Toddler Sleep Training: 4 Common Causes Of Toddler Sleep Problems
Many families find themselves battling sleep problems with their toddlers and are at their wits end. Raising a toddler is challenging enough on a good day- raising a toddler when you’re sleep deprived often feels impossible! Toddler sleep training is paramount!
Thankfully, your little energizer bunny is more than capable of learning to sleep through the night on a regular basis, as long as all the pieces to the “sleep puzzle” are in place.
Here’s a list of 4 common perpetrators of sleep problems in toddlers and preschoolers. Avoiding them can lead to easier toddler sleep training.
Your child cannot fall asleep on his own.
If you are still nursing or rocking your toddler to sleep, or if your child “needs” you to lie with him in his bed until he falls asleep, now is the time to stop. If a toddler can’t fall asleep on his own without any help, he will struggle falling BACK to sleep when he wakes up in the middle of the night. Giving your toddler the opportunity to develop independent sleep skills is essential, especially if he’s giving you a run for your money in the sleep department.
If a toddler can’t fall asleep on his own without any help, he will struggle falling BACK to sleep when he wakes up in the middle of the night.
Your child is not napping appropriately for her age.
Many parents are quick to transition their toddler to one nap once she’s 12 months old. Transitioning a toddler to a one nap schedule prematurely can result in an overtired child- and no one sleeps well at night when they’re overtired! As a result, I always encourage parents to keep their children on two naps for as long as possible. If your toddler begins fighting her afternoon nap, shorten the morning nap so that she’s not napping for longer than 45-60 minutes. This will help “protect” the afternoon nap.
I always encourage parents to keep their children on two naps for as long as possible.
Your toddler will likely be ready to transition to one nap when she’s 15-18 months of age. Once your child is consistently taking one nap, this nap should be approximately 2-2.5 hours in length. Anything shorter and she’s probably not getting the daytime sleep that she needs. By the time your child is 2.5-3 years of age, a 90 minute nap might suffice.
Your child isn’t getting ample age-appropriate activity and stimulation during the daytime.
Toddlers are extremely active little creatures and require lots of regular daily stimulation. All too often, some toddlers end up spending hours in front of the television, iPad, or computer. Overexposure to various forms of media can cause sleep problems for two reasons:
- Exposure to blue light from television, iPads and computers can suppress the production of melatonin (the hormone that makes us sleepy). In order for our toddlers to sleep properly, it’s important to make sure we’re not suppressing our child’s natural wake/sleep cycles!
- If a child is spending hours every day playing with an iPad, it likely means he’s not getting enough gross motor activity, nor is he engaging in regular sensory and imaginative play that he needs! I can’t emphasize how important it is for your child to be regularly engaged in various forms of play. Explore the different options for your toddler at your local Ontario Early Years Centers, indoor playgrounds, and community centers.
Your child’s bedtime is too late
I sometimes feel like a broken record when I talk about the importance of an early bedtime, but here I go again!
Even if your child knows how to fall asleep on her own, it doesn’t mean she’s going to sleep through the night. If your child is going to bed too late, she is going to bed overtired- and, once again, overtired children don’t sleep well! When a child becomes overtired, her body begins producing a hormone called cortisol, which is a stress-related hormone. Putting a child to bed too late can cause your child to have a cortisol rush, which leads to difficulty falling asleep, night-wakings, and early rising- and sometimes you get all three!
Giving your child a consistent early bedtime will allow her to get the sleep that she needs- and you’ll avoid having a cranky overtired toddler on your hands!
- Teach your toddler how to fall asleep on his/her own.
- Hold onto naps.
- Ensure your child gets ample age-appropriate activity and stimulation during the daytime.
- Minimize screen time
- Make sure your child’s bedtime isn’t too late
Eva is a certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant through the International Maternity and Parenting Institute and is the founder of My Sleeping Baby. Eva’s main goal is to assist her clients establish healthy sleep habits for their children. After experiencing the debilitating effects of chronic sleep deprivation from her two children, Eva was inspired to help families overcome their sleep challenges. Eva truly empathizes with her clients’ sleep troubles and personally invests herself in their sleep journey. Eva is a proud wife and mother of two beautiful girls (who are now both great sleepers) and lives with her family in Toronto. She provides individual sleep consultations, either in-person or over the phone, and facilitates group seminars. In addition to completing her sleep consulting certification, Eva has her Bachelor of Arts from York University and her law degree from the University of Western Ontario.