Terrible Twos: Getting Your Toddler to Sleep Through the Night
We take a look at some of the common causes of toddler sleep problems – and the solutions.
Common Toddler Sleep ProblemsWhile there are many possible reasons why your toddler wakes up at night, here are some of the most common ones:
- Nightmares: It’s not unusual for young children to experience bad dreams, causing them to wake up screaming during the night. In fact, most children have their first nightmares during the toddler years.
- Night terrors: Not to be confused with nightmares, night terrors occur when your child begins talking, screaming or lashing out in their sleep. Although these typically happen in children aged three years and older, younger toddlers can also be affected.
- Overheating or night sweats: Young children’s bodies aren’t yet fully developed – and this includes their ability to regulate their own temperature. This means that children are more prone to overheating (just generally feeling hot) and suffering night sweats (feeling hot and sweating excessively). You can read more detailed information about Children and Night Sweats in our advice hub.
- Allergies: Just like adults, toddlers can be allergic to dust mites, dust mite allergens and fungal spores. Synthetic bedding provides the perfect environment for all these allergens, so if your child regularly wakes during the night with dry, itchy eyes, a runny nose or a cough, this could be the cause.
If your child suddenly begins experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor to be sure that there’s no underlying cause. Once you’ve checked with your GP, there are a number of simple steps you can take to help them get a better night’s sleep.
Getting your toddler to sleepGetting your toddler to sleep through the night can be tricky – but it’s not impossible! Try these tips for a better night’s sleep for everyone.
Create a toddler bedtime routineFrom an early age, routine is important for your child’s sense of wellbeing, but as they transition from baby to toddler, their sleep routine needs to change too. While it’s common for babies to wake several times during the night, once children enter the terrible twos, most will wake less and many will start to sleep through. They may also start to go to bed a little later, as their daytime napping decreases.
If you find your toddler is waking up at night regularly, it may be time to review their routine. The right routine should help them feel more settled, less anxious and less likely to wake during the night.
There’s no single perfect toddler bedtime routine – it’s all about finding what works for you and your child.
Here are a few toddler bedtime routine ideas to help you get started.
- Begin with a bath – a warming bath before bedtime can help your child to feel sleepier before bed. You can even try using a bubble bath which is scented with lavender to encourage sleep. Of course, if your toddler isn’t a big fan of bath-time, this step is best avoided!
- Read a book together – as well as being a great way to support your child’s development, reading a story with them once they’re settled in bed can be an effective way to help them drop off to sleep. Choose a story that’s not too long and not too stimulating – a selection of old favourites can work well.
- Give them a settling supper – a soothing, milky drink before bed can help your child to get to sleep, as well as preventing them from waking in the night feeling hungry.
- Turn off TVs and other digital screens at least an hour before your toddler goes to bed – this is a good rule for adults too, as it’s been shown that using technology directly before bed can be disruptive to sleep quality.
Create a soothing nursery to help your toddler sleepTry to create an environment that’s as relaxing as possible for your child.
- Use a nightlight: If your child is prone to nightmares, a nightlight can help them to feel less anxious in the dark. This can have the benefit of both helping them get to sleep and helping them to settle more easily if they do wake during the night.
- Tuck toys out of sight: Tidy toys away in the toy box or wardrobe before bedtime to remove the temptation for your little one to get up and play during the night. Leave out one favourite teddy for comfort.
- Choose wool bedding: If your child wakes in the night feeling hot and clammy, a wool duvet and pillows can help them to sleep through. This is because wool is particularly effective at regulating temperature and absorbing moisture, helping your toddler to stay cool and dry. It is also hypoallergenic, making it the ideal option for little ones who suffer with allergies at night too.
- Keep to cotton covers: Encase wool duvets and pillows in 100% cotton covers to maximise their breathability and keep your child cool and dry. And of course, combine with cotton sheets, too.
- Use soothing scent: Some natural fragrances, such as lavender or chamomile, are known to have relaxing qualities. Try using a few drops of lavender oil on a pillow just before bed. This can act as a cue to your toddler that it’s bedtime.
Choose natural pyjamas to stop your toddler waking at nightWith their routine and their sleeping environment sorted, it’s time to look at your toddler’s sleeping attire too. Always choose natural fabrics over synthetic ones, as they are more breathable and will help your child to stay cool and dry. Choose 100% cotton pyjamas or sleep suits over polyester or mixed fabrics. This is particularly important if they are prone to overheating and night sweats.
Hopefully, these top tips will help you and your child discover a better night’s sleep.
Is there anything we’ve missed? Why not share your own toddler sleep tips in the comments?