4 Common toddler sleep problems and how to solve them

“Some disruptions, such as protesting a nap or crying when you leave the room, are related to development,” says Nanci Yuan, M.D

All parents know what it’s like: it’s late at night, and finally the baby is all tucked in and in deep slumber. But it doesn’t last long. The baby wakes up and starts wailing for attention. You pick them up and try to put them back to sleep, only the don’t.

It can be frustrating for parents to see their toddler struggle with sleep despite the best efforts, but this usually means something.

“Some disruptions, such as protesting a nap or crying when you leave the room, are related to development,” says Nanci Yuan, M.D., medical director for the Sleep Center at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, in Menlo Park, California, “while others may be the result of a change in routine.”

So how do you solve toddlers’ common sleeping problems? Parents offer these four tips to the most common sleep problem for toddlers:

1. She refuses to nap

Babies do need to sleep, and lots of it. Typically, it is ideal for our toddlers to have a couple of naps throughout the day.  However, as they grow older, the amount of time spent in bed is reduced.

Once they start resisting naps, it is usually a sign that their daily naps can now be reduced to just one.

To minimize your tot’s struggles, Parents advisor Dr. Judith Owens advises a consistent presleep routine. “The timing and order of meals and activities helps anchor your child’s circadian clock,” Dr. Owens said.

Say your toddler is having trouble napping earlier in the day. What you can do instead is schedule it later.

2. He cries when put in the crib

At 10 to 18 months, a child’s separation anxiety peaks. This is the reason why when you put them in the crib, they start fussing. Another reason may be that their imaginations are on overdrive and the start imagining scary creatures.

To combat this, Dr. Yuan said to sit near the crib as they are about to fall asleep. “Sit near the crib and tell your toddler that you’re there, but don’t interact beyond that,” she advises.

Then move farther and farther away each time so that they will slowly be able to adjust.

3. Vacation messes up her sleep schedule

Three-time X Games gold medalist David Wise and his wife have done their fair share of travelling for competitions. “Traveling with a toddler is difficult, especially when you throw in sleep deprivation,” David says.

So for their children to be able to sleep more or less regularly during and after travelling, the couple suggests having a nightly routine and maintaining it as faithfully as possible.

They also suggest “toting along a portable crib, loveys, and bedtime books, and putting your toddler down in the darkest, quietest spot you can find.”

4. They wake up at night

According to Dr. Nelly Maseda, pediatrician at the Montefiore Medical Group-Grand Concourse, in Bronx, New York, if your child is suddenly waking up in the middle of the night, a milestone may be to blame.

"If he’s learning a new skill like walking, he may be so focused on practicing that he can’t sleep,” Dr. Maseda says. What a parent should do is to comfort the child, but keep them in the crib. “Make it clear that he needs to go right back to sleep.”

READ: How much sleep does my baby need?

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