Sleep deprivation is a major parenting challenge. Its easier to get babies into a routine, but toddler’s, they like having control. Getting a toddler to sleep through the night is a concern for many parents. Here are my toddler sleep tips to help you, my dear exhausted mom, to get on track and into a settled routine followed by peaceful bedtime.
HOW MUCH SLEEP DO CHILDREN NEED?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics;
- Children 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
- Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
When you track your toddler’s nap and night sleep time, you may be surprised that they actually already meet the sleep requirements as per age. Many times it is us parents who feel the child is not getting enough sleep when they actually do.
BENEFITS OF GOOD SLEEP FOR THE CHILD?
A well rested toddler is calmer and happier. More settled. Better able to focus.
Good sleep also promotes emotional well being of the child.
Poor sleep leads to high blood pressure and risk of obesity in kids. The more sleep kids get the better it is for overall development.
TODDLER SLEEP TIPS: HOW TO GET TODDLER TO SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT
1. Get some fresh air and sunshine
This is one of my best toddler sleep tips. Give them time in the sun and some fresh air. They need to run, climb, walk and get as much exercise as possible. If you are getting 2 hours outside and yet the toddler is refusing to sleep, add another hour outside to the routine.
This trick has helped me even when we are on an established sleep schedule and sometimes fall off the wagon. I schedule few days of extra outside time making sure my son gets a lot of time to use his muscles, and sure enough we fall back into our sleep schedule 2-3 days later.
An important point to note is that certain developmental milestones, growth spurts and teething lead to shifts in toddler sleep. Regardless continue with your routine and support your child through this phase to get back on routine.
2. Pre-bedtime snack
If there is a big gap between dinner and bedtime try adding a snack before bedtime. Many a time the child is starting to get a little peckish just before bedtime which delays sleep.
Do not offer any stimulating foods containing sugars and caffeine, like chocolates or juices before bedtime.
You need to include foods that are rich in melatonin a sleep hormone that promotes good sleep. Foods like almonds, and walnuts for example.
Tryptophan, rich foods are also known to aid better sleep since they are converted in the body to two brain chemicals associated with good sleep – melatonin and serotonin. Examples of tryptophan-rich foods are turkey, soybeans, eggs, low-fat cheese, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
Foods containing magnesium like bananas also aid in sleep.
Some of our favorite pre-bedtime snacks are;
2) Fruits like apple or pears with nut butter
3) A bowl of oats with nut butter and pumpkin seeds or oats with tahini.
3. Add a sleep aid
There are different types of sleep aids you can add to your bedtime routine
a) calming music
b) calming scent
c) soft toy or lovely (use this for older toddlers only)
Either one of these or a combination when used consistently help in forming a pleasant associative memory of bedtime routine. We use our sons favorite lovey at bedtime as a sleep time aid. Since the sleep aid is associated with good moments of bonding with me it helps him fall asleep faster.
For a sleep aid to be effective it has to be used consistently at least for a month as a part of bedtime routine. Once the child has formed a bond with these aids he uses these as mechanisms to fall to sleep instead of rocking, patting or breastfeeding. You can even use these aids as a way to start night weaning your toddler. Just make sure the child has enough time to settle into liking his routine before you change anything big like the night time feed.
4. Dim the lights
Dim the lights in the room, this is so that the toddler understands that this is time to sleep. Stay in the room where your child will sleep with dim lights for the rest of the bedtime routine. Dim lights and darkroom help the body clock set. Do not use any types of screens like iPads or TV screens 2 hours before bed.
5. Bedtime routine
This is a big one. You may already know this, but a consistent bedtime routine is a key to helping your toddler settle after a long day.
Children thrive on routine. They look to us as adults to know what is expected from them. A consistent routine helps them fall off to sleep at a set time over and over successfully. It takes a little work, but trust me once they are in the routine the body clock is set and they themselves ask for bedtime.
A successful bedtime routine should not last more than 30 minutes.
Start with early dinner by 7-730 pm. I know in many Asian cultures this is early, but believe me, it helps get the kids used to an early bedtime, you can have a life of your own after.
Our bedtime routine includes:
Books [we read books with his favorite lovey]
Sleep [bring lovey to bed]
Instead of a bath, you can include a massage if that suits your family better. The idea is to include something that soothes the child and helps them wind down.
If the brushing activity is a struggle I would move that away from bedtime. You don’t want an agitated child at bedtime. You can try;
Keep this routine consistent even if your child won’t go off to sleep by 8-830 pm. Because you want them to know that’s the way to go off to sleep. Stay in the room after the routine is over and the child has not yet fallen asleep in order to establish clear bedtime rules. Use words/phrases to reinforce nighttime for eg: Night-night, we are reading bedtime stories, its dark outside all the birds have gone to sleep etc.
Keep the focus on a conversation around bedtime and sleeping. Remember the toddler doesn’t understand these things on his own, you are the reminder, the clock that reminds him he is tired and needs to sleep.
A month or two with a consistent routine and things start to fall in place. Certain developmental milestones, growth spurts and teething cause the routine to shift and bedtime to be pushed until later. But these are hiccups on the way, do not start to believe that your toddler’s sleep pattern has changed. Continue with your routine and the other four steps I mentioned above and your toddler will be back to regular bedtime once the phase is over.
I hope these toddler sleep tips help you make a start to healthy sleep habits. Not just for your child but for you too. In time your child will fall into a sleep schedule that suits him best. Until then you are his daily guide.
Leave me a comment below about your bedtime struggles or toddler sleep wins. We can all learn from each other.
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