Split Nights - Is Your Baby Having Middle Of The Night Parties?

gentle sleep coach holistic sleep coach responsive sleep sleep consultant split nights Dec 07, 2023
Split nights - is your baby having middle of the night parties?

Is your baby having middle of the night parties?

I know how tough this can be. Being up for long periods during the night is never easy. The one positive to split nights is that your baby is generally happy - better than crying and upset, right? 

Alright, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s dive into what a split night is, why it’s happening and what you can do to fix them! 

What is a split night? 

The best way to describe this is a party in the middle of the night. Your baby will be up for 1-2+ hours in the middle of the night, happy as can be and it will feel like they are absolutely ready to start the day.

Note: Your baby generally won’t be upset during a split night, so if your baby is crying, dysregulated and/or taking a long time to resettle, there is likely something else going on – too much sleep pressure, a genuine need, discomfort or a settling difficulty for example.

Why is this happening?

More often than not, a split night is the result of a misalignment between your baby’s circadian rhythm and sleep pressure.

We want these two things to be working together to support night sleep and if they aren’t, split nights can show up. When we see this misalignment, we want to look at the days.

We often see split nights if:

  • Your baby’s bedtime is too early
  • Your baby has too much day sleep

Early bedtimes: 

Early bedtimes can be a really helpful strategy when naps have been tricky or if you are moving through a nap transition, however, we do need to keep in mind that there is only so much sleep a baby can take in a 24 hour period. P.S. 10 hours of sleep overnight is much more common than 12!

Let's say that bedtime has come forward to 5:30pm. By the time we get to 3:30am, your baby has had 10 hours of sleep and they may be well and truly done for the night, especially when you consider naps. This is why you might find the way you generally settle your baby back to sleep simply isn't working. They’re ready to play and essentially need a wake window to build up some sleep pressure before settling to sleep again. 

Too much daytime sleep: 

Again, there is only so much sleep your baby can achieve over a 24 hour period and we want to make sure we have a good balance between day and night sleep.

Let's say you have an 8 month old that only needs 13 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period (which is smack bang in the middle of the average recommendation).

If they are taking 3.5 hours of naps, and have a 6pm bedtime, by the time we get to 3/3:30am rolls around, your baby has taken all the sleep they need, so when their sleep cycle ends, there is genuinely no drive for them to get back to sleep and a split night may appear.


Split nights can be quite common when your baby is learning a new skill or going through a developmental milestone. The brain makes so many connections and pathways when baby is sleeping and it's really normal for baby to wake up and want to practice their new tricks!

As frustrating as this can be, we do need to ride this one out and it will often resolve on its own within a week or so. Offer baby lots of opportunity for free play in the day to practice their skills to minimize the disruptions overnight. When they’re learning a new motor skill such as rolling or standing, you might even provide them some time to practice in their cot/sleep space during the day so it’s familiar to them at night. 

How to fix them? 

If you are experiencing split nights and they have been going on for a week or more, consider the following things:

  • Does your baby need a reduction in day sleep?
  • Do you need to increase awake time during the day or before bedtime?
  • Do you need to adjust the day to facilitate a later bedtime?

Once those things are adjusted, if you don’t see any change, you may need to ‘squish’ the nights together. Shift bedtime later by 15 minutes every night and at the same time, start to wake your baby 15 minutes earlier as well. Once the nights have consolidated, you can gradually start to shift this back out to suit.

Some quick tips: 

Don’t catch up in the day

I know this one can seem really confusing, if your baby has been awake for a big chunk in the middle of the night, a nice sleep in or an extra long nap may be tempting. Remember, the root cause is likely too much day sleep so this will lead to a cycle of split nights. We actually need to ADD sleep pressure back into the days rather than taking it away. Try to avoid sleep-ins or longer naps where possible. 

Keep your calm

I know it can be really difficult but try to keep it chill when your baby is awake during the split night. You can’t force your baby back to sleep, and trying will drive you nuts. If your baby is happy, it's totally fine to give them space. Let them babble to themselves, roll around the space or whatever they feel like doing at the time (as long as they’re safe, of course). Remember, they likely need to build up some sleep pressure before they’ll settle back to sleep. Be there to support them when they need. You will want to keep it calm and dim. We want to keep conditions as night to help support the body clock. Avoid turning on the TV or other screens if at all possible. 

I hope this helps! 

All the best, Claire 



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