Helping Toddlers Who Awaken at Night

Toddlers are more independent and have greater imaginations than infants.

They also are more active and more aware of their environments.

These qualities can make sleeping more problematic.

In a 24-hour period, toddlers need about 10-13 hours of sleep. This is often in the form of one or two daytime naps and a much longer sleep period at night.

Toddlers do not necessarily need a nap every day.

Sometimes, just a period of quiet play or having books read to them will keep them from getting cranky.

Bedtime can sometimes be a contentious event. A consistent sleep schedule and routine will often avoid conflict.

A warm bath and a (non-scary) story can help the toddler drift off to sleep.

Firm rules need to be set for such things as how many times water will be gotten for the child during the night.

Security items such as a blanket or a stuffed animal may help the child go to sleep and stay asleep.

Toddlers wake up at night for a variety of reasons – they may be in pain from teething or an illness.

Separation anxiety often makes a strong comeback in mid-toddlerhood.

A toddler’s active imagination may awaken him after a dream or nightmare.

Because toddlers are more active, they may kick the blankets off and be cold.

While they can sleep with some noise from outside the room, too much can awaken them or prevent them from sleeping.

Toddlers who awaken at night can be briefly reassured and told to go back to sleep.

If night awakenings are rewarded by too much parental action, they may learn to awaken on purpose.

In this situation, if gentle persuasion does not work, then the Ferber method may be tried.

An alarm is set that the child can hear. When the alarm goes off, the adult returns to the room to reassure the toddler.

The parent can reset the alarm for longer and longer intervals. Reassured that the parent will return, the child eventually falls asleep.

Some adults opt for letting the child “cry it out” when he wakes up at night, which will usually stop the behavior in a few days.

An alternative technique is to awaken the child shortly before he usually wakes up at night. He then goes back to sleep because he is still drowsy and skips his usual awakening.

Toddlers who wake up with the dawn may benefit by keeping the blinds and curtains closed in the room.

This will keep the room darker and may allow them to sleep a little longer.