Just when you think you have sailed past the sleepless baby nights, your toddler decides it’s time for a sleep regression. As if not getting a full night of sleep for a couple of years wasn’t bad enough, here you go again. Even though it might seem like it, our little ones don’t do this on purpose. Trust me, it isn’t for spite. Your toddler just may need a little help learning to sleep through the night.
Sleep is a critical factor in the growth and development of our kids. Toddlers are at a stage where growth in every spectrum is happening and we have to be mindful of that. This is one of the main reasons experts recommend that kids should have as much sleep as possible.
Unfortunately, it isn’t all that easy. Learning how to help your toddler sleep through the night without a fuss is always an issue for many parents. And they are too big for the “swaddle, shush, swing” method to get them to simmer down. You should not be surprised to find them wide awake at 4.00 am, playing with toys, screaming for you, or even showing up all creepy-like at your bedside staring at you silently in the dark. If you are an older mom like me, who also has a full time job, I just can’t deal with these shenanigans on the weeknights.
It can be easy to give up on trying to make them go to bed and sleep through the night, but you need your sleep too! While it may not get to the root of the issue, introducing good sleep habits can make a huge difference.
Limit their screen time before bed
If toddlers would have their way they would spend every moment awake in front of the TV or iPad, watching their favorite cartoons or on your phone playing games. If you want to enhance their sleep, limit the screen time to a few hours before they go to bed. Make it part of your routine.
The programs, games and videos they watch on these devices keep their brain cells wired and getting sleep becomes a major issue. Everything they watch should also be monitored to ensure that they do not get nightmares from watching inappropriate programs. Trust me, I have been lax a few times here and completely reget my choices. Nightmares will not help your toddler sleep through the night, and neither will you.
No drinks or snacks at night
“Just one more pot-cicle, mama!”
No, I don’t feed my kid pot cicles, that’s just how he says popcicle.
And does he dig popsicles right now.
But every time I give in to his sweet little pleads for more after 7 p.m. I am rewarded with a wide awake little dude until at least 10:30.
This is not a positive experience for either one of us. Mama needs some down time.
What I have learned is that I need to limit the drinks and snacks I give to my toddler at night. My recommendation is to make sure that they do not eat or drink anything within one hour before they go to bed. Their body will not have a chance to digest this food the right way. It could get uncomfortable and prevent them from sleeping right.
If you give them drinks right before their bedtime, that leads to the need to go potty, or wet overnight diapers. Could you sleep like this? I know I couldn’t. This is a very uncomfortable feeling for them and you will find them waking up at ungodly hours because of it. You should always encourage them to go potty before they go to bed, too.
Bedtime routine works
If your kids are like mine, they thrive on routines. They will complain about them, sure, but we have such smoother nights when the routine is kept on schedule.
Every household should have some kind of bedtime routine. Toddlers love consistency and any sudden changes throw them off their balance. Once they recognize their routine, their brains get synched up and they get used to the whole process.
For instance, they brush their teeth, then have a warm bath, change into their pajamas, probably listen as you read a bedtime story to them and then sleep.
Make them comfortable in their bed
How would it feel sleeping on a bed that is as hard as stone? You will wake up feeling more tired than you were before you went to bed the previous night. The same applies to our toddlers.
Make sure they have a comfortable bed to sleep in at the end of a long play day. Their bedding and bed linens should be clean and soft. If they have a favorite stuffed animal, or a cool flashlight like my kiddo, snuggle them in and wish them a good night. Keeping them comfortable is key to helping your toddler sleep through the night.
Create a calm and silent environment
We all know that one mom who brags about their kid who could fall asleep in mosh pict at a Rage Against the Machine concert. Cue eye-roll. I bet they also potty train their kids in a weekend.
A good night’s sleep can’t always happen in a noisy environment. That is why you need to make sure that when your toddler goes to sleep, there is calm and quiet everywhere in the house. Ask the other family members to keep the noise down until they are fast asleep.
Store away toys that are noisy and flashy, too. They might be fun to play with during the day but at night they will be a nuisance. Make sure you collect everything that could be in the way in the toddler’s room to prevent anyone from stepping on it. I’m looking at you Legos.
Set the mood right for sleep
If your toddler is having trouble sleeping through the night, try setting the mood in the room for sleeping. Maybe there is too much light? This can be really distracting and can sometimes cast “scary” shadows. Dim the lights.
Before they go to bed, let them have a warm bath. The warmth from the bath plus the warmth of their beddings should create the perfect atmosphere for sleep. You may also try aromatherapy. Lavender and eucalyptus scents are great for sleeping.
Some experts claim that slow, classical music also helps toddlers to sleep. You could try this as well. The music creates white noise which creates a peaceful ambience and helps with getting to deep sleep.
I’m not going to sugar coat this one. Just wear them out. Sometimes that’s the best method for getting your toddler to sleep at night. Allow your toddler to go out and play in the evening, when the weather is right. Or have dinner at your local restaurant with a play space indoors. Encourage them to have as much physical activity as possible. This allows them to develop and grow and it will also help them to unwind faster and have a good quality sleep.
Learning how to help your toddler sleep through the night will make them feel better and it could set the tone for the entire family. It is worth the effort to set some boundaries and have a simple routine to make everyone’s sleep a little better each night. Have you tried these tips? Do you have any of your own? I would love to hear about them.