I don't think one can ever be prepared for the difficult sleepless nights of having a baby but, still, it's to be expected. We all knew from the time we found out we were having a baby, that this baby wouldn't only fill our hearts with joy but our mugs with coffee. What many of us don't realize is that the sleeplessness doesn't always end with infancy. Many toddlers experience night waking, sleep regression or restlessness at night. Which means, so do toddler parents!
Here are some facts that you need to know about toddler sleep and some tips to deal with sleepless toddlers.
Toddlers need 11-14 hours of sleep in a day.
Usually by 18 months, toddlers will have cut back to one nap a day. My son went down to one nap right at a year old. Thankfully, it was (still is) a long one. The length of a toddler nap can range anywhere from 1-3 hours.
Resisting sleep is normal for toddlers.
There are many reasons that a toddler might resist going to sleep. Their imaginations are more active at this point, which can keep them awake. Many toddlers are also bow able to get out of bed on their own. They may have nightmares or they might just not want to miss out on the fun. As a baby, your little one didn't know where you went which can be traumatic. Now, your toddler not only knows you'll be back but he might even believe you're having the time of your life without him (which you very well may be!). Another reason your toddler might be resisting sleep is because she simply wants to assert her independence; refusing to sleep can be a form of control for your toddler.
Night waking is not actually a problem.
Just as you might wake up at night, so will your toddler. It is a completely normal occurrence for all people. The "problem" is that sometimes our toddler's night wakings wake us up, too. Or sometimes the reason for the night waking is upsetting (like a nightmare) and it is difficult to get them back to sleep. But the simple fact that your toddler wakes up, is not a problem. And sometimes the problem is actually that the parent is too quick to run in and "rescue" the toddler. Up until fairly recently, I would say that my son had a "problem" sleeping through the night. Until one day I realized that I was the one who had the problem. He was waking up like a normal person. But because I heard him, I felt the need to go in and check on him. This would result in him refusing to stay in bed. So, I would bring him in my bed where we would both have a restless night's sleep. Night waking is normal and knowing when (or when not to) disrupt this normal behavior can make all the difference.
Tips For Better Toddler Sleep:
- Have a consistent bedtime and routine. Being consistent with a bed time will help ensure your little one gets the amount of sleep she needs. Having a routine of events will help her know what comes next. Most toddlers even come to enjoy certain aspects of the routine. For example, my son usually relaxes and drinks milk after bath. After he's done with his milk, it's time to brush his teeth. He loves brushing his teeth. So, instead of saying "time for bed" which will most definitely result in a fit for the ages I say, "time to brush our teeth" or sometimes I'll ask if he would like to brush his teeth. More times than not, he runs to the bathroom to brush his teeth. After which, he goes to his room knowing it's time for bed.
- Give your toddler some choices. Remember, your little one knows he is more independent and is seeking out some type of control over his life. Allowing your toddler to have a little bit of choice will help him feel like he has some independence and control. If your toddler is fighting you, try asking something like, "do you want to go to bed now or after we read a book?"
- Create a sleep ambiance. One of the reasons a toddler might have difficulty going back to sleep after waking is if something about the environment has changed. Keeping the sleeping environment consistent will help your toddler go back to sleep on her own. If something is "off" it could likely throw your toddler off and result in your toddler refusing to go back to sleep.