Toddlers, Sleep and A Sense of Humour !
Posted by: Sue Atkins
Almost all babies have erratic sleep patterns to begin with, which most parents expect, and just when you thought you’d got them into some sort of rhythm and pattern…. things change!
It’s very common for toddlers to start waking up in the night when they had previously slept through, or to have difficulty in settling to sleep in the first place, as well as waking up really early in the morning.
Simple steps for settling to sleep:
- Create a simple and familiar routine for bedtime – i.e. feed, bath, and bed.
- Always allow some time for your toddler to settle – if they make a fuss, don’t go back immediately into the room as this gives them the message that you are at their beck and call and that they are (unconsciously) in control. But on the other hand don’t leave them for so long they get really distressed. Find a happy medium and trust your intuition.
- Some toddlers settle better if you keep things quiet in the evenings, and slow the day down naturally with a story, quiet time and relaxing music, while others are better if you keep natural house noises going, as it’s reassuring to know you’re nearby.
- Make sure your toddler winds down before going to bed, as this makes the transition from lively boisterous, excitable toddler to calm, relaxed, tired little toddler much easier.
- If your toddler keeps getting up after you’ve put them to bed, you need to be firm, consistent and clear in your expectations of what you want to happen and take them back to bed again… and again… and again – it may take time, but eventually they’ll get the message. You need to be relaxed, calm and confident in your body language and tone of voice.
- It’s common for toddlers to “milk the guilt” of busy working parents who often don’t get home until later in the evening, and they mess about and fuss at bedtime to get your attention.
Don’t join in with this tactic and remember toddlers who enjoy consistent bedtimes and familiar going-to-sleep rituals usually go to sleep easier and stay asleep longer.
Dealing with waking too early:
- Use black out curtains or thick blinds or curtains to make your toddler’s room darker so the morning light doesn’t wake them.
- Provide safe toys and things to occupy their hands and minds that they can play with on their own in the mornings, so they can play quietly until they hear the rest of the family is awake.
- If your child’s a natural early riser, you may just have to be patient – things change again once they start nursery or school, as they get tired out so tend to sleep for longer then.
Waking in the night:
Everyone’s sleep needs and patterns vary – some people need eight hours or more, others can manage on five or six so this creates a different picture of what ‘sleeping through’ means, even in one family, so don’t be influenced by what other parents, family members or health visitors are saying.
Just be aware that if you if you’ve always rocked, stroked or sung your child to sleep when they first go to bed, they may find it difficult to get back to sleep on their own if they wake in the night.
When you go in to comfort your toddler, keep the lights low and use a soft voice – don’t encourage them to play, chat or be ready to get the day up and running . Be calm, relaxed but functional and matter of fact (and be prepared to do this quite a few times to start with).
Develop a positive attitude a take a long term view.
Sleeping, like eating, is not a state you can force a toddler into. The best you can do is to create a secure environment that allows natural sleep to overtake your toddler.
A realistic long- term goal is to help your toddler develop a healthy attitude about sleep that teaches them that sleep is a pleasant state to enter and a secure state to remain in.
Many sleep problems in older children, and adults, stems from toddlers growing up with an unhealthy attitude around sleep and that sleeping is a scary and lonely place and state to be, not a safe and pleasant state to be in.
Teach your toddler that resting and sleeping are positive, natural and healthy states to be in when they are young and both you and your children will sleep better when they are older.
No single approach will work with all toddlers all of the time so don’t keep doing the same old thing over and over again and expect a different result – that’s the definition of madness!
Develop a night-time routine that works for you. Toddlers have different night-time temperaments and you have your own way of doing things but be prepared for one style of night-time routine to work at one stage of your toddlers life, yet need changing as they enter another stage.
Be open to trying different night-time approaches. Follow your heart and trust your intuition and you and your toddler will eventually work out the right night-time routine for your family.
The real secret is being confident and “meaning business” and insisting that your child goes to bed at a regular time to get the energy and rest that they need for growing, playing, learning and being healthy and sticking at it until you find the routine that works for you, your family and your toddler.
Here is my
Parenting Made Easy Toddler System – Week 11 SLEEP