Toddlers generally need ten to twelve hours sleep each night with a daytime nap. However, even if your toddler wakes during the night, disrupting the whole family – they usually get exactly the right amount of sleep that they need to grow and develop normally.
In different cultures, there are varied approaches to sleep environments and encouraging good sleep patterns. There is no one correct way to help your toddler sleep; the correct method is one that is safe, you feel comfortable with, and that works with your child. Some children seem to naturally establish good sleep patterns, while others may inherently have more difficulties. This is not a reflection of your parenting ability.
If your child shows tired signs like being clingy, grizzly or clumsier than usual, these are signs that they are tired and will benefit from more toddler sleep. If you are feeling the same – it’s definitely time to try and help your toddler sleep through the night so you can get the rest that you need.
An example of a toddler sleep pattern would be waking at six or seven am, a nap of one to two hours after lunch time, wake up in the early afternoon and a bedtime at around 6.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. If a toddler has a longer day time nap, they may not be ready to sleep until much later at night.
Some toddlers like to wake early at 5.30 a.m. or 6.30 a.m. This is normal behaviour, so instead of trying to change them, it might be easier for you to get to bed early and rise when they do.
Routine helps toddlers settle and know that it’s time for bed. A settled evening routine may include a 6.00 p.m. bath and dinner, then brushing teeth and some quiet time such as reading a story, having a massage or listening to some gentle music. Following this, a kiss and a “good night” by the parents.
One of the common mistakes made by parents is compromising on the routine. For example, if their toddler is super fussy or clingy, they often give in and let their toddler go to bed later. They may also provide a longer nap, which in turn provides more problems when it comes to actual bedtime. However, sticking to the routine is key for better results.
Toddlers have a fear of missing out (yes, they have FOMO!) so try to make the household environment suitable boring before their bedtime. If you have guests over or there’s a fun TV program on, they might be reluctant to settle in their bed or cot.
Of course, making the environment boring is not always that easy, especially when you are having guests over at the house. Still, you might have to do some adjustments, maybe tone down the environment a half hour before your little one goes to sleep. Toning down the environment can help to prepare your child for bed.
If the environment is too busy and cannot be toned down for some reason, you can also calm down your toddler by putting your child is a bath a little time before bed. You can follow up with a nice bedtime story, setting the scene for a better night sleep.
Aside from the normal factors that could influence the sleep of your toddler, there are some things that are not that obvious, but still could have a major impact on the sleeping quality of your child. One of these things is the food your toddler eats, more specifically the solid foods your toddler eats. Some baby foods are not that good for your child’s sleep quality, since many food manufacturers will add preservatives, artificial colourings and flavourings to their product, which could cause adverse effects in children; this includes hyperactivity, digestive distress, headaches and more. So, when you are shopping for food next, even if you are serving your child similar ingredients to what you put on the table for yourself, always check for artificial colourings, flavourings and preservatives that could be affecting your toddler’s sleep.
When a sleeping problem persists despite your best efforts, it could be best to make an appointment with your child’s paediatrician. Even though it is rare, there are certain medical problems that could cause sleeping problems in toddlers; this includes limit-setting sleep disorders, obstructive sleep apnoea and other conditions that could affect the sleep quality of your child. Of course, it is also a good idea to look at your child’s sleeping environment and make sure that your child’s bedroom does not cause too many stimuli to stop your child from sleeping.