Written by: Caroline Meyer
STICK TO THE ROUTINE
Sleep time struggles are a big issue for many parents of toddlers. There are so many sleep disruptors that can affect adults and kids alike. This includes ambient light from street lights, neighbours and other buildings as well as electromagnetic fields from anything plugged in to an electrical socket. Blue light is also gaining recognition as a sleep disruptor in the modern generation. This is noticeable in an increase in insomnia, poor sleep and sleep deprivation in people of all ages. This is seen even more in toddlers as they are just starting to regulate their emotions. They may also suffer from separation anxiety at bedtime. There are a few things you can do to try and improve sleep time for your toddler.
As far as possible stick to a bedtime routine. Bath time, then perhaps a bedtime story and a little bit of cuddling, then the lights go out and your little one should be off to dreamland. To make the process easier, you can allow your toddlers to have a little control as they can be a little stubborn at this age. Let them choose a bath toy or the story to be read. Let them choose which pyjamas to wear and which teddy to cuddle. The battle of wills can be won easier if you let them make some decisions along the way.
If your toddler starts crying when you leave the room, you can explain that it is time for bed and that you are nearby. Tell your little one that you will check in on him again once he has calmed down. If your toddler suffers from severe separation anxiety, you can try setting a timer and sitting in a chair in his room for 5 minutes. Once the timer goes off, then he has to go to sleep by himself. You can also try sitting on the floor next to the bed the first night, with no eye contact or stimulation, so that they know you are there but do not think it is play time. Move further and further away from the bed each night until you end up outside the door. This allows them to transition easier and prevents excessive anxiety, stressing them out and leading to further sleep problems. Should they get out of bed after you have completed the ritual, tuck them back in without talking or kisses and cuddles. Just put them back to bed. You may have to do this a few times for a few nights, but they eventually stay in their beds.
NIGHT TIME ESCAPADES
Should your little one decide to hop out of bed and come climb in to yours in the middle of the night, as tired and sleep deprived as you might be, you need to get up and take them back to their own bed. You might have to do this a few times as well until the message gets through that they have to sleep in their own beds. If you allow them to sleep with you, expect the trend to continue and you will be sleeping restlessly with a kicking, wiggling toddler in your bed for some time to come. A neat trick is to put bells or chimes on his door or yours so you can escort him back to bed even before he climbs in to yours. Some people install baby gates to try and avoid this issue, but many toddlers find a way to climb over it. You have to be persistent and know that it is hard at the start but there are long term benefits.
SCARE AWAY THE MONSTERS
This is also an age when your little one starts to have an imagination. They may see all sorts of things in the dark that cause fear and anxiety. They may also have a fear of the dark. You can find ways to help them deal with these fears, rather than ignoring their anxieties. He needs to know you are nearby and that monsters do not exist but you do need to respect his genuine fear. Play in his room with him in the day and at night. Allow him to put up a tent and camp in the room. Place a friendly stuffed toy on his bed or on a shelf to watch over him at night so he can feel safer. If your child has intense anxiety about being left alone in the dark, leave the door open and a light on outside the room, rather than a nightlight in the room which encourages play.
Don’t let your toddler get overtired as this can actually lead to them struggling to sleep more than usual. When your toddler starts getting grumpy, seems fatigued, is rubbing his eyes a lot and showing all the basic symptoms of being tired, get through the nightly routine and get them to sleep. Even if you are away from home, try and stick to the night time rituals as much as possible and don’t leave it too late to get your little one to bed. It may be a stressful and tiring time for you as a parent, but it won’t last too long. Persevere and stay strong and you will soon be enjoying a lot better sleep yourself.