November 17, 2023

Is your baby awake for hours overnight? It could be a split night

Is your baby awake for hours overnight? It could be a split night

What exactly is a split night? In most cases you will see that your little one wakes up and is awake for an extended period of time overnight.... this can last for hours!

Most of the time, they would be completely content, chilling out, chatting away or even practising new skills.

There are two major contributing factors to a split night but the most common cause:


In short, there is not enough sleep pressure! Your baby has two biorhythms that work in conjunction with one another - their homeostatic sleep drive and their circadian rhythm. When these two are not aligned, we may see a split night.

Times where you may see this happening are for example below - let's use a 7 month old on two naps. In most cases these two naps are split between a short / long or medium / medium style routine of approximately 2.5hrs of total day sleep. This child is having two naps totalling 4hrs of day sleep plus their intended 11-12hrs overnight.

In this situation you may see a split night as baby is having too much day sleep, not enough awake time to compensate therefore waking overnight to create the sleep pressure to consolidate that sleep. 


Another period of potential split nights is during times of development

During these periods of development, you may notice your little one is awake and practising their new found skills overnight. In these situations, there is no need to act so let them do what they need to do.

There also are other situations where your baby may be awake for an extended period overnight - these are not true split nights but can look very similar.


In some cases, especially with a consistent reduction of sleep (in situations such nap transitions happening earlier than baby was ready for), a baby may wake overnight and find it very difficult to resettle back to sleep.

This could be due to the physiological response to being tired, your body starts to release more cortisol and adrenaline to keep you awake. This can make it difficult to fall asleep, and stay asleep.

In these situations, your baby would not be calm in their sleep environment but most likely crying and needing additional support.


Purely from experience of working with hundreds of clients , I have come across babies that have had split nights after their one and only overnight feed. 

Once all variables were eliminate as the potential cause (routine specifically), the feed was weaned and the split night disappeared. 

Although more common with toddlers, I have had clients as young as 10 months of age with split nights following their feeds. 


Similar to above and speaking purely from experience, some toddlers can be very stimulated by how their caregivers respond to their overnight waking. 

Whilst it is not uncommon for a toddler to respond better to a more responsive settling technique (through voice and proximity) some can be extremely stimulated from certain responses such as rocking, patting or even co sleeping.

If your baby's routine seem to be in line with our recommendations with sleep is still messy, we can help!

  • For small tweaks to routine, have a look at our Quick Chat - 15min  option
  • For parents struggling with several things such as catnapping, frequent night waking, early morning rising or things that simply no longer work, have a look at our Phone + One Week Support option.
  • Not sure what is right for you? Get on the phone to one of our experienced consultants with our FREE 15min Discovery Call