Getting Your Toddler to Sleep
As your baby grows and becomes a toddler at around 12 months of age, they are much more active. This increased activity and desire to learn can create irregular sleep patterns as they find it more difficult to switch off and wind down. As a result you lose sleep too. This irregular sleep can be caused from various factors:
- Inappropriate food intake;
- Inability to calm down before sleep;
- Unable to self-settle;
- Fears and insecurities – nightmares;
- Discomfort and pain.
It is important to create a regular bedtime routine. This pattern of events helps your toddler feel secure with what is happening and lets them know that it’s bedtime. Develop a suitable routine for your toddler and stick to it.
Find a calm and comforting evening pre-bedtime ritual for the 90 minutes before lights out. It could look something like this:
- Nutritious dinner;
- Warm bath;
- Quiet play with no television on and preferably with mum or dad;
- Cup of milk;
- Quiet play;
- Brush teeth;
- Read a book in their bedroom;
- Kisses and hugs;
- Lights out.
It is common for your toddler to refuse to sleep. But it’s important for both you and your toddler to have a good night’s sleep – sleep is not negotiable. Seek professional help if your toddler regularly refuses to go to bed at night or wakes frequently.
Many toddlers still require a day sleep and will usually start to wean off them any time from around 2 years of age. This can depend on activity levels and the amount of sleep your toddler gets at night. If your toddler is developing well and is happy and contented then they are unlikely to have a sleep problem.
Tips to help improve day sleeps:
- Use the word rest not sleep;
- Rest them in a made up cubby or tee-pee not necessarily their bed;
- Give them books to read while they rest;
- Appropriate diet – avoid refined sugars, colourings and flavourings;
- Make rest time the same time every day;
- Make sure they are awake in plenty of time to get another decent play in before you start their night time sleep routine.
Night Waking in Your Toddler
If your toddler constantly goes to bed late, gets to sleep late or wakes several times overnight they are missing out on valuable sleep and they may have a sleep problem. Overtime this lack of sleep can affect your toddler’s emotionally labile behaviour. This then affects your ability to get a good night sleep and the harmony of the home can break down.
Your toddler may communicate they are tired in different ways:
- Being irritable and very changeable in their moods (more often than usual);
- Lack of concentration when playing;
- Changes quickly from one thing to another (the developmental age has toddlers doing this, but it is worse when they are tired);
- Tantrums – a normal part of toddler development – become more frequent, last longer and are harder to control;
- Your toddler will argue more with adults and other children, and can result in biting, pushing, pulling and being a general bully. Just think of your short fuse when you are tired. Your toddler is the same but they show it in different ways;
- Your toddler becomes more uncoordinated in their actions, leading to accidents such as falling over, bumping into things and falling off tricycles more often;
- They are less likely to sit and concentrate on looking at books, drawing or other quiet activities;
- Your toddler is often mistaken for not being tired in the evening, because they are extremely active. At this point they are actually displaying over tired signs.
Some things you can do to help your toddler sleep well at night:
- Ensure your toddler eats whole foods not processed food during the day and they are not filling up on milk over food;
- Ensure you follow an appropriate calm and comforting pre bedtime routine before any sleep;
- Acknowledge your toddler’s fears. They don’t understand the difference between fact and fantasy until they are much older. Consider what they are exposed to on television or reading in books, especially in the hour before bed. The news is often on at this time, which has many scary images. Even cute crocodiles or dinosaurs on television can create distorted images in your toddler’s developing mind;
- Monsters have nowhere to hide if there is no under the bed area. Put a spare mattress under the bed for a while. If monsters do arrive, help your toddler see them as friendly, or label a spray bottle with disappearing spray to spray on them. When monsters appear don’t pretend they are not there because to your toddler the monsters are real;
- Talking with your toddler about their day or get them to draw a picture. This helps them to unload and release any thoughts that are worrying them.
Sleep is important for everyone and therefore it is recommended that you seek professional help and advice if you have night waking issues that are affecting the harmony and productivity of your household.