Your toddler should have around 11 hours sleep every night, plus an hour-and-a-half nap in the afternoon. That's the ideal situation but as you'll know, children aren't programmed like robots and everyone is unique! Many toddlers experience problems sleeping. It may be that they have difficulty settling down, or wake frequently in the night or perhaps just waking up too early in the morning.
What can cause sleeping problems?
There's no hard and fast rule about what causes sleeping problems, but often there are some small changes you can make which might help things.
- Diet: If your toddler has not eaten much during the day (for instance if they have been unwell), they may be hungry and wake in the night.
- Over-tiredness: It might sound odd, but many toddlers sleep badly if they're over-tired – set a bedtime routine with a time for your toddler to go to bed and try your best to stick to it.
- Over-stimulation: Everyone needs to unwind before settling down – fun and games before bedtime can leave your toddler wide-awake and restless.
- Discomfort: We all have trouble sleeping if we're too hot or too cold or feel uncomfortable in our nightclothes or sheets and your toddler is no exception.
How to introduce a routine to help toddler sleep
Your toddler should experience fewer problems getting to sleep if you create a simple, regular routine before bed, including 15-20 minutes of quiet time. During this special time you can read a story to them, give them a bath or simply sit and have a cuddle! They'll find it much easier to switch off at the end of the day this way.
Make sure your toddler is dressed comfortably and the room temperature is not too hot or too cold. It also helps to keep the house quiet and the lights low to teach them the difference between night and day – a dimmer switch can work wonders, as can thick curtains or a blind that won't let street lights disturb them.
Other tips that can help if your toddler is restless
- Make sure your toddler is well-fed during the day, with a regular routine of mealtimes and snacks. If your toddler still wakes up for milk in the night, you can try gradually replacing the milk with water, so they don't become reliant on a feed to get back to sleep.
- If it takes a while for your toddler to settle, stay calm and relaxed. Put them down, leave the room, and wait for five or ten minutes before going back in if they call for you.
- If your toddler wakes in the night, do the same thing, taking care to keep any fuss, sound and light to a minimum. Just settle them back down gently