Any parent can tell you the drama that entails when it's a toddler's bedtime. For many, the tantrums, the crying, and the nightly battle to get a toddler to sleep feels like a normal phase of life. There are a number of reasons why toddlers may struggle at bedtime, but there are also a number of steps that might help ease the chaos of this recurring chore.
A set bedtime is not just good for adults and routine, it's good for a toddler, too. It sets the expectation that bedtime comes at a particular time, and, over time should make the transition to dreamland easier for your little one. It should also prevent them from becoming overtired, though it will need to be adjusted as they get older.
Try to make bedtime something your toddler will enjoy — a calm and blissful experience to end their busy day. Stuffed animals, dim lights, and comfortable bedding can go a long way to creating the ideal restful atmosphere. Sometimes this won't be enough, and that's okay. Just try to make bedtime a positive experience, and avoid using it as a punishment.
It is important that your toddler has enough stimulation throughout the day to make them tired when bedtime comes. A range of mental and physical activities is best. Try to get out for a walk, play with toys, or dance around the living room. Mental activities could include reading, counting or learning the alphabet, or even just having some conversations.
Though it may sound contrary to what you're trying to achieve, naps can be very important for a good night's sleep. Naps are best when taken early in the day and kept short. Overtiredness will make toddlers especially hard to settle. When a toddler becomes overtired, their body becomes stressed and starts producing adrenaline and cortisol, hormones that can prevent restful sleep. If naptime didn't work out one day, patience might be the only fix: keep them calm with wind-down evening activities until the sleepy hormone melatonin makes its appearance again.
Much like a set sleep time, a bedtime routine helps a toddler wind down from their day and gets them into the right mindset for sleep. Good steps to have on a bedtime routine include a bath, a story, and getting tucked in. Putting these steps into a routine is fairly simple, and it could make all the difference in how your toddler sleeps at night.
While a bath before bed can be relaxing, there is another kind of hygiene to consider: sleep hygiene. Keep your child's bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Consider investing in a bedroom thermometer to ensure the temperature stays around 64-70f (18-21c). For darkness, it is worth getting blackout curtains or blinds, and these can also be temperature regulating, keeping the room cool in summer and warm in winter. For quiet, keep the toddler's room as far from the evening hustle and bustle of the rest of the house, if possible, and try to implement quiet hours for the majority of the child's night.
Making sure your toddler doesn't eat or drink too close to bedtime is useful for a number of reasons. Eating too close to bedtime could provide an energy boost and keep them awake, so it's best to avoid within a couple of hours of bedtime. However, a small snack before bed may be helpful to prevent tummy grumbles that could keep them up. Also, kids going through growth spurts might get hungry at inopportune times until a new schedule is sorted out.
Drinking too much too close to bedtime could lead to needing the toilet, or even bed-wetting, making the toddler uncomfortable and potentially interrupting everyone's sleep. Be aware of this and find what works best for your child.
Even before the bedtime routine starts, it is best to find relaxed activities for your toddler to do in the evenings. Opt for drawing, playing with simple toys, or reading over tearing around the backyard or an action-packed movie. Calm activities like these help toddlers to relax and unwind, and get them into the correct mindset for sleep.
Less screen time is beneficial for the whole family, especially at night. The blue light that screens emit is known to be a hindrance to sleep: it tricks the brain into thinking that it is daylight, affecting the natural circadian rhythm.
The best way to combat this is to not use any screens in the hour (or more) before bedtime, and try to avoid having any TVs or smartphones in the bedroom.
Through all the tantrums and fighting, it's important to understand why your toddler is so fussy at night. Chances are, they are going through major developmental leaps, and rebelling against the bedtime routine is just one aspect of that. Understand that this is a phase they go through, but remain firm about bedtime. Eventually, the phase will pass but the good sleep habits will remain.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.