After a busy day of exploring the world around them, toddlers need a lot of sleep. In fact, most toddlers will need in the region of 11 to 14 hours of sleep every day. In an ideal world you would tuck them in at 6 o’clock and they would sleep soundly until the morning. Often children that had been sleeping well in their own beds at night suddenly enter a stage when they start waking up once, twice or many times a night until you soothe them back to sleep.
Going through periods of night waking is normal for toddlers and is very common. Talk to any other parents and there will be nights of little to no sleep. Look out for them at in the playgrounds in the morning, they will be bleary eyed and cradling a coffee, just like you. You can take some comfort from the fact that these stages will pass, although it will take quite a lot of time and patience.
Why has this happened?
There are many reasons why a child who has been sleeping well suddenly starts waking up and being unsettled during the night.
If your child has been poorly with a cold, ear infections or a stuffy nose this could lead them to wake up at night. Fortunately there is a lot you can do to help in these situations, paracetamol will ease any pain, a cold-mist humidifier, if you have one, can help with a stuffy nose or some vapour rub applied to the chest and back can ease a stuffy nose and a cough. A quick cuddle and back to bed, hopefully that will let everyone get a good night’s sleep.
Fears and stress can play on a child’s mind during the night. This can be caused by big life changes such as a new sibling, moving house or a new day care provider. Some children also experience nightmares as a result of an active imagination.
Too tired or not tired enough.
Picture the scenario you are driving back from a day out and your child starts to go to sleep, you know this can have a knock-on effect at night. Sometimes if a toddler has too much sleep during the day this can make them wake at night. Being too tired, can also cause a toddler to wake up at night, as it can leave a child being over stimulated and hyper, so there is a fine balance to strike.
What can you do about your child waking at night?
There is no denying that a restless night can disrupt everyone’s sleep, your child needs to learn how to settle himself or herself back to sleep. There are steps that you can take to help your child develop this skill.
Don’t rush in.
This is our first tip, stand back and wait a few moments, give your child a chance to settle on their own. Toddlers can be active at night wriggling around, maybe crying or talking in their sleep. If you rush in you could startle them into being fully awake. If it seems like more serious crying then you will need to check that they are ok.
Be there for them.
It might be that they just need a soothing hand on the forehead, we don’t recommend picking your child up or talking too much. Try to leave the light off and talk in a soft voice, just knowing you are there can be a big comfort and often a child will snuggle back into bed and go to sleep.
Stick to the same techniques.
Soothing your child in their own bed one night and then lifting them into your bed or bringing them downstairs the next night is confusing. The target here is to help your child learn to self soothe in their own bed.
It could take a few nights of consistently using the tips above, but after a few nights things will improve.