Parents know the value of a good night’s sleep, and thanks to their toddlers, they also know how rare it can be. Sleep is important to your toddler’s well-being and growth, and to your sanity. According to the National Sleep Foundation, toddlers need between 12 and 14 hours of sleep each day. Regulating your toddler’s sleep habits can be a challenge, but with consistency and persistence everyone in your house can get a good night’s sleep.
According to the University of Missouri, toddlers need routines to develop self-control and independence. When your toddler knows when to expect sleep, bedtime is less likely to end in a battle. If naps occur at the same time every day, and bedtime routines are consistent every night, that moment when you turn out the light and leave the room won’t be something for your toddler to fear or fight against.
Set the Mood
The National Sleep Foundation recommends including time for your toddler to transition to sleep in your bedtime routines. A busy or worried mind can keep you awake for hours, and your toddler is no different. Transition activities, such as a story or a bath, help your toddler slow down and get in the mood for sleep. Don’t include television or movies as part of your toddler’s bedtime routine because these tend to stimulate rather than relax. If you have a toddler who is fearful of sleeping alone, discuss any fears or worries before bedtime so that you can reassure her that she is safe.
Eventually this time can be used to share a story instead. Setting the mood also includes creating the right sleep environment. A bright bedroom is too stimulating, but a dark room can be scary. Use a night light to help your child feel secure and to cast a soft, peaceful glow over the room.
Avoid Sleep Zappers
Toddlers seem to stash energy in a secret place and always pull it out when you want them to sleep. You can avoid bedtime battles by making sure your toddler gets lots of exercise during the day and avoiding caffeinated food and drinks. Caffeine can destroy your sleep plans by giving your toddler a super store of energy, even if it’s consumed early in the day. A bed filled with toys or stuffed animals can also keep your child awake, as can using the bed as a punishment. Your toddler should view the bed as a place to sleep or rest, without negative feelings attached to it.
Answering Night Calls
Waking to a screaming toddler is as unwelcome as a bucket of cold water, but if you get up every time your toddler calls, regulating sleep can take forever. Allow your toddler time to go back to sleep on his own instead of running out of bed to check on him. If your toddler continues to cry, he might be experiencing a night terror or a nightmare and needs reassurance. When you go in, speak in a soothing voice and focus on getting your toddler back in bed. The University of Missouri recommends you don’t spend too much time talking about bad dreams, because this focuses too much on the negative feelings. Discuss pleasant thoughts instead, and stay with your toddler until he settles.