear - I thought our 4:30am wake ups were bad! What time does she go to bed? How long does she nap for in the day?

MayMi · 17/09/2023 21:37

@ginandtonicformeplease I'm glad you managed to get through this. How long did it take for your child to grow out of it?

@DustyLee123 no nursery, I'm pregnant SAHM and can't afford it right now either

@PurplePetalPip her naps are 1-2 hours in the day, she'll only start her nap from about 2pm (on any given day), and we don't let her nap past 4pm. She goes to bed 8-9pm, if we try any earlier then she's much more likely to wake in the night

OP posts:
Danaeofathens · 17/09/2023 21:38

Try putting her to bed later consistently for 2-4 weeks. It sounds like her sleep pressure is too low - it can take several weeks for it to build up again. Check out Georgina May’s advice on sleep - it changed our lives!

MayMi · 17/09/2023 21:39

She has a good balance of activities during the day and by the time bedtime comes around, she is genuinely tired

OP posts:
DustyLee123 · 17/09/2023 21:39

I was thinking that nursery might tire her out a bit.

RandomMess · 17/09/2023 21:40


No advice but that is evil.

The first 30 years are the most challenging 😢

PurplePetalPip · 17/09/2023 21:41

Do you think she might need to cut out her nap completely? It's on the early side but not unknown to drop it at that age. Might be a difficult first few weeks though trying to keep her awake until bedtime.

TheWayTheLightFalls · 17/09/2023 21:49

When she finally falls asleep, it's usually mid-morning or midday, in the car or pram. That's her usual place for falling asleep for naps as well as she won't start her nap at home,

This is the crux of it imo - she can't self-settle because she isn't used to falling asleep in her cot. I'd work on this, with the help of a sleep trainer if need be.

MayMi · 17/09/2023 22:58

@Danaeofathens thank you for suggesting Georgina May, haven't heard of her so I'll look her up.
Until recently we made her bedtime later (closer to 9pm) which did seem to help, that's when she didn't wake at night for 2 weeks. We've kept to this bedtime but she's started waking at night again..

OP posts:
MayMi · 17/09/2023 23:00

@PurplePetalPip we have tried out having no nap but she's definitely tired enough to nap starting from 12-2pm. On days without a nap, she's very grumpy from that time onwards and ends up falling asleep accidentally around 5pm from exhaustion. So I don't think she's ready to lose the nap yet unfortunately 😥

OP posts:
ChatBFP · 17/09/2023 23:05

Can you just give her 30 mins? 1-2 hours seems quite a lot to me for my 2 year old

MayMi · 17/09/2023 23:05

@TheWayTheLightFalls tbh this definitely might be relevant as the night wakings started around a similar time as this nap issue as well. So with this in mind I've also tried everything I could think of to make her start the nap in the bed, but she won't, even if she's very tired. This is very draining for me, I try for hours sometimes but to no avail so I give up and take us out somewhere and she falls asleep on the way. Recently I've decided to accept this method and just start it from the beginning as it's too exhausting to continue. At least this way, I can rest a bit more, but I agree it's not ideal

OP posts:
MayMi · 17/09/2023 23:07

@ChatBFP I have tried waking her early from her nap but this makes her grumpy and not want to play or do anything for most of the day afterwards 😓 might try this again though and keep it to 1 hour or so and stick to it for a week + and see

OP posts:
MayMi · 17/09/2023 23:12

@TheWayTheLightFalls she does fall asleep in the bed at bedtime although it can take a while but she doesn't need the car or pram for that at least

OP posts:
MayMi · 17/09/2023 23:15

She used to sleep so well, 8pm-6:30am through the night, didn't take ages to fall asleep either, and used to nap in the bed by just me giving her a cuddle. Then a few months ago she got croup which was very tough on her, and although she's been well for months now, her sleep has changed since then 😓

OP posts:
ginandtonicformeplease · 18/09/2023 12:04

Maybe 3-4 months? I can't remember exactly but it seemed like a lifetime, especially as I was pregnant with DC2 and so couldn't mainline caffeine! She's a lot better now, usually 6am rising.

We got through it by alternating mornings (so you at least get every other day to sleep until a normal time) and just going to bed at 9pm at the latest ourselves. We still go at that time, we've just got used to it Grin

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