There’s nothing more difficult to deal with than a cranky toddler. When your toddler doesn’t get enough sleep or is kept up when they’re ready to sleep, it can feel like a tornado has been set loose in the middle of your life. These five tips will help your toddler sleep.
1. Set up a bedtime routine.
Toddlers do better with routines throughout their day. Bedtime is no exception. Create a routine that includes putting on pajamas and brushing teeth (to avoid any emergency visits to the Dentist in Citrus Heights). Try to include some time to relax, such as a bedtime story or two or sitting in a rocking chair with you. Be consistent with this routine so they understand this means it’s time to sleep.
Don’t include screens in this bedtime routine. Blue light helps suppress melatonin, which helps us sleep. TVs, tablets, and computer screens will all help keep your child awake rather than calming them down for sleep.
2. Keep regular sleep and wake times.
Putting your toddler to bed and waking them up at the same time every day will help them sleep better. Their little bodies, just like ours, learn to associate the same time every day with getting sleepy or waking up.
Extend this to nap times as well. As much as possible, put your child down for and wake them up from naps at the same time. This will not only improve their sleep at night but also make nap time easier.
3. Make sure naps aren’t too long.
If your little one struggles to sleep at night, it could be because their naps are too long. Depending on age, toddlers are expected to sleep between 8-14 hours per day. This time includes naps. Try calculating how many hours they’re sleeping at night plus naps. If it totals the expected sleep duration for your toddler’s age, or more, it’s time to shorten their nap.
You should also make sure their naps aren’t too late in the day. If toddlers nap too close to bedtime, they won’t feel tired and will keep you up much longer. If you suspect this is the problem, try moving naptime back a bit until you find the right time that allows your toddler to be well-rested throughout the day and still fall asleep easily at night.
4. Get lots of natural light during the day.
Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleep. Typically, it’s suppressed during the day and produced at night. Natural light helps with melatonin suppression.
Open the curtains first thing in the morning to let plenty of natural light into your home and help your toddler wake up fully. Spend time playing outdoors during the day, either in your own yard or at a nearby park or playground.
In the evening, close the curtains (especially in the summer when the light lasts longer) and keep the lights dim. This will help ramp up melatonin production so your toddler will be ready for sleep when bedtime arrives.
5. Rule out sleep issues.
There are lots of things that can keep a toddler awake at night. Nightmares, night terrors, a fear of being alone, sleep apnea, and ADHD are just a few possibilities. Some can be ruled out easily at home while others require a doctor’s diagnosis.
If you suspect a sleep issue might be interfering with your toddler’s sleep, take steps to rule it out. Spend a few nights checking on them more often to determine if they’re having nightmares or a fear of being alone in their room. If you suspect sleep apnea or night terrors, you’ll need to schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician to explore the possibility.
Even if you don’t suspect a sleep issue, it can’t hurt to mention any trouble your toddler is having with sleep at their next checkup. A pediatrician can help reassure you what’s normal and what’s not, as well as getting the ball rolling on any referrals you might need.
Toddlers aren’t that different from adults. The biggest difference is their inability to express themselves verbally like us when they’re tired, scared, or frustrated. By using these tips, you’ll set your toddler up for sleep success. Your toddler’s peaceful nights mean you’ll have peaceful nights. Who doesn’t want that?