Solving typical toddler sleep problems, part 3

Author Name: Heidi Holvoet, PhD

Page 3 of 3

Tackle typical toddler sleep problems like waking up too early in the morning, transitioning from crib to toddler bed, separation anxiety, teething and illnesses. Browse the FAQs for inspiration and advice.

Waking up too early

Waking up in the very early morning hours and not being able to sleep on is so common that it seems a natural aspect of toddler sleep patterns. And it is, but you can work to improve it.

One very practical tool is the toddler "early bird" alarm clock which helps your toddler learn when it is OK to get up ... and when she needs to stay in bed for a little longer.

Also, my No-Tears Sleeping Through the Night guide includes specific techniques to avoid wake-up causes in the mornings and to extend the night.

Transitioning from crib to bed

When done carefully, moving from crib to bed can be a great boost of confidence and independence for your toddler. The keys to success are the right timing and being prepared (both for you and your little one).

Two dedicated articles help you with when and how to help your toddler transition well to the big / toddler bed.

Separation anxiety

Toddler crying and stretching out arms

Most young children go through several phases of separation anxiety. It usually starts in the second half year when they learn to be their own person, separate from you and that they have to deal with strangers (extended family, friends, daycare, ...).

As a result, being extra clingy, afraid of other people and suddenly being scared to be alone at night are very typical.

Little by little your growing baby learns that you do come back, even if she hasn't seen you for a while. And that it is OK to spend some time all by herself, even at night. Because she learns that you don't abandon her.

And that builds her confidence.

As a toddler, your child has learned all of that and has become more independent and happy to explore the world around her by herself for a bit. But then from time to time, the fear of not seeing you again can return.

An unlucky day at daycare, a late pick-up, losing you out of sight at the mall for a couple of second, ... lots of small incidents can trigger a new bout of separation anxiety. And sometimes it's without any apparent reason.

You will notice it when your toddler seems less confident again, clings to you more than ever, cries at daycare or pre-school and stops settling well for the night or sleeping through.

What to do
  • Read the separation anxiety page and apply as many of the techniques as you feel fit.
  • Give it time: remember that this is an opportunity to increase your toddler's self-confidence. Try to find a healthy balance between:

    • Offering plenty of reassurance with your presence and by acknowledging her fears (stay at her bedside a while longer, promise to go in and check on her, etc.)
    • Encouraging your child to take a risk and progress towards more independence (gradually reduce the time you stay, or stay away a bit longer, then praise her at any progress)
    and you will make it through this phase without much trouble but with important new lessons learned.

Physical sleep disturbances

Teething can still be quite painful, especially when molars are cutting ... have a look at the teething chart so you know when to expect which teeth. Whenever you suspect any discomfort from a tooth, apply the non-medical teething solutions before resorting to the medical ones.

Likewise when a cold strikes: simple home-made cold remedies are often the most efficient ones.

Night terrors and nightmares can cause you many sleepless nights too. Is your child very creative and has a vivid imagination? Watches TV regularly? Plays on the computer or tablet? Nothing wrong with that but you may need to time it well and reduce the amount of time spent at it.

Sleep apnea in toddlers is usually obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). When in doubt, look out for the signs of sleep apnea, and contact your health adviser.

Frequently asked questions

My 15 month old is wanting to sleep most of the day

My 2 year old keeps me up all night

15 month old daughter has never slept through

My 14 months old Daughter just sleeps from 11to 4

14 month old baby sleep retrogression

17 month old daughter still wont sleep

My 15 months old baby boy is still cosleeping with us

A New Sleep Low... I didn't think it was possible!!!