How to get your toddler back to sleep
Toddlers need 11 to 14 hours of sleep every day. Moms and dads can only dream of getting that much.
While newborns normally wake up several times throughout the night for feedings, as they grow into toddlers and young children, they settle into a more structured sleep schedule.
However, it’s not unusual for toddlers to still wake up several times throughout the night. Sometimes they’re up for good, waking up their parents who have no idea how to get their kid back to sleep.
Why toddlers wake up at night
At the drop of their favorite blanket, toddlers can go from out like a light to full speed ahead. It might seem like there’s no rhyme or reason to why it’s happening, but Dr. Kevin Dahlman, medical director of Aurora Children’s Health at Aurora Health Care says parents can identify the potential triggers for their kid’s sleep problems.
- Physical reasons: Growth spurts naturally encourage kids to test limits and boundaries, and this includes sleep. Pain from teething or catching a cold can also cause kids to wake up and have trouble settling back into sleep.
- Changes to their routine: Kids may have trouble adapting to changes around them, like a new babysitter or teacher. Seemingly subtle changes to when they go to bed, or what they do before lights out can lead to sleep issues throughout the night.
- Fear, anxiety or stress: Bad dreams can keep kids up crying all night. Night terrors, which are not to be confused with nightmares, can throw kids into an uncontrollable fit. These are often caused by the anxiety or stress caused by separating from a pacifier, blanket or stuffed animal.
- Not enough or too much sleep: Being overtired can lead to restlessness, while too long of a nap during the day means that nighttime could be difficult.
How you can prevent them from waking up
Dr. Dahlman recommends these tips for making sure your toddler – and everybody in your house – gets an uninterrupted and refreshing night of sleep.
- Learn why they wake up: Troubleshoot and understand what factors are causing your toddler to wake up. See your pediatrician to make sure they aren’t ill and go from there to create an environment that leads to smoother sleep.
- Help them self-soothe: Maybe they aren’t quite ready to give up their pacifier or blanket. Give them what they need to settle into sleep and get creative with night lights, white noise or a fan to calm them down before bed.
- Make a bedtime routine: Read a story, talk about your day or look ahead to tomorrow. Whatever you choose, following a set routine gets their body into the habit of settling in for the night.
- Manage their sleep schedule: Keep track how much sleep they’re getting at night, as well as during nap time. Using this info, parents can better manage bedtime not just day to day but from year to year as they get older.
About the Author
Matt Queen, health enews contributor, is a communication coordinator at Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee. He is a former TV sports anchor and journalist with extensive public relations experience across the health care spectrum. Outside of work, Matt enjoys watching sports (of course), cooking, gardening, golfing and spending time with his wife and two young children.