During the infant months, you expect to be up several times. As your little one reaches the toddler years, you’re ready to get a good night’s sleep.
Unfortunately, not all toddlers agree! If you’re struggling with a toddler waking at night, there are several strategies that can help you avoid night waking’s and lead to happier little ones and parents the next day.
Why Toddlers Wake
Here’s the good news: A toddler waking at night may be more common than you think. It’s normal, developmentally speaking, for toddlers to struggle with staying in their beds all night–no matter how much easier it might make it for everyone!
There are several common reasons why toddlers may find themselves crying for Mommy or Daddy in the middle of the night.
- Teething – Especially when the dreaded two-year molars start to come in, can cause night waking and fussiness.
- Lack of Soothing – Some toddlers have simply never learned to soothe themselves back to sleep without the presence of a parent. As a result, when they wake, they’re unable to get back to sleep without help.
- Nightmares – Can cause a child to wake up and struggle to go back to sleep.
Unfortunately, many toddlers lack the language skills to describe these bad dreams to their parents, leaving them with little recourse.
- Sleep associations – Having specific routines that help your baby fall asleep, are a great way to encourage a bedtime routine.
Unfortunately, they’re less helpful when you have to rock your toddler back to sleep each time they wake up at night.
- Food issues- Allergies that haven’t been diagnosed, reflux, and other common problems can cause your child to experience discomfort that leads to increased waking at night and trouble going back to sleep alone.
- Too Bright – Your toddler’s room is too bright. That nightlight that makes her feel “safe” at night could be the very thing leading to too much nighttime waking!
Keep in mind that no one, even adults, actually sleeps straight through the night without waking. In most cases, you’ll find that even the most exhausted, best sleep-trained adult will still wake briefly throughout the night.
It’s impossible to train this out of a person, but you can provide your child with the tools to soothe themselves back to sleep without disrupting the entire household.
Helping Your Little One Sleep Better
In spite of all of reasons your toddler gives to be up at night, you still want them to be able to sleep soundly. If you’ve struggled with a toddler waking at night, these strategies may make it easier to help your child get back to sleep without your help.
Check for physical reasons for waking
Is your child routinely waking because of an overflowing diaper in the middle of the night? Is it time for teething pain? Has illness or dietary discomfort added to waking? In order to create the best possible sleep, eliminate physical reasons for wakefulness.
Discuss coping mechanisms for nightmares
If your child is struggling to go back to sleep because of bad dreams, they need tools to cope!
One strategy that worked for us was to chase the monsters away. It helped our son to get back to sleep more easily.
Little ones with low verbal skills, in particular, may need extra help in order to get a good night’s sleep.
Check your toddler’s sleep schedule
Is your child getting too tired before going to bed? Do they nap for too long during the day so that they aren’t sleepy at bedtime?
Check the amount of sleep your child is getting during the day to ensure that they’re ready for bed when bedtime rolls around.
Make sure daytime stress isn’t contributing to poor sleep
Increased stress, from big changes at home to a new daycare situation, may cause your child to struggle with sleep at night.
When you feel your toddlers stress, it is important to stay calm and acknowledge your child’s feelings. According to Dr. Hackney, it is best to use a“matter-of-fact empathy”in which you convey that you understand their feelings, but you are not changing course.
For example, your child says they will not go to bed. Let them know you understand they do not want to go to bed and they would rather stay up and play. Then continue your normal routine and head to bed as planned. It is a way to say that you completely understand, but bedtime still needs to happen.
Try new sleeping arrangements
Yes, what you want most is for your child to sleep in their own bed, in their own room, at night.
If it helps everyone get a better night’s sleep, however, a temporary change in sleeping arrangements, from a portable cot at the end of your bed or sleeping in their play tepee, may create a shift in your child’s comfort that will allow him to soothe himself back to sleep more easily.
It’s important to keep in mind that sleep training, like so many other things in parenthood, is an ongoing process.
There’s no one-night fix that will immediately help your toddler from waking at night to sleeping quietly in their bed all night long.
By utilizing some of these strategies, you’ll be more likely to help your child learn to effectively spend the night in their own bed instead of waking you every time they wake up.