Helping Your Toddler Fall (and Stay) Asleep
Getting your toddler to sleep is a struggle all parents have faced from time to time – or even nightly. Toddlers love running, climbing, and learning, so when they are told that it’s time to say goodbye to all that and go to sleep, the struggles can begin. Plus, when your toddler reaches about 18 months, they start to develop a new favourite word, “no”, as they enter their independence phase, which they love to practice when it’s time for bed!
Toddlers will actively try to stall or even fight bedtime, asking you for a glass of water, to read a book or go to the toilet which ends up making them more tired and cranky. While this type of behaviour is normal in toddlers, that doesn’t mean that bedtime must become a war. We have gathered the reasons why toddlers fight bedtime, along with tips on how to get them to fall (and stay) asleep below!
Why do toddlers resist bedtime?
Before trying to find solutions to getting your toddler to sleep, the reasons why your toddler may be refusing sleep should be considered first. Of course, every toddler and even every situation is different, so your toddler may be displaying a different reason each time they refuse to get into bed, so let’s go through different issues that may be occurring:
Your toddler is over-excited
It is easy for a toddler to get excited and have too much energy to sleep. They may have seen something on TV, been wound up from playing with toys or a parent, or eaten or drank something that’s got them on a sugar high, such as juice or a snack.
Your toddler is bothered
There are lots of items in your toddler’s bedroom that could be bothering them and stopping them from sleeping. It could be a bright light coming from the window, a loud noise from the street, or an uncomfortable mattress or pillow. Or, your toddler may be feeling too hot or too cold, or feeling itchy from pyjamas or blankets.
Your toddler is curious
Your toddler might not want to go to bed because no one else is, so they are curious about what goes on when they are in bed. This can cause them to refuse bedtime, as they don’t want to miss out on whatever it is that is happening.
Your toddler relies on your help
Some toddlers might not be able to sleep without the help of a parent. Being rocked to sleep, held, and fed may have been the norm and now that might not happen. This sudden change can make it difficult for them to get to sleep.
Your toddler is scared
Being alone, the dark, monsters… these are all fears your toddler could experience when they’re alone in their bed. It’s only natural that toddlers, who are inexperienced in the world, would have these fears – and they’re scary enough at this age to keep them awake!
Your toddler’s routine is off
Toddlers thrive on routine, but there is no one-size-fits-all bedtime routine for every toddler. You may be putting your toddler to bed too early (not tired) or too late (overtired). It takes time to find the sweet spot, but when you do, getting them to bed and asleep will be a lot easier.
How can I make my child’s bedtime easier?
No matter what the reason is, there are plenty of ways to get toddlers in bed and asleep easier. There are strategies you can implement during the day and at bedtime depending on why your toddler isn’t sleeping. Here are some strategies that may work:
Get your toddler outside early
Preparing for your toddler’s bedtime can start as early as when they wake up. Getting your toddler out of the house and outside into some fresh air and natural light can help regulate their melatonin, which will ensure that they’ll be tired when it’s bedtime. It is recommended that toddlers get at least 3 hours of running-around play a day, and one benefit of this is that it will improve their quality of sleep.
Stick to a schedule
As we mentioned before, toddlers thrive on routine. Putting your toddler to bed whenever and waking them up whenever will just cause more issues when it comes to bedtime. Putting them to bed at the same time every night and waking them up the same time every morning can significantly reduce the problems you’ve been having, as they will come to expect bedtime.
Remember that the routine should reflect your toddler, not you. Although you might love a 7pm to 7am routine for your toddler, some toddlers may do better going to bed between 8 and 9pm instead. Implementing routines before bedtime and after waking up can help too! Things like brushing teeth, turning off TV/screens and reading a book each night at the same time can help build the routine.
Naptime is great for toddlers; it gives them some rest and allows them to tackle the second half of the day with more energy. Naps are tricky though. What time should you put them down and how long for? Naptime can cause issues for bedtime too. If your toddler is napping too late into the afternoon, they won’t be tired when it comes to bedtime. The best way to adjust for this is to take away the last 15 minutes of naptime, and add it to bedtime. If your toddler is less fussy at bedtime, try another 15 minutes. Work at this until you’ve hit the sweet spot. Remember, you don’t want the nap to be too short, otherwise you run the risk of your toddler being overtired when it gets to bedtime.
Make sleeping easier for your toddler
There are plenty of strategies you can implement when putting your toddler to bed. Creating a calm environment before they go to sleep can help them unwind and feel more tired.
- Playing white noise works wonders on toddlers. It muffles sounds that could disturb your toddlers sleep like the TV or talking, as well as calming down your toddler as they fall asleep.
- Diming lights 60 minutes before bed and keeping them away from screens can also help them feel more tired and peaceful. Children have larger pupils, meaning they are more susceptible to light.
- Introducing a blankie or teddy to help them sleep at night, once it is safe and recommended to do so, can help them feel more comfortable and safer when saying goodnight to the parents.
- Offering a bedtime snack 45 minutes to an hour before bedtime can be a helpful part of a child’s nighttime routine. For children 3 years or over, try adding our Calm Smoothie into your nighttime routine:
Specially formulated with calming chamomile and soothing banana and avena sativa oats, to help them relax and get ready for a restful sleep. Made from fresh Australian grass fed cows’ milk Formulated with chamomile and avena sativa (oats) which may help with relaxation and is known to support restful, quality sleep. Banana – bananas are…
Sleep is important for the development of your toddler, so making sure they get a good night’s sleep as often as possible is crucial. Despite this, toddlers will often try to fight sleep for many reasons! Every toddler is different, so there will be different things that are stopping them from sleeping and different solutions to these problems. Figuring out what you can do as a parent is an important step in your toddler’s bedtime struggles.