When Teething Disrupts Sleep

When does teething impact sleep?

While teething can occasionally disrupt sleep… it’s far less the cause of sleep a disturbance than most people think. For babies who follow an age-appropriate schedule, meet their daily sleep needs, and are able to put themselves to sleep, teething will likely go unnoticed or may cause a minor sleep disruption. We tend to see teething have a more dramatic impact for those children who are overtired and/or don’t know how to put themselves to sleep. Most sleep disturbances are actually not the result of teething at all but due to other causes such as a growth spurt, developmental milestone, separation anxiety, fragmented night sleep, nap deprivation, abnormal sleep schedule, or illness.

How can I tell if teething is the cause of a sleep disturbance?

Compare how your child acts during the day with during the night. If she’s her usual, happy self during the day but then extra fussy at night, it’s most likely not due to teething. However, if she’s cranky and miserable throughout the day and her nights are disrupted, then teething is likely the cause.

How should I manage painful teething and a resulting sleep disturbance?

Ask your pediatrician about using an infant pain-reliever, especially for nights. Help to relieve baby’s discomfort prior to sleep by offering a cold/frozen teething ring or a  frozen, twisted washcloth for baby to chew on. Please note that Orajel (or products with benzocaine) are no longer recommended. 

Stick to your routines and schedule as much as possible. While your little one may need a bit more comfort this time, you can continue to work on fostering healthy sleep habits by following an age-appropriate schedule, doing your pre-sleep routine, and encouraging independent sleep.

Can I sleep coach through teething?

If your little one is really bothered by a tooth, then you may want to hold off on beginning a new sleep method until the tooth pops out (usually this takes just a few days).

If teething problems come up while you’re in the middle of sleep coaching, progress may slow down for a few days while the tooth comes through (the discomfort from teething typically passes as soon as the tooth erupts) but try to stick to your plan as much as possible. You may want to offer a bit more comfort and reassurance with holding, patting, shushing, etc. during your pre-sleep routines. Try not to resort to the old patterns and sleep crutches that you are trying to change. 

Need support with your little one’s sleep?

As a pediatric sleep consultant, I am here to help find a solution that works for your family! Check out Sleep Support for more information.

About Author : Ellie Lindenmayer

Ellie Lindenmayer is the founder of Joyful Birthing & Beyond. She is a childbirth educator, HypnoBirthing Practitioner, birth doula, lactation counselor and sleep consultant. She is a mother of three and passionate about all things birth & baby!