Toddler sleep (or lack thereof) can be one of the most maddening and exhausting experiences for a parent. Vocal, defiant, and learning to assert their independence, toddlers who resist sleep are like maniacal, out-of-control monsters. Not exactly what you want to encounter at the end of a long day.
Here are 6 tips to help your toddler sleep better:
Stick to a routine
You’ve read it a million times, but following a consistent, predictable bedtime routine for your child really makes all the difference. Children need time to decompress from their day. A predictable routine offers comfort and a way for them to know what is coming next (bed!).
Cut out electronics
I usually get a lot of pushback on this recommendation. Cut out technology in the afternoon and evenings – tablets, smart phones, and TV. This can really help a child to fall asleep easier at night and sleep better throughout the night. The blue light emitted from these devices disrupts Circadian rhythms. This can lead to poor sleep for children and adults alike!
Avoid late afternoon naps
Aim for a midday nap sometime around 12 p.m. or 1 p.m. to avoid bedtime struggles. If your child naps later in the day, she may not have enough sleep pressure to fall asleep by bedtime.
Avoid naps running for too long
I don’t know any parent who doesn’t like a good, long nap day. But if you’re finding that your toddler is sleeping three hours every afternoon and then fighting you at bedtime, it’s time to shift some of her sleep back into the overnight hours. How do you do that? You cap the nap! Often, naps longer than two hours can cause struggles at bedtime. (NOTE: some children do just fine with three-hour naps! You’ll have to figure out what works best for YOUR child.)
Try guided meditations
Okay, this one may sound silly, but it really works for some. You can find all sorts of guided sleep meditations for children online (always preview to make sure it is appropriate for your child). You can listen together as your child gets into bed and closes her eyes.
Map out a schedule
Finally, make sure your toddler goes to bed at the right time. Pushing a toddler’s bedtime back even 30 minutes too late can cause her to become overtired. When a child is overtired, her body fills with hormones that make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Additionally, it can make your toddler more maniacal than normal! Depending on the age of your toddler, you may try bedtime anytime between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. If you’re struggling at bedtime, try pulling everything back even by 30 minutes. Also, know when it’s time to drop an afternoon nap and how to survive the nap transitions!
When it comes to a toddler sleep schedule, your best bet is consistency and patience. Be gentle with yourself and your toddler, it’s a learning curve for everyone!