Solving Your Toddler’s Sleep Problems
You spend the infant years anxiously awaiting the day your baby starts sleeping through the night. But for some kids, easy sleep never comes and night time wakings continue into the toddler years. If you’re struggling with a toddler who won’t sleep, you’re not alone.
The American Sleep Association identifies three common causes of sleep problems in toddlers:
Sleep onset association: If you comfort your child until he falls asleep, you’re unwittingly creating inappropriate sleep onset associations. Sleep onset associations are the conditions your child needs to fall asleep. If your child can only fall asleep while being rocked or having his back rubbed, he’ll be unable to return to sleep independently after night time wakings. To solve this sleep problem, parents must teach children how to comfort themselves and sleep on their own.
Night time eating and drinking:
Night time feedings are a normal part of infanthood. However, night time feedings become a problem when a child needs to eat or drink in order to fall asleep or wakes hungry in the middle of the night. Parents can eliminate the association between feeding and sleep by either going cold turkey or gradually reducing night time feedings until their child’s eating patterns have normalized.
Limit-setting problems: Limit-setting struggles are a defining feature of the toddler years, and bedtime is no exception. Limit-setting problems arise when parents give into children’s attempts at avoiding bedtime. Parents can prevent or solve limit-setting problems by adhering to a regular bedtime routine and employing strategies to stop their child from leaving bed.
These aren’t the only factors that could prevent your toddler from sleeping soundly. Environmental factors are a common cause of sleep problems, especially if your toddler is going to bed while the rest of the family is awake and active. As the parent, it’s up to you to create a bedroom environment that’s conducive to sleep. For the best sleep, your child’s bedroom should be cool, dark, and quiet.
Cool: According to Tuck, 65 to 70 degrees is the ideal temperature for a toddler’s bedroom. Program your home’s thermostat settings accordingly, and avoid overly-warm pyjamas and bedding.
Dark: Blackout curtains prevent daylight from entering your child’s bedroom, while a closed door keeps interior lighting out. If your child needs a nightlight to feel safe, opt for a red-toned light, because it won’t disrupt sleep like white and blue lights.
Quiet: If any of your little ones share a bedroom, make sure you establish a sleep schedule that ensures the youngest roommate with the earlier bedtime has exclusive use of the room once it’s bedtime. Their sibling should not be able to use the room for play after his sibling goes down. Additionally, a fan or white noise machine provides light background noise so your child isn’t distracted by the sounds of family moving about or neighbours mingling outside. Don’t use TV as background noise, because light emitted from electronic devices is known to disrupt sleep.
If you’ve made these changes and your child continues to have sleep problems, consider whether his sleep schedule needs adjusting. Parents.com explains that, by the age of 2, one nap per day is enough daytime rest for most children. If your child naps too frequently or for too long, he’ll have trouble falling asleep at night.
Parents should also prepare their toddlers for sleep with a relaxing bedtime routine. Avoid exciting activities late in the day, instead occupying pre-bedtime hours with low-key activities like reading or drawing. As bedtime nears, follow predictable rituals that signal to your child it’s time to wind down. This may include taking a warm bath, brushing teeth and hearing a story, but avoid activities that increase your child’s heart rate. These changes will help your toddler go to bed easily and sleep soundly, but don’t expect dramatic change overnight. It takes time for children to adjust to new rules and routines.
In the meantime, keep your toddler safe in bed by switching to a twin bed. If your child tries to escape from a crib at night, he could be seriously injured. An extra-tall baby gate keeps your child in his bedroom without the safety risk of a crib. While you could buy a compact toddler bed for your little one, a twin bed is more cost-effective because it can be used as long as your child is under the height of 5’9”.
As a parent, a child’s sleep problems can be incredibly frustrating. However, it’s important to remember that bedtime is often a scary and frustrating time for toddlers, too. Stay patient as you work through your child’s sleep problems so you achieve sound sleep without adding to bedtime anxiety.
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Written by Befriend your Doc