Fighting to get your toddler to fall sleep and then hearing him screech in the middle of the night is enough to cause the whole family to feel sleep-deprived. If your toddler has started to display some sudden and drastic changes in his sleeping habits, you may be wondering if you’ve unintentionally done something to cause it. In reality, a wide variety of circumstances, ranging from mild and temporary to potentially dangerous, could be the cause of the new change. Fortunately, most causes can be easily remedied, or they will eventually go away on their own.
Common toddler ailments and discomforts include molar teething pain, colds, allergies and ear infections. Any of these can cause your toddler to have trouble falling and staying asleep. If your toddler is tugging at his ear, he may have an infection. You can reduce pain from an ear infection (which will tend to feel more painful when lying flat) with a lukewarm washcloth and children’s acetaminophen, but make sure he sees a pediatrician to get the appropriate antibiotics. A stuffy nose can be helped with a humidifier and extra pillows, and a fever can be reduced with children’s acetaminophen. Note that occasional snoring may be caused by congestion, but regular bouts of snoring and difficulty breathing during sleep may signify a potentially life-threatening condition known as obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.
Sleep Talking and Sleepwalking
Your toddler may actually be sleeping while she seems to be awake. Sleep talking and sleepwalking, common in toddlers whose parents have sleep talked or sleepwalked, often occur within the first couple of hours of deep sleep. Don’t wake her up since she will have trouble falling back asleep, but make sure that she isn’t in harm’s way if she gets up to walk. For example, put a baby gate up if you have stairs, and make sure nothing is around for her to trip over. Also don’t discuss her sleep habits with her as it may cause her sleep anxiety. According to What to Expect online, these sleep habits are likely to wane if you establish a stable sleep schedule for your little one.
Toddlers are sensitive to their surroundings. If your toddler gets too cold because he kicks off his blankets, make sure he is dressed in especially warm pajamas. If you think the noise from surrounding rooms is keeping him awake, turn the volume down on the television and your chatter. Finally, make sure that--especially around bedtime--he isn’t surrounded by books, movies and television programs that could potentially cause him nightmares.
Toddlers are constantly changing. They are newly walking and talking, so they may be more interested in running and chatting a hundred miles a minute than settling down. They are also toilet training or newly toilet trained, so they may wake up if they need to use the toilet or if they have wet the bed. They also go through phases such as separation anxiety, which may cause them to want to cling to Mommy and Daddy rather than sleep alone in a darkened room.
Help Your Toddler Sleep
The most effective way to get your toddler to fall and stay asleep with ease is to set up a stable wake and sleep routine. This includes making sure naps occur at arranged times (they will have to be tweaked every once in awhile) and making sure your toddler is soothed before bedtime. For example, one sleep-time routine may include playing quiet games with her before she sleeps, giving her a warm bath, reading her a short story, offering her a bit of warm milk, and turning on a quiet book on tape or music for her to listen to in bed. Quickly soothe her if she wakes up upset during the night, but don’t linger too long or she will come to expect regular extended interactions.