When is the last time you got a good night’s sleep? Last month, or even last year? There’s a decent chance you’re up late right now searching for answers to toddler sleep problems instead of getting some much needed rest.
If you’re trying to decide whether to laugh or cry at how right I am, then read on. I’m going to give you some tips for helping your toddler through three common sleep issues.
Waking Repeatedly at Night
It may surprise you to know that it’s perfectly normal for toddlers to wake up several times a night. Why does this happen?
One culprit could be the 18 month sleep regression. This is a time when toddlers are developing more skills, exploring more, and have more independence. An expanding world leads to lots of distractions, and even anxiety about sleep.
Establishing and keeping an ideal bedtime with a soothing routine is important to develop long-term sleep behaviors. Over-tiredness contributes to poor sleep.
After dinner, keep evenings quiet and low-energy. No TV, dim the lights and stick to activities like books and puzzles. Winding down in the hour before bed will send signals to little brains that it’s sleep time. It also may be appropriate to cut back the number of naps during the day or move naps to an earlier time.
Does your toddler seem afraid of the dark? Play games during the daytime that involve darkness, like using a flashlight to hunt for toys. You can be with them at first, but encourage their solo play in the dark to build confidence.
A night-light can be a comfort, but make sure to keep it dim. Too much light can actually interrupt the body’s production of melatonin (our natural sleep hormone!)
If it’s nightmares that cause your toddler sleep problems, try to avoid triggers like media with scary themes or characters. Use comfort objects like a soft blanket or favorite stuffed animal to keep stress levels down.
During the day, talk about dreams and pretend. Illustrate with eyes closed, that thinking about an object doesn’t make it real. Draw pictures of their monsters and point out how silly they actually look.
Crying Themselves Sick
A consistent routine is the best advice for calming bedtime tantrums over time, but what if your child is crying to the point of vomiting?
First, reduce liquids at bedtime so there is less to vomit up. Then, put a sheet under the bed liner. When you do have to remove soiled bedding, the bed is already made.
Use a wet wipe to clean your toddler up and save the bath for the morning to create fewer disruptions. Have a sheet on the floor for easy clean-up of any spilled vomit as well. Avoid making the episode more of a production than necessary.
Soothe your child, but have them remain in their bed until they go back to sleep. Keep the clean-up short and sweet so you can focus on comforting them. Make sure you follow this procedure every time until the behavior passes.
Remember: Toddler Sleep Problems Aren’t Forever
Don’t forget to take a breath and relax. You’ll get there.
Bedtime is learned behavior, and the resistance to sleep will pass.
What has helped create successful bedtimes in your household? Let us know in the comments!