How to get a Toddler to Sleep Through the Night – 5 top tricks
Most new parents realise that they won’t be getting the same amount of sleep after child as before child. I knew that having a baby would mean I wouldn’t get a proper night’s sleep for 6 months or so. However, what I didn’t realise is that this doesn’t just last for the first 6 months, it could go on for years. If you’re reaching exhaustion after a year or more of not sleeping, then you’ll want to keep reading for my tips on how to get a toddler to sleep through the night. It doesn’t have to be a battle between them and you!
1. Is your toddler getting too much daytime sleep?
I remember being totally obsessed with my baby’s and sleep routine. All the books tell you that “sleep breeds sleep” and that to get your baby to sleep through the night, it’s important to make sure they got enough sleep during the daytime so that they aren’t overtired at bedtime.
Once your child hits around 18-24 months though, things start to flip the other way. Your child will now need less total sleep over a 24 hour period, and you need to ensure they are not robbing from their nighttime sleep by taking extra long naps. A rough guide to how much total sleep your toddler needs over a 24 hour period is as follows:
1 year old: 13 – 14 hours
2 year old: 12.5 – 13 hours
3 year old: 11.5 – 12 hours
You can easily see that if you two year old is taking a 2 hour nap during the day, it’s not realistic to expect them to sleep 7pm – 7am any longer. If you find your toddler won’t sleep well at night any more, you can consider shortening their daytime nap by half an hour to see if that helps.
2. Stick to a consistent routine
By the time your baby becomes a toddler, most parents will have formed a bedtime routine which happens every night and helps your child to prepare for sleep since they know that is what is coming next.
If you don’t yet have a bedtime routine, try the following and adapt to suit your needs:
- Have some quiet time whilst your toddler drinks their bedtime milk. Perhaps a quieter television programme, or some gentle nursery rhymes on. Try to ask any older children to treat this as quiet time too.
- Give your toddler a nice warm bath and allow them to play in the water for a few minutes. If you find that bathtime excites your child rather than relaxing them, then keep bathtimes shorter so that they don’t become overly excited.
- Brush their teeth and get them into their pyjamas and sleeping bag (if you use them).
- Sit and read a bedtime story or sing lullabies to help them relax. Give your child plenty of cuddles so that they have some time alone with you.
Having a consistent routine should mean that your child is not taken by surprise when it’s time to put them into their cot or bed.
3. Use a Gro Clock
We bought a Gro Clock and started using it when our little boy was around 18 months old. At first, he didn’t really understand what it meant, other than waving goodbye to Mr Sunshine when it came round to bedtime and naptimes.
Now that he is almost 2 years old, we can definitely see that he understands that when Mr Sunshine is there, he is allowed to be awake. There have been many occasions when we’ve heard him wake up prior to his 7am programmed wake-up time, and he sits babbling to his teddies in his cot. Then at 7am, we can hear him squeal when he sees Mr Sunshine appear and promptly shout “momma up” for me to go and retrieve him!
The Gro Clock can be programmed with a bedtime setting and a naptime setting. You simply set the wake-up time that you want to allow. At naptime you click it onto naptime, at bedtime click bedtime, and Mr Sunshine disappears to be replaced by stars which count down to the programmed wake-up time. When the wake-up time is reached, Mr Sunshine reappears and should your child wake up now, they will realise that Mr Sunshine is out and they don’t need to go back to sleep.
4. Install black-out blinds
Newborns will sleep through almost anything, usually until they hit around 12 weeks old. But older babies and toddlers can be woken by the slightest noise, and they tend to need the perfect sleeping environment in order to sleep perfectly through the night, or at least when they first go to sleep, and during those early morning hours when you will be praying that they will go back to sleep for a few hours more!
In particular during the summer months, toddlers have a habit of waking at 5am. Really, we can’t blame them. Circadian rhythm means that humans, and many other species in the world, are naturally programmed to go to sleep when it’s dark and wake when it’s light. Here in the UK, during the summer, it can stay light until 9.30-10pm at night, and begin to get light as early as 4am. This can quite often be the main contributor to your child waking at the crack of dawn.
By installing black-out blinds you will find that because less sunlight is reaching your toddler, they won’t wake up as early. The medical explanation behind this is that when you are subject to sunlight, your body reduces it’s production of the hormone melatonin (the hormone which makes you relaxed and sleepy). By keeping the room dark for as long as possible you will be helping your toddler to stay sleepy for longer.
We started by using the Gro Anywhere Blackout Blind when our son was around 7 months old. It made such a huge difference but we were sick of having to stick up the blind every naptime and evening so we decided to have a black-out lined blind and curtains installed in his room. The Gro Anywhere Blackout Blind actually did a better job of keeping his room dark than the real deal, but as I said, it’s just a bit of hassle having to stick it up every sleep time. We still use the Gro blind when we go on holiday or to stay with friends and family though and it does a great job.
5. Buy and use a nightlight
You’re probably confused as to why I’ve just said to get blackout blinds but now saying to use a nightlight? You have to view them as two totally separate things. Blackout blinds will cut out that real light from the sun, whereas a nightlight is a really soft glow, dimmer than a candle. We’re using them for two different reasons.
Once your child hits the 18-24 month developmental growth spurt, they may start to seem afraid of the dark, or they may even start to have nightmares or night terrors. Should your child wake during the night, you don’t want to leave them crying alone in their dark room. No matter what anybody tells you, this will not help them to overcome these fears, and can in fact make things worse.
By using a nightlight like this one, you give your child a way for them to wake up and realise that they are still in their bedroom and to feel the comfort and reassurance that this provides. I’ve never been a believer of allowing your baby or toddler to “cry it out” as a form of sleep training, but if they do wake during the night crying, you can always give them 15 seconds to see if they reassure themselves and go back to sleep. Having a nightlight will provide your child a little bit of extra security in this sense.
So whilst you are using a black-out blind to keep the natural sunlight out and help your toddler keep producing the sleepy hormone melatonin, you are using the soft glow of a nightlight to offer them some security if they awaken during the night and are scared.
We’ve found that an added bonus of using the Gro Clock mentioned earlier, is that the screen is bright enough to also provide the light you would want from a nightlight, so no need to buy a separate nightlight.
Any other tips?
I would love to hear your thoughts on my top 5 tips, and if you have anything else to share with our readers then please do so – we all need help to get more sleep after all! If you like this article, please share with your friends and come back soon for more!