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.