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Figuring out what's causing children to get up at night can help whānau deal with it.

When their child wakes up regularly during the night, whānau can find themselves struggling with the lack of sleep.

The problem of broken sleep

It can be so difficult to manage a full day of work after a night of broken sleep. Stay-at-home parents often struggle too, not only with their own tiredness, but often with an irritable or grizzly child who – like their parents – is suffering from insufficient sleep.

Pātai atu ki te whānau:

  • What happens when you put them to bed the first time?
  • How are you managing these nightly disturbances?
  • What do you think has caused this wakefulness?


Change might seem minor to adults, but it can be the cause of unsettled or wakeful nights in young children.

Change can take different forms:

  • physical changes – teething or sickness
  • emotional changes – a new sibling, a new partner in mum or dad's life or even a fear of the unknown, like COVID-19
  • intellectual changes – increased awareness and understanding of the world and the kōrero going on around them
  • environmental changes – a new ECE teacher, bed or house or even new people staying in their home.

Pātai atu ki te whānau:

  • Can you think of something that’s changed for them recently, even something small?
  • What have you noticed about their daytime behaviour during this period of unsettled nights?

Figuring out what’s causing this nightly waking can be hard, especially if your child isn't aware of the cause themselves. Dealing with an upset child at 2am is also hard, especially when they start screaming as soon as you leave their side or they simply follow along behind you.

Putting together a plan is often worthwhile, especially when all members of the whānau support it.

Pātai atu ki te whānau:

  • How have you been responding to them when they wake?
  • Are you happy with how your approach is working?
  • Would you like some help to put a plan together?

How does this relate to Tākai resources?

Baby wall frieze – Whakarongo mai – listen to me

Because you might hear something that alerts you to how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking that could be disturbing my sleep.

Baby wall frieze – Kōrero mai, e aroha ana koe ki ahau – tell me you love me

Because when I feel secure and loved I’m much better able to deal with changes in my life.

Six things children need – Te ārahi me te māramatanga – guidance and understanding

It works best when kids have clear and simple rules about bedtime that they understand.

Helpful resources for whānau