Helping Your Toddler Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleeping toddler

By Whitney Eaton, LCSW, Courier & Press, May 17, 2016 –

Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night to little eyes staring at you or the quiet whisper of, “Mom?” For some little ones, getting a full night’s sleep is a tall order.

But for the parents who care for them, the struggle may be to function without sleep the next day. Starting the day sleep-deprived is not good for parent or child.

Toddlers bring so many joys, as they can now talk and are showing so much personality. Sometimes part of “self-expression” involves balking at bedtime.

Common bedtime challenges include battles with routine, not staying asleep or getting up way too early. All of these issues can be frustrating.

Equally problematic is the fact that it is hard to make rational decisions as a parent when you are sleep-deprived. Let’s face it, after a full day of work or caring for little ones, it can be a struggle to stick to a bedtime routine that will promote healthy sleep habits.

Some babies sleep like a dream initially and then develop problems with sleep patterns later. Why would a toddler suddenly have difficulty with bedtime when they have had months, or even years, of successful sleeping?

Any major transition such as having a new sibling, getting a new bed, or moving into a new home can cause sleep disruption.

Going from a crib to a toddler bed can also cause changes. A toddler learns they have freedom to get out of bed, explore and roam.

A toddler’s sleep patterns also typically change. As infants, most children take longer naps in the middle of the day that may last 1 to 3 hours. However, toddlers typically only need 1 to 2 hours for naptime.

So what can we do? We have all heard that routines and schedules are very important when it comes to bedtimes for infants and toddlers.

Coming up with a calming bedtime routine is definitely a great place to start. A warm bath, quiet time in your little one’s room, or reading a story before bed are just a few things you could incorporate into your bedtime schedule.

The key is to make bedtime a relaxing routine, one that “winds down” rather than “winds up” their day. Overstimulation before bed can cause difficulty with falling asleep.

Now how do we keep the little ones in bed? A sound machine or white noise machine can work wonders. Sometimes just having something to block out other noises can be beneficial to help your little one stay in bed and sleep more soundly.

A monitor allows you to listen or see if your child wakes up without actually going into the room. As long as your little one is safe, it is OK to let him cry a little before going into the room. In fact, it can be normal for your little one to wake up occasionally through the night. The best thing is for him to be able to soothe himself back to sleep.

Developing a rewards system can also be motivating for your toddler. Purchase a few low-cost items your child likes, such as stickers, bubbles, chalk or a book. If your toddler can stay in her room all night, then she can chose something from your prize basket.

If you incentivize the behavior, your toddler will soon put together that sleeping in his bed all night makes mommy and daddy happy. Then you will be able to slowly remove the tangible rewards and just offer praise each morning.

These are just a few ideas you could try to help your toddler (and you) sleep better. For more tips on parenting and building healthy habits, visityouthfirstinc.org. Sweet dreams!