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A toddler must generally sleep for about 11 – 14 hours each day, but this doesn’t mean they would hit the bed at 7 p.m and also not wake up in the middle of the night.
Waking up at night is quite normal for toddlers and common – evident in the bleary-eyed parents. Nevertheless, this sleep habit has the possibility of running its course given the time and the patience of the parents!
So, what must one do? Why is the toddler waking up during the night? Is it a cause of concern?
If these questions are crossing your mind, then you’ve landed at the right blog as we, through this blog post, would discuss the reasons and ways to aid the toddler’s disturbed sleep.
Toddler Waking Up At Night - What Is The Reason Behind It?
Sleep interruptions are a part of a toddler’s life and are something you can expect with them, especially when they aren’t feeling well or are dealing with some kind of stress or challenges.
For a better understanding on what are the reasons for a toddler to wake up at night, we have listed some of the common culprits here:
Any developing chomper, including 1 and 2-year molars or the upper and lower canines can cause the little one to get cranky during the day, as well as, at night, causing them a disturbed nap.
Therefore, when it comes to relieving the toddler’s teething pain, we are sure you are well-versed with the drill by now. Offer them something cold to chew on and/or try ibuprofen or acetaminophen when uncomfortable with the pediatrician’s approval.
This includes any form of illness, be it an ear infection, sore throats, stuffiness, or fever which can make it harder for the toddler to have a sound sleep.
If this is the case causing them to wake up during the night, try to aid it with soothing ointments and cool-mist humidifiers to ease the symptoms of cold by applying cool or warm compresses to relieve the pressure caused due to the ear infection. As an alternative, you can also apply ibuprofen or Acetaminophen to relieve the pain and fever, that is, only when the doctor gives the green light.
3) Witnessing A Big Change
Witnessing a massive change in the toddler’s life can also cause them to wake up during the night, these changes include welcoming a new sibling, potty training, weaning, transitioning to a toddler bed, shifting to a new home, introducing a new babysitter, or a daycare provider, etc can cause daytime anxiety which could, in turn, translate into nighttime.
During this period, the parents need to stay calm and try to adjust with the little one as it might take some time for them to get used to it. In the meantime, you can choose to offer more attention in the day and before they go to bed to help make them feel secure and sleep better at night.
4) Encountering Fears
As the little munchkin’s thought process becomes a little more sophisticated, you can expect them to develop the capacity to become afraid of a few things. This could include the fear of dark spaces or being alone which could make it a lot harder for them to sleep well.
5) Night Terrors and Nightmares
As real as it may look, it could take the toddlers a little more time to understand and come to a conclusion that the nightmares aren’t real, leading them to get extra unsettling. This can also include daytime stressors and big changes, the excitement before bed, and getting sick could all exacerbate nightmares, which is why you must try to keep things calm, especially before bedtime.
To do so, you might want to opt for a quiet play, take help from the sweet snuggles, and soothing stories over the rough-housing, scary TV shows, and loud noises. As an alternative, if the toddler doesn’t have a lovey or transitional object, it is best to offer one as a source of comfort.
6) Longer Naps or Going To Bed Late
This includes the marathon midday naps that can run late into the afternoon could result in the toddler not being tired enough during bedtime to help fall asleep through the night.
The best way to deal with this is to experiment with moving naptime earlier in the day or try to cut their naps shorter. Although it might take the toddler some time to get used to it, practicing this trial and error can help them snooze off earlier and have a full much-needed sleep.
7) Shorter Naps or Staying In Bed Too Late
Napping way too much or sleeping too little could also disturb the nighttime sleep. Toddlers who are overtired are often too wired to sleep or stay asleep, which is why most of them tend to wake up again and again and yet again, irritating.
This is why, as parents, we must try to aim for the little munchkin to go to bed by 7:30 PM or maximum at 8 PM. Also, do not be afraid to nudge bedtime earlier too, that is if the toddler had a bad nap or maybe no nap at all.
8) Separation Anxiety
Do you often fund your little one glued to you in a way where they just NEED to be around you at all times? If yes, there is a chance that they might be going through a phase where they might have separation anxiety.
Not only does this affect the emotional bond of the child with the parents, but happens to massively affects their sleep cycle. Most deal with a bout of separation anxiety anywhere when they are 18 months old which will continue to come around for years. The best way to help cope with the little ones is to prevent them from having too much comfort.
9) Hitting The Big Milestone
There are major developmental milestones that can trigger regressions in toddlers which includes sleep regressions.
Just like in babyhood, your toddler should get back to their normal snooze situation once they get a hold of the new skills, provided there are no bad habits formed by giving the night wakings way too much attention.
Toddler Night Waking - What Can You Do About It?
Without a doubt, nighttime wakeups can disrupt everyone’s sleep at home, this means, everyone in the family experiences disturbed sleep. What could cause this is if either the munchkin hasn’t learned how to sleep on her own or has gotten the unhealthy habit of relying on you to soothe her to sleep.
This is why it is absolutely necessary for you to take the necessary steps when the toddler wakes up in the middle of the night, to help learn/relearn the skill. Here’s what you can do:
1) Do Not Rush In
If the toddler whimpers in the middle of the night, you must make sure to not give in soon, in fact, it’s a good practice to wait for a few minutes to see if she settles down on her.
Remember, the kids are rather noisy sleepers, therefore you can expect them to often cry out or make other noises in their sleep in order to return to slumber in a few minutes. Nevertheless, if this continues for quite some time, do check on them to make sure they aren’t sick or are in need of help.
2) Give Low-key Reassurance
It is crucial for you to keep calm and not panic or pick them/ talk too much. The reason behind this is to help the toddler learn to help themselves to comfort independently/put themselves to sleep.
You might just want to gently pat on their back, whisper “It’s okay.” In case they woke up to a nightmare, it is best to give low-key reassurance and let them know it’s not real and is safe. Once calmed down, leave the toddler to themselves and if they cry again, give the little one sometime before you return – repeat as needed and gradually increase the time between the visit.
3) Be Consistent
It is important as parents to maintain consistency, try and neglect to provide quiet reassurance one night and bring them into your bed the other since it gives the child mixed messages.
For sure, reinforcing healthy sleep habits can take a chunk of time, but giving those hours can help teach your toddler to take care and put themself to sleep and know how to respond to the nightly whimpers.
4) You’ve Got This
Don’t get stressed out about the progress, it would take time. But once the toddler is well-aware of the ways to respond to the sleepless nights, that is mostly within a week), you will be able to get back to your much-needed sleep cycle.
How To Prevent The Toddler Waking Up At Night? Final Words:
In most cases, the night disruptions in the toddler result in their territory, especially if the little one isn’t feeling well. However, the best way to deal with this is to have a few tricks up your sleeves, which means to have smart strategies paired with a solid bedtime routine during the wee-hour wakefests.
To help you out with some, here are a few things that you can practice to help the little one get back to sleep:
- Keep a check on the number of hours the toddler sleeps. It is absolutely crucial for you to keep an eye to make sure they are getting the right amount of sleep. Too much or way too little could spell problems during the night. If you think the toddler is overtired, you could try an earlier bedtime and also make it a point for them to have frequent naps during the day. In case you think they are waking at night due to too much napping, try to shorten their naps in the day and avoid naps too close to bedtime.
- Get gung-ho when it comes to the bedtime routine. To help, you can try and establish a soothing routine for bedtime, this could include a quiet story, a nice warm bath, and hugs. When done, leave the room and let the little one go to sleep on their own, a skill that needs practice.
- It’s best to keep the toddler comfortable and cozy as they tend to throw their blanket off while snoozing. You might also want to dress the toddler in warm enough clothes so they are not cold at night – a cause for them to wake up in the middle of the night.
- Try to add a white noise machine in the toddler’s bedroom. This is the easiest way to block any kind of noise from the rest of the house or even outside.
- Add comfortable objects like a blanket or stuffed animal in the toddler bed to keep the little munchkin company and also help soothe them back to sleep.
- It’s best to stay clear of the scares, such as scary TV shows or books since they could trigger nightmares and night waking.
- Be cautious about screen time as spending too much time on the screen has the potential to disrupt the toddler’s sleep. It’s best to cut the devices off at least an hour before bedtime. You can make sure that the toddler sticks to a healthy screen time throughout the day. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there should be no more than an hour of high-quality programming for children over 2 and zero for toddlers under 18 months.