Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Infants Awaken and Return to Sleep by Themselves
August 21, 2023

Found in age groups

Related Parents' Reports

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

5th Edition: 
A Step-by-Step Program for a Good Night's Sleep

Buy now

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

5th Edition: 
Chapter 1 (only 16 pages!) outlines everything you need to know about your child's sleep.

Buy now


A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial. I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length. This is a reference book. Read only the topic of interest to you.

Blog 145Infants Awaken and Return to Sleep by Themselves

When children frequently awake during the night and return to sleep, either with or without their parent’s assistance, unhealthy night sleep fragmentation occurs. The opposite, lengthy bouts of unbroken night sleep or sleep consolidation, is discussed in Blog Posts 11 and 125. Videos show that all young infants normally awaken at night, and they are perfectly able to return to sleep by themselves. In other words, they are capable of self-soothing during the night and can return to sleep again, unassisted.

How can parents encourage this self-soothing behavior at night so their child has more consolidated sleep, and both parents can get more sleep?

A 2022 study had mothers, fathers, and infants wear sleep monitors for 1 week when the infants were 6, 15, and 24 weeks old. During the night, when the objective recordings showed that both the mother and father were asleep, sometimes, an infant would awaken and then return to sleep without any parental involvement (‘infant-only wake bouts’). More of this infant behavior, self-soothing back to sleep or ‘infant-only wake bouts’, was associated with 3 parenting practices:

  • 1. Not typically feeding infants to sleep during night wakings.
  • 2. Putting infants to bed while drowsy but still awake (at 24 weeks of age).
  • 3. Using low-stimulus rather than high-stimulus soothing strategies during night wakings.
    • A. Low-stimulus soothing strategies
      • Give pacifier
      • Wait to see if infant falls asleep alone.
      • Sing to infant
      • Rub/pat infant, but do not pick up
      • Let infant cry and fall asleep alone
      • Comfort infant verbally, but do not pick up
    • B. High-stimulus soothing strategies
      • Feed infant back to sleep
      • Hold/rock until infant falls asleep
      • Feed infant and put-down infant while still awake
      • Pick-up and put-down infant while still awake
      • Bring infant to bed
      • Play until infant is ready to fall back asleep
      • Watch television until infant falls asleep

How about the bedtime? Perhaps parents who practiced the 3 strategies above put their child to bed early? Blog Posts 7 and 123 review the importance of early bedtimes.

The authors did not discuss the bedtime in their paper, but I asked the lead author, Professor Elizabeth Adams, to reanalyze the data to see if the bedtime was a significant variable. Her response was, “When infants were 15 weeks old, earlier nighttime sleep onset was associated with greater infant-only wake bouts (indicative of more frequent self-soothing).” So early bedtimes are associated with the child’s unassisted return to sleep at night after a normal awakening!

Blog Posts 109, 129 and 130 describe 5 additional parent-related variables associated with better child’s sleep. However, in each paper, the power of an early bedtime was not mentioned in the paper but an early bedtime was only recognized as a significant variable after the data were reanalyzed.

Add comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related blogs

These blogs are related or mentioned in this blog.
Blog 7
  | December 28, 2020

Early Bedtimes

An early bedtime may prevent sleep problems from developing in the first place. A slightly earlier bedtime alone might completely or partially solve a sleep problem.
Read full post
Blog 11
  | January 25, 2021

Sleep Consolidation

To repeat, after your child has fallen asleep at night, your child, while asleep, or after waking, may make non-distress sounds. What are non-distress sounds and why do they occur? I am talking about harmless sounds that all babies make, that do not indicate distress and, if you feel comfortable, can usually be safely ignored.
Read full post
Blog 109
  | December 12, 2022

Unappreciated Power of an Early Bedtime

Published studies have shown that the more often that a bedtime routine is practiced, the longer the child sleeps at night.
Read full post
Blog 123
  | March 20, 2023

Bedtime: A Review

To better understand the importance of sleep timing (when your child falls asleep), appreciate the fact that there is a genetically controlled and automatic circadian sleep rhythm (Blog Post 112). This 24-hour rhythm of brain output is for sleep and wakefulness; it develops in infancy, and changes as the child develops.  Parents cannot change this rhythm.
Read full post
Blog 125
  | April 3, 2023

Sleep Consolidation (#2)

All babies wake up for feedings at night. All babies cycle between deep sleep and light sleep during the night. All babies make non-distress vocalizations at night. Some babies, at night, have more difficulty returning to deep sleep by themselves after a normal partial awakening occurring during a light sleep phase.
Read full post
Blog 129
  | May 1, 2023
 | No Comments

Unappreciated Power of Early Bedtimes (#2)

The 4 sleep variables that they studied individually were: Bedtime 1. Night time sleep hours 2. Night awakening frequency (how often the child awakens at night) 3. Sleep onset latency (how long it takes to fall asleep) 4. Sleep onset latency (how long it takes to fall asleep)
Read full post

Stay updated with new blog posts

Get access to free lullabies when signing up!
Get notified when new blogs are posted
Notify me
About Marc
The first month
The second month
Months 3-4
Months 4-12
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram