If you have a toddler of your own, you’ve likely learned a whole new meaning to the terrible twos. Especially when it comes to getting your little one to go to sleep. (Trust me, I’ve been there- I have two kids of my own!) Toddlerhood comes with many ups and downs- the highs are high, and the lows are low. It’s so amazing watching your little one learn and grow into themselves, but the sleep challenges that come with this stage can be brutal. Today, I’m sharing tips for better toddler sleep!
The Terrible Twos: Tips for Better Toddler Sleep
Toddler sleep can be tricky- many factors can potentially play into their sleep issues. Toddlers have a LOT going on in their little world- they’re learning so much new information daily. They’re picking up on their surroundings and absorbing everything like sponges.
These changes can result in disrupted sleep patterns, bedtime resistance, and separation anxiety- the whole works. When you’re able to get to the root of their sleep roadblocks, it’s so much easier to navigate toddler sleep challenges. There are tons of tips for better toddler sleep to help alleviate the common sleep issues you may be facing. Hang in there- better sleep is ahead!
Common Toddler Sleep Problems
Many toddler sleep issues are normal for little ones to go through. Once you can identify what your little one struggles with, it’s much easier to implement these tips for better toddler sleep.
Bedtime resistance is VERY common at this age. (It doesn’t end with bedtime- any boundaries that can likely will be tested. It’s all fair game at this age.) Suddenly, you’ve realized that your toddler has become a professional negotiator. This sleep issue is to be expected, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating as a parent.
If you’re familiar with the feeling of being woken up from a dead sleep and praying that your clock has at least a “6” in front of it… You’re likely familiar with early waking. Gone are the days when you get to sleep in- your toddler wakes up at the crack of dawn, ready to go. (Wouldn’t it be nice if they could share some of their energy with us?!) My Early Waking Guide covers all the ins and outs of putting an end to the early waking habit.
All parents know the feeling of being woken up in the middle of the night by their little ones. It can be extremely exhausting when this becomes a regular habit. Whether it’s caused by a lack of tiredness, a thrown-off sleep routine, or nighttime anxiety, many tips for better toddler sleep can help minimize overnight waking.
Even as adults, daylight savings time can throw a wrench into our routines! This is to be expected. If you’re able to prepare ahead of time, that will be ideal to minimize sleep issues. Check out my blog post for tips on baby sleep and daylight savings.
Nightmares or night terrors
Nightmares or night terrors are both gut-wrenching for a parent to witness. It’s the worst feeling knowing that you can’t control your child’s nightmares and make them go away. Nightmares could be caused by a thrown-off sleep schedule, anxiety, or other sleep interruptions. I have a whole post dedicated to this topic- differentiating nightmares vs. night terrors, what causes them, and how to help your little one.
What Causes Sleep Issues in Toddlers?
You may be wondering why you’re experiencing sleep issues with your child. There are SO many different factors that can go into sleep battles. Identifying the cause of the sleep problems will make it much easier to follow these tips for better toddler sleep.
Sleep regressions are SO tough, but they’re to be expected. They typically happen around 4, 6, 8, 12, 18 months, 2 years, and 3 years, so your toddler will likely experience them a few times. They usually only last for a few weeks, so luckily there is an end in sight if you’re currently going through this or expecting a sleep regression to occur soon. Although technically they’re called sleep “regressions”, they’re a sign that you’re little one is progressing. Even though they can be frustrating, sleep regressions are a sign of growth and development!
Overtired or undertired
It’s not just under tired toddlers who struggle to sleep through the night- overtired toddlers have a hard time sleeping as well. It’s important to stick to a consistent napping and sleep schedule that provides your little one with optimal rest so that they can develop healthy sleeping habits. My Toddler Sleep Guide is chock-full of tips and information to get your toddler on a solid sleep routine.
Too much screen time
Screen time is detrimental to sleep habits. Blue light suppresses the onset of melatonin, messing with your little one’s circadian rhythm. This makes it way harder for your toddler to feel sleepy, fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up at a normal time.
Big life changes
New sibling, new school, big move… All of these are life-altering changes for your little one. Their sleeping habits may struggle as a result of making these big adjustments. When your family is in the thick of change, consistency is key to helping your toddler get through their sleep issues!
Having a sick toddler is bound to throw off their sleep routine. If you’ve been working on sleep training, illness may be a frustrating curveball. The best thing to do in this case is to comfort them until they’re feeling better, then resume sleep training. Sleep training when your baby is sick is tough- hang in there, it will get better!
Teething commonly happens from 6 months to around 3 years of age. The discomfort that your toddler experiences during teething is bound to create some sleep issues! There are many ways to comfort them during teething. It may disrupt their sleep training, but it won’t last forever.
Fear or separation anxiety
Having fears or separation anxiety is very common in toddlers. There are ways to help your little one overcome their anxiety to develop secure attachment styles and not feel frightened at bedtime. Here’s a list of books covering a variety of fears, including the dark, which is extremely common:
- Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears
- Mikey and the Dragons
- Orion and the Dark
- When I Feel Scared
- Scaredy Squirrel at Night
If your child has started potty training, you’re probably familiar with the frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom and accidents. Potty training can make it difficult for your little one to fall back to sleep once they’ve woken up!
Tips for Better Toddler Sleep
Now that we’ve reviewed what issues may be happening and why, here are some tips for better toddler sleep to help you navigate these sleep battles!
Give them enough time to wind down
Make sure that you start winding down with calming activities in plenty of time before bed. It’s common for kids at this age to be super hyper or overstimulated, so giving them enough time to switch gears is important. There are tons of bedtime activities for preschoolers to help them get sleepy, like yoga or coloring!
Eliminate screentime before bed
Screen time is scientifically proven to delay the onset of melatonin production. This makes it difficult for both children and adults to fall asleep and stay asleep. Avoid any sort of screen time at least 60 minutes before bed. Instead, swap out the screens for relaxing activities like yoga, puzzles, coloring, crafts, imaginary play, etc.
Practice deep breathing
This is a GREAT practice if your little one tends to be overstimulated before bedtime. This will not only help them develop a healthy habit to cope with anxiety as they grow older, but it will also allow them to feel much more calm. Here’s one way I recommend practicing deep breathing for littles:
- Tell your child to pretend that you just baked their favorite flavor of cake (you can use a pretend cake or draw one for a visual).
- Ask them to smell the cake (they should breathe in deeply through their nose).
- Count to 3.
- Direct them to blow out all of the candles on their cake (they should pretend to do so)!
- Do this with them 3x.
Create an optimal sleep environment
There are tons of toddler sleep products to aid in curating an environment for your little one that produces the best sleep. You want their room to be dark, quiet with white noise, and as relaxing as possible.
Have a consistent bedtime routine
This is one of the most important tips for better toddler sleep. Having a regular bedtime routine that you follow every night and at naptime is the recipe for success when it comes to sleep training. There are tons of benefits of nighttime routines, and they will help your toddler become better adjusted to the idea of bedtime. Consistency is key!
Here’s an example of a bedtime routine to comfort your little one and help them learn positive sleep habits and consistency.
- Bath (on bath nights)
- Bathroom (if potty trained) or change into diaper
- Brush teeth
- Change into pajamas
- Let your toddler pick 2 or 3 books (giving them options will help give them a sense of power throughout the routine, but limiting the options also establishes the boundaries)
- Sing a song
- Turn on a white noise machine
- Shut off light
- Lay into your toddler’s bed, say goodnight, I love you
- Close the bedroom door and leave
If you’ve tried all of these tips for better toddler sleep with no luck, you may need individualized guidance to help crack the code of your sleep issues. My Toddler Help Me Sleep Packages offer personal phone consultations, a customized sleep plan, access to a private sleep log, a future look sleep plan, and access to an exclusive Facebook group for ongoing support.
Interested in my services but have questions about my support? Click here to book a free 15-minute phone call. You deserve to sleep again!