Night-time Waking in Toddlers

It’s 3am, you are fast asleep when you are woken by those little footsteps and a request for a drink/snack/story/television program/ bouncing on the bed session. It’s tough, and for those who have to work the next day, it can be a real problem.

Other toddlers wake up and cry for 10 minutes/half an hour/until you go to them. Both problems are essentially the same ? for whatever reason, your child is waking up mid-sleep and disrupting the household, not to mention setting themselves up for a day that is likely to have more than its fair share of grouchy, overtired behaviour.

Poor sleep patterns can begin this way ? toddler wakes up in the night, feels tired the next day, sleeps earlier than usual and then inevitably wakes up again in the night. The cycle continues and pretty soon you have a child that is practically nocturnal!

Reasons for Night Time Waking in Toddlers

Daytime naps

? if your child is sleeping too much during the day, their sleep pattern during the night will be disrupted. It may be that they are sleeping for too long during the day or that they are ready to ditch the daytime sleep completely.

Poor Sleep Hygiene

? sleep hygiene has nothing to do with cleanliness! It refers to the routine your child has before they sleep. It is essential that your child winds down before going to sleep, so establish a bedtime routine that promotes good sleep by doing the same thing each night so that your child knows that they are going to be going to sleep soon and is able to relax. Leave off any exercise, stimulating games, sugary snacks or exciting television or stories, and swap all of these for gentle activities in the hour before bedtime.

Poor Sleep Onset habits

? sleep onset habits are things like rocking or rubbing the child’s back; things you do to get them off to sleep. This can also include things like sucking on a dummy or listening to music… anything that your child relies on to get them to sleep and that they may wake up and feel unable to get back to sleep without. If your child wakes up and you aren’t there to sing or hold their hand, and they find they cannot get back to sleep without these things or don?t know to try to, they will inevitably end up shouting for you. To solve this problem, if it is the cause of your child’s night time waking, you have to teach your child to soothe themselves to sleep without your help. This can be difficult but it will also mean that you don?t have to stay with them while the doze off at bedtime either. To do this, you have to put up with a few nights of your toddler having trouble getting off to sleep, but it will be worth it. Start gently, by getting your child almost over to sleep then saying goodnight and letting them fall asleep on their own. In time you can move on to leaving earlier in the dozing off process until your toddler is able to soother themselves to sleep, whether at 7pm or when they wake at 4am!

Stress ?

children are susceptible to stress just as much as adults and they can sense tension and problems in the home. So if you are having a tough time, or there are problems at nursery or big changes going on such as a new home, new baby or family difficulties it is likely that they are feeling the stress too. In this case, you have to keep routine as stable as possible and deal with the stress effectively by helping your child relax. In time, the sleep pattern will return to normal.

Whatever the cause of your child’s night time waking, by focusing on your routine, keeping life stable and dealing with stress effectively, in time you can get back to a whole night of sleep!

Author: Arlene Copeland

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