Sleep is as essential to the healthy development of toddlers as it is for adults. However, bedtime with their young children can be a significant complication and sleep problem for many parents. Let's take a look at common causes and some tips! 👀
Potential causes of toddlers' sleep issues
There are many possible causes of sleep problems in young children; let's look at some of the most common;
- Leaps and bounds: Developmental leaps can alter sleep patterns as toddlers process new skills and experiences.
- Nap transitions: Around 18 months, some toddlers naturally switch from two naps to one, causing temporary adjustments.
- Night terrors: These frightening episodes usually occur between ages 3 and 5 and can cause nighttime awakenings and distress.
- Fear of being alone at night: This cause can manifest in frequent wakings, resistance to bedtime, and clinginess.
- Changes in routine: like a new caregiver or starting preschool, can exacerbate this anxiety.
- Unpredictable bedtimes: wake-up times and nap schedules throw off their internal clock, making falling and staying asleep harder.
- Lack of a calming bedtime routine: can create overstimulation and make it difficult to transition to sleep.
- Excessive screen time: vigorous play too close to bedtime and sugary snacks can all energize and disrupt sleep.
- Inconsistent nap schedules or skipping naps: can leave them overtired and cranky at night.
- Earaches, coughs, teething pain, or even a cold can make sleeping uncomfortable, leading to frequent disruptions.
- Addressing the underlying illness is crucial for restoring restful sleep.
Uncomfortable sleep environment
- A too-hot or too-cold room, excessive noise, bright lights, or an uncomfortable mattress can all disrupt sleep quality.
“Sleep disorders that may have a genetic predisposition, such as restless legs syndrome, affect children and adults. Specific medical issues and anxiety disorders increase the risk of sleep issues at any age.”
💡 Sleep Foundation
Common toddler's sleep problems and effective solutions
Restless nights and tired mornings: parenting young children can be like fighting a war, sleep-wise. But fear not, parent, so let's set sail and explore the top 5 sleep issues facing toddlers, along with practical tips and tricks for addressing them:
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1. Falling asleep difficulties
🤱 Separation anxiety: Fear of being alone at night can lead to resistance and waking.
💡 Solution: Offer comfort, leave a nightlight, and gradually increase the distance you sleep from them.
🧑 Underlying medical conditions: Earaches, reflux, or allergies can disrupt sleep.
💡 Solution: Consult a doctor! Rule out any medical issues impacting sleep quality.
2. Nighttime waking
🛏Habitual wakings: Waking each night simultaneously has become a habit, not a need.
💡 Solution: Stay calm and offer comfort, avoid making a big deal out of waking, offer reassurance, and guide them back to sleep.
🧟 Nightmares or bad dreams: Scary images or experiences can awaken them.
💡 Solution: Talk about them during the day, offer comfort objects, and create a bedtime story together.
❌Teething or discomfort: Painful gums or a full bladder can disrupt sleep.
💡 Solution: Teething toys, pain medication if needed, or an empty bladder can all help.
3. Short sleep duration
🎮 Overstimulation before bed: Screen time, vigorous play, or bright lights can make it harder to fall asleep.
💡 Solution: Create a calming bedtime routine to wind down the day in a dark room with quiet activities.
📱 Inadequate daytime activity: Lack of physical activity can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
💡 Solution: Burn off energy during the day, encourage outdoor play, physical activities, and structured exercise.
4. Early rising
🛏 Early to bed, early to rise: An early bedtime can lead to an equally early wake-up.
💡 Solution: Gradually shift bedtime later, move bedtime back by 15-minute increments until you reach your desired wake-up time.
⏰ Inconsistent wake-up time: Weekends throwing off the weekday routine can disrupt their internal clock.
💡 Solution: Maintain a consistent wake-up time; even on weekends, try to wake them up at the same time as weekdays.
🌅 Sunlight exposure in the morning: Bright light can trigger early waking.
💡 Solution: Block out the morning light. Blackout curtains or sleep shades can help them sleep longer.
🍭Hunger or thirst: Waking up early due to an empty stomach or needing a drink.
💡 Solution: Offer a small snack or drink: Address hunger or thirst before it wakes them up.
5. Nap issues
😪 Teething or discomfort: Painful gums or a full bladder can disrupt naptime.
💡 Solution: Create a calming pre-nap routine: Similar to bedtime
🧒 Developmental changes: Some toddlers naturally transition from two to one nap around 18 months.
💡 Solution: In this case, it is to be patient and accept the changes around naps.
⏰ Inconsistent nap schedule: Naps that are too long, too late, or irregular can disrupt nighttime sleep.
💡 Solution: Establish a consistent nap schedule Ideally, one or two naps (depending on age) at specific times.
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How much sleep does a toddler need?
Navigating the ways of infant and toddler sleep issues can sometimes feel like cracking a secret code. One of the critical pieces of this puzzle is understanding their unique sleep needs. How much sleep does a toddler need?
Friendly reminder💫: Each child is a unique navigator on his or her sleep journey. Pay close attention to their cues, such as moodiness or difficulty waking up, and adjust their sleep schedule accordingly.
Expert baby- tip 👨⚕️: According to Kids Health, most children between the ages of 2 and 3 typically sleep 12-13 hours daily, including 1-2 hour daytime naps.
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When to consult a doctor about your child's sleep?
While implementing the helpful tips we've explored can go a long way toward smoother navigation in infant sleep, there are times when seeking professional guidance is recommended. Here are some indicators that consulting a physician about your child's poor sleep habits can be beneficial:
Persistent sleep problems:
- Frequent nighttime awakenings.
- Bedtime resistance for more than two weeks.
- Early rising (before 5:00 AM).
- Significantly shorter sleep duration
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Poor mood despite getting enough sleep at night.
- Snoring or noisy breathing during sleep.
- Gasping or unusual pauses in breathing during sleep.
- Nightmares or night terrors that cause significant distress.
- Excessive sweating or bedwetting during sleep.
- Headaches or stomachaches are associated with sleep difficulties.
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- Nemours KidsHealth. (n.d.). Sleep and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old. Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sleep12yr.html
- American Academy of Pediatrics: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/sleep/Pages/default.aspx
- National Sleep Foundation: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-habits
- Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/is-your-child-getting-enough-sleep
- Sleep Foundation an article of Sleep Disorders in Children https://www.sleepfoundation.org/children-and-sleep/sleep-disorders-in-children