Toddler Fighting Sleep?  Tips for Getting Your Toddler to Go to Sleep

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Getting a toddler to sleep can be a challenge. Some toddlers have a tough time getting to sleep, and others wake up routinely during the night and roll out of their beds full of energy. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to help your toddler sleep.

Table of Contents

Toddler Sleeping

Tips for Helping Your Toddler Fall Asleep Easier

Make Sure Your Toddler Gets Enough Exercise During the Day

Toddlers are full of energy and need many outlets to work some of that energy off. If your toddler spends most of the day watching TV or sitting at a table coloring, he probably won’t want to sleep at night.

Follow a Sleep Routine

A livable and consistent bedtime routine can also go a long way to helping the toddler who won’t sleep. By including activities such as brushing their teeth, reading a book, and having a bedtime snack, they will get used to the pattern of getting into bed and going to sleep when it is time. A routine will contribute significantly to your toddler’s emotional and physical health, as well as help them to sleep.Be consistent. When it is time for bed, put your toddler to bed. Make sure they’ve had a drink, a story, and whatever else she might ask for once you turn out the light. Once the light is out, they need to know that they will not be allowed back out of bed.

Have a Quiet Wind Down Time Before Bedtime

If possible, you should try to avoid too much excitement at bedtime. The period between dinner and bedtime should be generally relaxed and geared toward helping your toddler slow down for the day. 

This will give him time to wind down and prepare himself mentally and physically for bed. If he has a hard time getting to sleep, it is easier to fall asleep if his body is not revved up.

A Bedtime Snack May Help

For children, especially during growth spurts, a bedtime snack may help get them to sleep more soundly through the night. Something calming is best with low sugar and no caffeine.

  • Some warm milk
  • A slice of turkey
  • A piece of toast

You can easily add it to your “getting ready for bed” routine. 

Cultivate a Peaceful Sleep Environment

A comfortable and quiet sleeping environment is another essential component. If your house tends to be loud, try playing some soft music for your toddler at bedtime. Make sure she’s got her favorite comfort item or blanket. It would help if you also tried to avoid having toys in the bed with her. Toys in bed will encourage play and not sleep.

Staying in a dark room with no noise will help the toddler who has trouble sleeping go to sleep. Noise and light interfere with the body’s sleep-aid hormone, melatonin. Try to keep nightlights and other forms of lighting to a minimum. No electronic devices should be used in the bedroom except for a clock radio or similar device that plays soft music.

Let Them Cuddle Up With You or a Familiar Toy

Research indicates that children who cuddle up with their parents or a favorite toy before bed tend to fall asleep faster. If possible, let your child snuggle up with you in his bed so he is not alone and can fall asleep quickly.

Is it Time to Shorten or Drop Afternoon Naps?

Some toddlers will be ready to give up afternoon naps by the age of 2, while others may take much longer before they are ready to give them up. If your toddler sleeps for several hours in the middle of the day, it is not surprising that they won’t sleep at night.

Toddler Sleep Regression

What is a toddler sleep regression?

Sleep regression is when your typically complaint sleeper suddenly changes their sleeping habits. They may wake up during the night or get up earlier in the morning. Your toddler might start resisting a much-needed nap.  

When do toddler sleep regressions happen?

Toddler sleep regression typically happens between 18 months and 2 years of age, though it varies from child to child. 

What causes toddler sleep regressions?

Toddler sleep regression often stems from normal growth and development patterns, stress, or a change to their routine. 

How long does sleep regression last?

These regressions are temporary and typically only last a few weeks when they happen. They are a natural part of your child’s development even though they can leave mom and dad at their wit’s end.  

The tips below will help you work through your toddler’s time of fighting naps and bedtime.

Common Toddler Bedtime Issues & What to Do About Them

You’ve finally gotten your toddler’s sleep routine down, and it has been working wonderfully! Until it doesn’t. Your toddler adds a glitch to your otherwise successful nightly routine. Sometimes your toddler starts to cry out for mom, expresses a newfound fear of the dark, or when begs for one more sip of water.

Some sleep routine disruptions, such as protesting a nap or crying when you leave the room, are related to development, while others are a result of a change in your child’s daily routine.

Your toddler may refuse to go to sleep as a way to express their independence and test the boundaries with their parents. It is frustrating for mom and dad, but it is a natural part of your toddler’s development. Here are some tips on dealing with toddler issues that can disrupt your child’s ability to get a good night’s sleep.

How to Deal with Toddler Temper Tantrums at Bedtime

Tantrums can happen at any point in the day, but many parents say their toddlers’ tantrums often happen before nap time and bedtime. And that makes sense because no toddler wants to miss out on the fun going on around them! Even if she looks tired and fights sleep (rubbing her eyes, yawning, etc.), your toddler may still resist going to bed. Here are some tips to help avert a bedtime temper tantrum:

1) To prevent the power struggle, give your toddler the option to choose parts of the nap or bedtime routine. Sleep isn’t open for debate, but you can help your child feel more in control by letting them pick out what pajamas they want to wear or what book to read.

2) Give your toddler a fair warning. Transitions are challenging for many young ones. Letting them know that it will be time for bed soon will help ease the way into the bedtime routine. Countdowns are a great way to help your child transition from what they are doing to a new focus.

3) Do not get into a lengthy debate with your toddler about why a nap or bedtime is good. You can have a short and sweet explanation of why sleep is needed. “You need to rest, so you have the energy to play when you get up.” Repeat as needed and continue with the bedtime routine.

4) Stay calm and be consistent. If your toddler gets a reaction out of you, chances are bedtime will be delayed even longer as everyone regains their composure. Stay calm and don’t bargain with your child. If bedtime is at 7:30, do not move that time. You AND your child will benefit from having the routine followed consistently.

5) Keep an eye out for your toddler’s “I’m tired” cues. Get moving on the bedtime routine if you see them rubbing their eyes and yawning a lot. If you wait, you could have an “overtired temper tantrum” on your hands. Being aware can help you stay ahead of over-tiredness and decrease the number of bedtime temper tantrums.

What should I do if my toddler cries for me after putting them to bed?

If your child cries out when they are in bed or as you are leaving the room, speak calmly and reassure your child that they are safe and that it’s time to go to sleep. Only stay a minute or two and then leave the room. If you are lucky, your child will have settled down to fall asleep. If they keep crying, wait a short amount of time, reenter the room, talk calmly for about a minute, and leave again. You will want to lengthen the time out of the room. When you go back into the room, the purpose is to reassure your child that they are okay and that you are close by. Try to keep the visits calm and quick, and don’t turn the lights on.

Your Child Keeps Getting Out of Bed

This behavior is a test of a parent’s patience. Your toddler is testing the boundaries and seeing how far they can push. If your child gets out of bed, calmly put them back into bed and leave the room. Be firm and calm so your toddler understands that this is not a game, and it isn’t as fun as they thought it would be. There should be no lengthy discussions with your child. Keep it short and calm. You may need to camp out near your child’s room so you can quickly get them back into bed and then quickly leave again. If mom or dad gets upset with the toddler, chances are the “time until sleep” will be stretched out even longer.  

Toddlers cannot tell time and do not understand when getting up and moving around is acceptable. A toddler sleep training clock might be a good option for them and you! It will let your child have a visual indicator for when it is time to be sleeping and when it is okay to get up. It takes the power struggle out of the sleep routine.

Your Child Wakes Up in the Middle of the Night

There are many reasons your toddler may be suddenly waking up in the middle of the night.

  • Teething
  • Illness
  • Changes in routine
  • Nightmares
  • Daytime Naps that are too long
  • Developmental Milestones

For teething or illnesses, you can attend to their health needs with OTC remedies that address what is ailing your toddler. Once the symptoms have calmed, your child should be ready to go back to sleep.

Before rushing into your child’s room, listen outside the door to see if your child can settle themselves first. You may find that your child can fall back to sleep on their own within a couple of minutes.

If your child cannot settle themselves, you may need to provide low-key help to get them back to sleep. A calm reassuring “shhhh” or “it’s okay” and rubbing or patting their back should be the extent of your interaction with them.  

Leave the room when they have calmed down (but not asleep). If they start crying again, go back in and repeat the steps above. Each time you leave, lengthen the amount of time you are out of the room before you return.  

If you are all for your child sleeping in their own room, make sure you don’t take them back to bed with you. It is tempting when YOU are tired and want to sleep too, but this will likely confuse your child and backfire on you. You are trying to establish healthy sleep habits that your child will benefit from as they grow. 

Your Toddler Gets Up Too Early in the Morning

Toddlers typically sleep between 11 and 14 hours a day, with most of those hours happening at night. If you find that your child is up and in good spirits too early in the morning, chances are tweaking the sleep schedules is in order. You can put them to bed a bit later at night or shorten their nap time during the day. Often, the main reason your toddler is up too early is that they went to be too early. 

Still Having Problems Getting Your Toddler to Sleep?

If your toddler regularly has trouble going to sleep and you have tried everything else, they may have a sleep disorder of some sort. Consider speaking to your health care provider about the problem to see if there are treatments available that might help.