Fifty percent of children over the age of one wake regularly.
One third of all parents of toddlers report having a significant problem with their child’s sleep (so worrying or being concerned about toddler’s sleep is far from unusual!).
Toddlers need adequate sleep. They don’t know it of course, but sleep is vital to their development and growth, and for handling the many challenges and stresses they are confronted with in their daily lives.
They need to get to sleep, and they need to stay asleep.
Getting to Sleep
Many toddlers don’t run out of power like a battery, coming slowly and gently to a halt. Toddlers tend to become little ‘Energizer Bunnies’ as they get more tired, going faster and faster until they just crash to a stop. For parents, and for the child, this is not a satisfactory bedtime routine. But, it is possible to create one:
- Have some calm down time first. The last few hours of the child’s day should be calm, quiet and distraction free.
- Follow the same procedure every night. Dinner, bath, bedtime stories, kisses then lights out. Choose a set time to start the routine each night, so their body begins to expect and predict what’s coming.
- Set the proper environment. Consider using ‘white noise’ as an aid and ensure as much darkness as practical.
It’s also helpful to make sure the toddler gets some outside play during the day (but not in the hour or two before bed!).
Falling asleep is a habit, and all children can learn it. (Helping a child fall to sleep with nursing or rocking is also a habit – one that can be a struggle to break when it no longer suits the parent. Putting the child to bed awake means they get used to falling asleep there by themselves.)
It is normal for toddlers to wake at night well into their second year. Not responding can leave toddlers anxious and unsettled, worsening the problem.
It is important to remember that a waking toddler is not being naughty. They are trying to communicate with us – most likely that they are frightened. Our job is to stay calm, loving and reassuring, and insist it’s time for sleeping.
When the child continues to call out or cry at night, try setting a schedule of timed visits to the room rather than responding to every request. This will still meet the child’s needs while not encouraging the behaviour.