Solving typical toddler sleep problems, part 2
Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD
Page 2 of 3
Not sleeping through the night and not feeling tired enough at
two major toddler sleep issues. And it takes toddler-specific
techniques to solve them smoothly. Recognize the causes and the battle
is half won ... then add the right tools for long peaceful
Not sleeping through
Waking up (frequently) at night is the most difficult of all
toddler sleep problems. A healthy child does not need night feeds or
drinks anymore and is physically able to sleep for 8-12 hours in a row.
But many just have not learned well to sleep through yet or simply
still need your presence and reassurance at night.
Because being a toddler brings along new nightly wake up causes:
separation anxiety, having got stuck in patterns of waking to feed or
requesting attention (the so called bad
habits), being more sensitive to sounds or light, stress,
agitation, temper tantrums and illnesses or bugs picked up at day care
What to do
- A good, well adapted daily
and a simple pleasant bedtime
routine are still the very basics for a good night.
The right night
time bedtime can make or break your nights so ensure that it's
well-timed: not too late, not too early: your toddler's sleepy signs are your best guide.
- Definitely until 2-2,5 years old, your toddler will still take at
least one nap. Many happily continue with naps or a simple quiet time
until 4-5 years old.
And that's ideal: it keeps your child
encourages better sleep at night.
- Knowing how to self
soothe to sleep is the main skill to have to sleep through the
night without parent help. A transition object (blankie, cuddly toy, ...) can be a
very important help right now.
Also don't be afraid to use the gentle,
progressive techniques of gradually shortening your reassurance and
They are just as efficient as at a younger age, and even
more appreciated by your big
kid: she feels understood and appreciated, and will react all the more
positive for it.
- Being too hot or too cold and a wet diaper are two of the typical
wake-up causes for a toddler. A toddler sleeping
bag and simple ideas to avoid a wet
diaper are a good help here.
My Overcome Frequent Waking action plan and e-book help you discover many more possible wake-up causes and explains the
toddler-specific techniques to avoid and/or move away from night wakings.
How to avoid the typical early morning wakings is also explained in
the guide: to help you get a biut more sleep in those precious morning hours too.
Not tired by bedtime!
(aka hidden over-tiredness)
This is a biggie among
toddler sleep problems.
A toddler can be very
active in the evening and you may
wonder "where does she get this energy at 8pm (or 10pm) at night?! Why
is she not sleeping?!" She
should be tired by now, right?
in fact, she IS tired.
Once a child is over-tired she can seem
very (!) awake instead. So as a parent it's easy to be mislead.
And being over-tired simply makes it difficult for a young child to
Contrary to classical or even logical belief, being very tired is not
helping at all to fall asleep more easily or to sleep longer but makes
Indeed only when just readily
tired, settling has the best chances. It also makes for a peaceful
onset of the night or nap and leads to more restful sleep. This in turn
more and uninterrupted sleep.
What to do
- Recognize early sleepy signs. Avoiding over-tiredness is easy
you know when your little one is first getting tired. This can be at
the first yawns or simple eye-rubbing but some children don't show any
signs until their mood turns bad.
My Sleepy Signs Journal (free download) helps you pinpoint the readily tired moments - for naps and nights - by
observing closely and learning to understand your toddler's sleepy
signs (based on the behavior you see).,/li>
- Prefer an early bedtime. It's a myth that going to bed later
helps with sleeping longer in the morning. On the contrary, the
restless sleep from being over-tired easily results in earlier mornings.
Schedule bedtime well before your
toddler becomes over-tired.
Use the early sleepy signs as discussed right above. Whenever in doubt,
go as early as still practical for you and reasonable for your child.
Remember to give new bedtimes enough time to settle before changing again
or giving up. Detailed guidelines for changing bedtimes are in my Overcome Frequent Waking guide.