Did you know toddlers need approximately 12-14 hours of sleep per day! Breaking that time frame into a solid night’s sleep and some naps throughout the day is not as easy as it sounds and can take some time for everyone to adjust. Toddlers love being with their caregiver and hate missing out on fun activities that might be going on, which can lead to bedtime resistance, night awakenings, and even nightmares. All is not lost! There are ways to settle your toddler into a nightly routine that will eventually have everyone sleeping easy.
Routine Is Everything
Try to stick to the same bedtimes and wake-up times, as well as naptimes. Too late in the day or too brief, and the night sleep cycle will take a hit. Couple these with bedtime routines, such as turning off overhead lights or implementing dim lighting about an hour out from sleep. Activities are everything, but you do not want to rile your toddler up. A warm bath, storytime, and a toddler’s hand-picked pajamas and stuffed animal or blanket can go a long way to a long night’s sleep.
Set the Sleepy Mood
A toddler’s nighttime environment has a big impact on staying asleep. You will want a cool, quiet, and dark room for comfortable sleeping, but a dim nightlight or soothing music and white noise never hurt. Every toddler responds differently, after all! Keep screen time out of the room, as the bright light can reinvigorate and overstimulate toddlers—and adults—from sleeping.
Limit bedtime snacks, including drinks, especially caffeinated ones. Check your labels for excess caffeine and sugar, just in case. Stick to water or low-sugar juices, and make sure the bedtime snack is light on the calories and density. Calories provide energy, which is fine during the day but does not make the best bodily lullaby.
Thread the Needle
And now for the easier-said-than-done part. This bit can be tricky, but once you get the timing right: game-changer. Try to tuck your child into bed while they are asleep, but still somewhat awake, then leave. This may sound like a recipe for late-night crying disaster, but it actually encourages your child to fall asleep on their own, or even return to sleep if they wake up in the middle of the night. It takes time and patience but stick to it!
Read the Room
Remove excess string, small toys, or large stuffed animals from your toddler’s crib. This goes for mounted furniture or curtains near the crib. Have an active toddler that can’t settle down at night? It might be time to look into a toddler bed. Be sure heavy furniture in the room is locked down, in case your little one is particularly limber – day or night.
Remember, nighttime routines take time. Even as adults we can find it difficult to find the magical routine that will put us out! Work with your toddler to find what makes them comfortable enough to fall asleep, and you could unlock your own routine as well.
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