Help! why won’t my toddler sleep?

I LOVE toddlers. I should- I have had 3! I have learnt so much about life from simply stepping back and observing their innocence and basic inquisitive way of how simple the world can be- before we grow up. Wanting to preserve that innocence and enhance it to become a part of their authentic being.  So yes, when it comes to sleep issues,  they are my most common client  in the family home.  This age and drive for independence makes them tough little characters to please!

On average toddlers need about 12-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. When they reach about 18 months of age their naptimes will decrease to once a day lasting about one to three hours.

Many toddlers experience sleep problems including resisting going to bed and night time awakenings. Night time fears and nightmares are also common. Many factors can lead to sleep problems. Toddlers’ drive for independence and an increase in their motor, cognitive and social abilities can interfere with sleep. In addition, their ability to get out of bed, separation anxiety, the need for autonomy and the development of the child’s imagination can lead to sleep problems. Daytime sleepiness and behaviour problems may signal poor sleep or a sleep problem.

Chronically over tired children may not seem tired, and don’t always act tired. They will always resist sleep and need us to help them form good sleep habits.

Signs of over tired toddlers are:

-tend to be whiny, fussy or clingy

-sucks thumb, finger, or wants to suckle other than at bedtimes.

-carries blanket, stuffed toy around during the day.

-is hyperactive, especially at times when you think they should be tired.

-is overly stubborn.

-has regular temper tantrums, or easily becomes upset or angry.

-has difficulty falling asleep when put to bed

-falls asleep frequently when in car, bus or train.

-falls asleep in front of TV

-sometime’s falls asleep on the couch or floor before bedtime.

-takes a long time to become alert and awake in the morning.

-does not appear to be well rested and full of energy.

-doesn’t seem as happy as she should be.

Key Points   to help your toddler slip into sleep.             

-Maintain a daily sleep schedule and consistent bedtime routine.

-Make the bedroom environment the same every night and throughout the night.

-Set limits that are consistent, communicated and enforced. Encourage use of his favourite stuffed toy or comforter.

-All children need a comforting bedtime routine, and they need it from early infancy right up through the school years. It gives them a healthy sense of predictability and it’s a wonderful opportunity for parents and children to slow down and reconnect peacefully at the end of the day.

-Give your toddler choices before bed like which pjs does he/she want to wear, which book may he/she want to read or what extra toy (quiet), he/ she might want to take to bed.  It will make him/her  feel in control and make him/her less likely to resist when it’s time for light’s out. Think about creating your own unique bedtime ritual which you will share for years come: a special song, sharing two things you liked about your day, reading out loud, prayers, blessings or sending kisses and love to others.

-Done right, bedtime can be a special, loving time to celebrate closeness; a time your child will look forward to and cherish. If two parents take turns at bedtime, they don’t have to follow an identical script but should have a similar routine, style and response to any bedtime power plays, fears or stalling.

-A soothing bedtime routine signals the body and brain to slow down and prepare for sleep. The tone of bedtime should be calm, quiet and reassuring as you prepare your kid to separate from you all night.

I emphasize strongly every child is an individual and it’s important to listen to the cues that your toddler is giving you. What may have worked for your friend/sister/neighbour doesn’t necessarily work for another. Clear rules and parental consistency is essential for transitioning sleep situations…mixed liberally with plenty of love, cuddles, and kisses!

And MOST importantly be wary that your expectations are that of an adult not as a 12,15,18 or 24 month old.

Help! I think my baby is having a nightmare or night terror?

Last night at 1145 pm  our little boy twin woke screaming- I mean blood curdling, high pitched, send the fear of god through your blood, bolt upright out of bed type of screaming! We ran into his room, and he was hidden under his doona, absolutely freaking out yelling “noooo, nooo, don’t, don’t”. We gently (after putting our hearts back in our chests), tried to comfort him, called his name- but it was as if he was in a trance- OR a few weeks ago our girl twin about 430 am in the morning came running in touched my face (nothing like a stroke on your face to scare the living daylights out of you), crying saying “mummy i am scared the crocodile tried to eat me”- it took 30 mins to console her, reassure her that crocodiles did not live under her bed. With a torch check, turned on her pillow pet, and a bit of a back massage she went happily back to sleep. She could remember what happened in the morning and we talked about what was real versus make-believe.

Sound familiar? Is your child  having nightmares or night terrors?

Nightmares occur during REM sleep, which happens near the end of our sleep period. When children have a nightmare, they will seek comfort from their disturbing dream and recognize you upon seeing you. They are able to recall the nightmare, but it may take a while to fall back asleep and get the scary thoughts out of their minds. Nightmares are very common and are part of normal development. Their occurrence often peaks at two or three years of age when children have rich imaginations and trouble distinguishing between reality and fantasy.

-Avoid scary videos, books, etc. prior to bed.

-Don’t play scary games.

-Respond quickly when your kid has a nightmare and assure him that he’s safe.

– Help your child get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can increase nightmares.

-Check with your pediatrician to make sure your child is not on any medications that might be interfering with his night sleep.

Our little boy had a night terror though. 

Night terrors are different from nightmares in both the symptoms and the experience. When a child is experiencing a night terror he/she may scream and appear anxious and may not recognize you when you approach him/her. There may also be sweating and/or a racing heartbeat. The child is often inconsolable, they may cry, whimper or frail around the bed. The terror usually lasts between five and fifteen minutes and then subsides. These incidents are often more upsetting for the parent than they are for the child, as children do not usually remember them. Night terrors occur during NON-REM sleep and usually occur within two-four hours of going to sleep. Night terrors are not bad dreams. They do NOT occur during dream sleep. They are not a sign of a psychological problem.

Night terrors seem to be more common in boys, and occur in 5% of all children. Sometimes they occur when your kid is working on a developmental milestone. Your child is more likely to have night terrors if either parent had them as a child, or if either parent had a partial arousal sleep disorder such as sleepwalking. The most common cause of night terrors is sleep deprivation or a disturbance in a child’s sleep patterns—like traveling to different time zones, a new home or a later bedtime. Other reasons for night terrors can include sleep apnea and fevers.

How to handle a Night Terror:

-If your child is having a night terror, monitor your child but avoid interfering, as this can worsen the episode.

-Make sure your child is physically safe during the night terror.

-Put your child to bed earlier.

-Keep a regular sleep schedule.

-Don’t talk about the terror with your child in the morning.

For further information or help please email me at