How to Get Toddlers to Stay in Bed

Sleeping Toddler

You’d think tucking your child into bed would get easier once they turned a few years old, but toddlers are energetic bundles of love whose favourite word is often “no”. If your little one is kicking up a fuss late at night, they’re likely missing out on the rejuvenating benefits of sleep. That’s why you might want to consider sleep training for toddlers. 

If your child refuses to stay in bed, you can help them by learning a few practical toddler sleep training tips to support them in getting the sleep they need.

Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep

Toddlers, who range from 18 months to three years old, need about 11 to 14 hours of sleep including nap times. At this age, your child is rapidly growing and reaching major development milestones like talking or walking. Sleep helps them reach those milestones and build a strong foundation for their future health. It strengthens their muscles and bones, boosts their immune system and is vital for brain development. Without enough sleep, your toddler’s development may be delayed, and they may start having learning difficulties later on.

Why Sleep Training for Toddlers is Important

Is toddler sleep training really worth the effort? After all, sometimes toddlers just go through periods of restlessness that clear up on their own. But sleep training might be worth considering if they have trouble falling asleep or staying in bed for more than two weeks in a row. 

With sleep training, not only will your toddler be healthier, but you’ll be able to get the rest you need, too. With more restful nights, you and your little one can both be at your very best. Sleep training also sets up healthy bedtime habits that can support your toddler through childhood and into adolescence.

When to see a doctor

It’s always a good idea to talk with a paediatrician or healthcare provider for advice on sleep training for toddlers. It’s also worth booking an appointment if:

  • Your toddler’s sleep hasn’t gotten better after two to four weeks of consistent sleep training. 
  • Your toddler has trouble breathing or snores during sleep.
  • You feel that sleep problems are affecting your child’s daytime behaviour.

10 Reasons Why Your Toddler Won’t Sleep

Understanding why your child has trouble staying in bed is the first step to improving their sleep habits. Here are some common reasons why your toddler won’t sleep:

  • Irregular bedtimes: Putting your toddler to bed too early or too late can confuse them, making it harder for them to settle down.
  • Separation anxiety: Some toddlers go through a fearful stage and are only just starting to learn how to be alone.
  • Sleep conditions: It’s possible your little one may be dependent on certain conditions—like being rocked or held—to fall asleep.
  • Overstimulation: Too much screen time or exciting activities close to bedtime can make it harder for toddlers to wind down.
  • Physical discomfort: Teething, uncomfortable bedding or a dirty diaper can disrupt your toddler’s sleep.
  • Environmental factors: Noise, light or temperature can interfere with your little one’s comfort.
  • Developmental milestones: Learning new skills or milestones can over excite your little one, leading to disrupted sleep for a short period of time.
  • Rebellious or curious phases: Once your toddler learns the word “no” they may start using it to test boundaries. This includes refusing to go to sleep.
  • Nightmares or night terrors: Starting around two years old, toddlers can experience nightmares, potentially disrupting their sleep. Like infants, they can also be affected by night terrors.
  • Underlying medical conditions: Occasionally, medical issues such as allergies, reflux or sleep apnea can be the source of the problem. Book a doctor’s appointment if you think this is the case.

How to Get Your Toddler to Sleep

The point of toddler sleep training is to help your little one fall asleep independently and stay in bed through the night. Here are some practical tips on how you can accomplish that:

  • Establish a routine

Create a consistent bedtime routine that signals it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. This might include taking a bath, brushing teeth, reading a picture book and quiet cuddle time. Going to bed at a regular time also helps your toddler get used to the patterns and rhythms of sleep preparation.

  • Schedule nap times appropriately

If your little one naps too late in the day, that may leave them feeling too energized to go to sleep at night. Try to schedule naptimes before 4pm to 5pm, so your toddler still has time to expend some energy before getting a good night’s sleep. 

  • Create a comfortable sleeping environment

Ensure your child’s bedroom is dark, quiet and at a comfortable temperature. If your toddler is afraid of the dark or odd sounds at night, use a nightlight and let them sleep with their favourite stuffed animal. You can also try using a white noise app or sleep machine to help create a comforting atmosphere. Just be sure the volume isn’t too loud!

  • Handle nightmares and night terrors with care

If your toddler has a nightmare, comfort and stay with them until they are ready to fall back asleep. Night terrors, on the other hand, are much rarer. Children experiencing a night terror may struggle and cry out, but are actually in a deep phase of sleep. If you notice this happening, watch over them until it passes to make sure they don’t hurt themselves. Whatever you do, don’t wake them up. Once a child has woken up from a night terror it’s very difficult to get them back to sleep.

  • Consider gradual withdrawal

For toddlers who struggle with separation anxiety, try to gradually reduce your presence in the room until they learn to sleep independently. For example, you might use the chair method. This involves sitting in a chair in their room until your little one falls asleep, and gradually moving the chair further away from your toddler’s bed each night until they are able to sleep without you in the room.

  • Plan for an active day

Exposing your toddler to fresh air, natural light and some physical activity or play helps ensure your little one will be tired enough for bed later on. However, it can be difficult to find the time to keep them active on a daily basis, especially when you have work or household responsibilities. That’s when you might consider a daycare or preschool program. Look for a toddler program where your little one can safely learn and explore, keeping them occupied throughout the day so they can come back ready for rest. 

Sweet Dreams for You and Your Toddler

Consistency, patience and a supportive approach are key to successfully sleep training your toddler. What’s most important is choosing a method that works with your parenting style and your child’s temperament. Once you pick a toddler sleep method, stick to it for a while to see if it works or if something needs to be adjusted. When your little one can tuck in for the night without a fuss, you’ll both have more energy to enjoy the day together.

Contact us today

Childventures Early Learning Academy fosters your toddler’s curiosity with engaging activities guided by our dedicated childhood educators. Visit our website or contact us for more information.

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