False Starts: Why Does My Baby Wake up 5 Minutes After Falling Asleep?

5 Min Read | By Ellen Conning

Last Modified 13 June 2023   First Added 2 June 2023

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

False starts – we’ve all been there! Your little one finally drifts into dreamland, only to wake up a few minutes later. It can be frustrating and leave you wondering why your baby is suddenly wide awake after all your hard work. But fear not; there are strategies to help your baby settle back to sleep.

Soothing sleep environments, calming bedtime routines and managed sleep times all help. So does a focus on your baby’s comfort and feeding schedule. But most important is consistency – a strict routine helps your little one acclimatise to bedtime and become more comfortable if they wake up before the morning.

Armed with the right knowledge and techniques, you can help your baby sleep more peacefully through the night, leaving you both well-rested and ready to take on the world together. Let’s explore some of the common reasons they do wake up quickly and what you can do to help.

Why does my baby wake up 5 minutes after falling asleep?

Every baby is different, but there are usually a few reasons for false starts after you’ve settled your little one for snoozing:

1. Short sleep cycles

Babies have sleep cycles that are shorter than those of adults, meaning they transition between sleep phases more frequently. When they reach the end of a sleep cycle, they may briefly awaken before transitioning back into another cycle. This can result in those dreaded false starts that leave you scratching your head.

Things to try:

A simple option is to keep your baby more awake and active throughout the day. As they grow, they will need less naps to function, so adjusting or dropping naps for older infants can be a good idea.

2. Overtiredness

Overtiredness can also be the culprit behind these frustrating false starts. If your baby hasn’t napped at all during the day, it’s not uncommon for them to wake shortly after bedtime and experience a disrupted night. This can be tricky to overcome, as, according to studies from the Durham Infancy & Sleep Centre, overtiredness is also a survival response which means we are hard-wired to wake up regardless of how much sleep we need.

Things to try:

Try adjusting their bedtime forward an hour or so to help them get to rest before it becomes overwhelming. You can also help soothe them to sleep with physical contact such as cuddling and rocking.

Read more: Sleep training tips

A baby cries on a white blanket, while wearing a white and pink flower print onesie and a headband with a bow.

3. Growing aches and pains

Babies are always growing and there’s no doubt that it comes with its share of issues. Whether they’re feeling growing pains directly or are suffering from an upset tummy or unknown allergies, an uncomfy baby isn’t going to sleep well anytime soon.

Things to try:

Most important is to check in with your doctor regularly. They can help identify any infections, a bad tummy, or anything else. Aside from being proactive with visiting the GP, creating consistency around bedtime routines can help your baby feel comfortable and safe regardless of any niggles they may be experiencing.

4. Hunger

Let’s face it; babies are hungry little things. It’s not their fault – they can only handle 20ml of milk at birth, according to studies on neonatal stomach volume, and it takes a while for them to build up to bigger amounts. And just like adults, it’s difficult to fall asleep when you feel hungry.

Things to try:

Try adjusting feeding times so your baby is full when they’re about to nod off. If you’re already doing this, make sure that they’re getting everything they need from a feed. Sometimes they can nod off before they’re actually full, so keep them awake by softly stroking their head and talking to them.

Baby yawning Baby yawning

5. Separation anxiety

Last but not least is separation anxiety. This is more common for babies than you’d think, with the peak being between 10 and 18 months, according to Stanford Medicine. If your little one doesn’t like being alone, going to sleep can be incredibly stressful. Even if they manage to settle down, waking up 5 minutes later without a parent present can result in difficulties nodding back off.

Things to try:

The easiest solution is to stay with your baby while they sleep! Of course, that’s not always possible and not ideal when you may be trying to stop co-sleeping and move to a cot. The next best thing is to give your little one something to comfort them when you’re not there. Try sleeping with their baby blanket, and then tuck them in with it so they have your comforting scent. A safe, small soft toy or attachment can also help them find comfort but be sure to speak to your health visitor or GP about what’s classed as safe.


In short, false starts in baby sleep can be perplexing and tiring for parents. However, understanding the reasons behind these interruptions and using good, grounded strategies can make a big difference.

Remember to create a soothing sleep environment, establish a consistent bedtime routine, and provide comfort and reassurance during those moments of wakefulness. If you’d like some more advice, check out our article on how to help your child sleep better, which includes expert tips from renowned child psychologist Dr Kauffman.

With patience, persistence, and a little bit of trial and error, you’ll empower your little one to navigate these false starts with ease, ensuring a peaceful night’s sleep for the whole family.

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