Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Second Wind/Witching Hour (#2 of 2)
January 15, 2024

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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

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

Blog Posts 15, based on the United States of America Department of the Army Field Manual: Holistic Healing and Fitness, describe what really matters for your child’s sleep. If sleep is an important enough topic for national defense than surely sleep should be considered a serious topic for parenting!

Blog 172Second Wind/Witching Hour (#2 of 2)

How to figure out how to get a baby to sleep: It’s time to learn about the Witching Hour

The witching hour may be thought of as a second wind (Blog Post 171) or a pre-sleep arousal state. Dr. Alice Gregory studied pre-sleep arousals in 8- to 10-year-olds and showed that the pre-sleep arousal was both physical (rapidly beating heart) and cognitive (unable to stop thinking and worrying about falling asleep). In her study, cognitive arousal was associated with sleep disturbances. Also, Dr. Julio Fernandez- Mendoza studied children aged 5–12 years and showed that children with short sleep durations exhibited hyperarousal before sleep. So, not sleeping well may make your child become ‘wired’ before bedtimes.

After 3–4 months of age, if your baby is often fussy during the day, she is most likely short on sleep. But many children suffering from mild insufficient sleep appear to be fine during most of the day. But as the sleep tank begins to go dry near the end of the day (4:00 to 5:00 p.m. for children under the age of 3 years, and 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. for children 3 years and older), the ‘witching hour’ appears. They may show some of the following symptoms.

Your child may be irritable, easily upset, clinging, whining, fussy, peevish, or, in the words of one mother, “clawing at my breast.” She might have a short fuse, be rough around the edges, seem easily frustrated, or be less able than usual to entertain herself. She might be oppositional, defiant, uncooperative, or angry; she might throw tantrums, be aggressive, display a negative mood, be inattentive or distractible, exhibit learning difficulties, show decreased sociability and physical activity, and be generally depressed or anxious.

Most children demonstrate only a few of these symptoms at one time. But any of them, coming during the witching hour, can be a signal of sleep problems that parents should address.


  1. After a difficult time in our home with one of our teens our 9 year daughter began to have sleep issue. She would wake sometime between 3-5. Lay awake for an hr before falling asleep. She puts off bedtime sometimes unable to fall asleep. She is now sleeping on a mattress in my and my husbands room and wants one of us in the room when she goes to sleep. This is obviously terrible for so many reasons. When she lacks sleep her behavior is just terrible! I’m tired too! Do you have any advice? Now our 6 year old wants bedtime accommodations like sister.😭

    1. Stress in the family (“a difficult time in our home with one of our teens”) that causes children to not sleep well should be addressed by a professional such as a child psychologist, social worker, pediatrician, and so forth because your specific family circumstances require a very individualistic plan. Temporarily, I suggest that you take the path that allows your younger children to get the most comfort and sleep they can to help them get the sleep that they need without worry about long-term sleep habits. I hope this helps a little.

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