As a parent, having a bedtime routine is so important to set your child up for a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, sometimes babies may experience false starts when trying to get into a regular sleeping pattern – confusing for parents who are just trying to understand what’s going on in the first place! If you’ve found yourself wondering if your baby is falling into this pattern of inconsistent or interrupted sleep habits, then this post is for you. Read ahead as we dive deeper into understanding why these “false starts” occur and more importantly – what can be done to help get your child back on track with those restful nights.


What is a false start?

A false start to sleep typically occurs within 30 minutes of laying down to rest. A baby will seemingly fall asleep without a problem, only to wake up a short time after and often struggle to fall back to sleep.

It’s important to distinguish between a false start to sleep and a nighttime wake up. As mentioned above, a false start to sleep occurs within 20-30 minutes of falling asleep, whereas the nighttime wake up occurs after baby has been sleeping for more than 30 minutes.


Reasons why your baby may be having false starts.

1) Discomfort of some kind: If your baby is experiencing gas, reflux, teething, or maybe just a bit too warm or cool, this can cause baby to wake up quickly after they first manage to settle down.

2) Lack of sleep pressure: One of the necessary components to falling asleep is sleep pressure. Sleep pressure is an important concept to understand when it comes to a baby’s patterns. Sleep pressure increases when baby spends time awake and decreases as they sleep, allowing them to maintain a healthy balance. As the amount of time spent awake accumulates, so does the amount of sleep pressure. When there is enough sleep pressure, baby will fall asleep with no issue. However, if there is too much sleep pressure or not enough…they will likely struggle.

3) Being overtired: Overtiredness is another reason for false starts. You would think that if a baby was really tired, they should be able to fall asleep and stay asleep but if you’ve been a parent long enough, you may have discovered that the opposite effect happens with kids. Overtiredness causes cortisol secretion at the time that you want to have melatonin released. Cortisol can give babies a “second wind” and make it difficult to go to sleep.


How to overcome false starts.

1) Go down a mental checklist to see if there may be something bothering your baby. Start by looking at their diet that may be causing more gas. . Check their mouth. Do you feel or see any teeth starting to erupt through the gumline? Lastly, check the temperature of their room. The ideal temperature for sleep is between 65-71 degrees but depending on the time of year, this may not be possible. I have a free dressing guide to show you how many layers of clothing to dress your baby in for different temperatures. (For a free dressing guide and a list of gas-producing foods, head over to my freebie page and download yours now!) As always, speak to your pediatrician if there are additional medical concerns, such as colic or reflux, with your baby.

2) Make sure you are following appropriate wake windows for your baby based on their age. (Click here for a free guide on age-appropriate wake windows for ages newborns to 3 years old.)


How to determine if your baby is overtired or under-tired (not enough sleep pressure).

As you can see from the above descriptions of overtiredness and not having enough sleep pressure, it may be difficult to determine which one your child may be experiencing. So, where do you start?

I always recommend assuming that your child is overtired, to begin with, and start with moving the bedtime up 20-30 minutes. Bring them to bed earlier for at least 3-5 days to see if their false starts improve. If after the 5 days, you see no improvement, then push their bedtime back by 20-30 minutes.



It can be frustrating to not know why your child is struggling with sleep, Finding the root issue in your child’s false starts could potentially be the key to a smooth transition at night. If you have gone through all your options and nothing has worked out yet, do not hesitate to reach out. With a bit of detective work, you could soon find the perfect balance of restful sleep for both you and your child!