Seven-day Solution to night-waking
You’ve got a great evening routine in place and all seems to be going smoothly. But just when you breathe a sigh of relief because your toddler’s sleeping through the night – she begins to wake up. The good news is that night-waking is a habit that can be broken.
Follow your instinct
Your toddler’s sleeping habits will change during the first three years, but one of the most difficult things for parents to deal with is the sudden return of broken nights. However, if you know it is going to happen and expect it, you’ll cope better when it does. The next step is to start finding ways to shift her back to an easier sleep pattern.
There are lots of reasons why your toddler may begin to wake in the night. Have there been any changes in her daily routine? Is she feeling overwhelmed by starting nursery, getting used to a new brother or sister or getting used to potty training? Is she having nightmares because she’s afraid of the dark or thinks there’s a monster in the wardrobe? Is she feeling ill or cutting a tooth? Listen to your gut instinct and go with it – you’ll be absolutely right. Once you have identified possible explanations, you’ll feel better equipped to cope.
Look for an explanation
Check to see if there’s a physical reason why your toddler may be waking up. If she’s complaining of mouth pain or earache, or there’s something else that’s affecting her and you want to get some professional advice, make an appointment to talk to your doctor. If your toddler is in good shape physically but still waking up during the night, explore other reasons for her broken nights, such as anxiety. Is your toddler worried about something? Often minor changes in daily routine can have a big impact on a small child. Or she may be picking up on the mood of mum or dad. If you’re worried about anything, it is very likely that your child can sense your preoccupation – or perhaps she’s heard a row between you and your partner. All these things can affect a child’s sleeping too. Step into your toddler’s pyjamas and see the world through her eyes. Is there anything that may be going on in her life that is making her feel a little overwhelmed?
If there is, the best thing for you to do is give her lots of cuddles and reassurance. Acknowledge her feelings, because they are important to her – don’t dismiss them, saying there’s nothing to worry about. Giving her your time and love will help her to feel more secure, and if she’s feeling secure, she’s more likely to feel restful at night-time too.
Your toddler has a vivid imagination – she may begin to experience nightmares and find it hard to distinguish between what’s real and of them happening by making sure you don’t read scary books or let her watch DVDs with monsters in them too close to bedtime. If she does have a nightmare, reassure her that it is just a dream and that it is not real. If she wants to talk about what happened in the dream, let her, but don’t force her. The important thing is to let her know that you are taking her feelings seriously, and that she is safe.
Sleep training is tough, but if you stick to this plan for seven nights, you'll see a difference. It only works if you are consistent, so begin when you are feeling strong enough to stand your ground.
-Give your toddler action-packed days and don’t let her nap, especially in the afternoon, unless she really needs one.
- Don’t rush the bedtime routine. Start it slightly earlier than before and take your time, so it’s slow and relaxed.
- Leave the room before she goes to sleep. She’ll learn that you expect her to go to sleep by herself and will then have confidence to do this on her own if she wakes up.
- Let her choose a special soft toy to take to bed for company. It’ll comfort her if she wakes.
- If she cries out, don’t go immediately unless you are worried she is sick. Wait a few minutes to see if she settles herself down again.
- If you need to go in to reassure her, keep the lights low and talk quietly. Leave her in bed, don’t pick her up.
- When she’s calm, leave the room. If she cries again, wait a little before you return. If you feel comfortable, leave longer gaps between visits, and keep them brief and boring.
What to do with early rises
Some toddlers wake very early. It may help if she has thick curtains or blinds in her bedroom that don’t let in the light, which may be what is waking her up. If you do have an early riser on your hands, you could encourage her to stay in her bedroom until a particular time, by teaching her to recognise when the hands on the clock are pointing at the ‘right’ numbers. This is a good introduction to helping her learn to tell the time. You could also let your child choose some safe ‘early morning’ toys that she can play with when she wakes.
Sleep patterns change, but check for an explanation if your toddler suddenly begins waking a lot at night.
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Source: Lorraine Thomas - 50 things you really need to know - Brilliantly behaved toddler.