How to help your child sleep through the night
Help your child sleep through the night by understanding why they're having sleep problems and establishing bedtime routines.
It’s one of those things that makes a parent rejoice: that moment when your baby can finally sleep through the night. You don’t mind the sleepless nights of course, but it’s still a great thing when your little one finally sleeps uninterrupted for hours — which means more rest time for you too.
However, when your child reaches toddlerhood, things may suddenly change. You might find yourself awake again in the middle of the night because he has gotten up from bed. “Oh no,” you think to yourself, “why doesn’t my child sleep through the night anymore?”
If you’re facing such a situation now, fear not. We’re here to help!
Back to the basics
If your child is suddenly unable to sleep through the night, it may be best to take note of the following pointers:
1. Assess the situation.
Answer these questions: Why is your child getting up? Are they scared? Is the noise level distracting? Are they being stimulated by bright colors, games or even caffeine or sugar? (More on this later.)
2. Establish a routine to prepare your child for bedtime.
This may consist of a warm bath, some cuddling time, story time or sedentary activities (not television). (More on this later.)
3. Be consistent with the ‘when’ of bedtime.
Yes, there will be exceptions at times, but for the most part make bedtime the same time every night.
4. Put them back in bed.
When your child gets out of bed, take them back to their bed. NO EXCEPTIONS. Tuck them back in, kiss them goodnight (again), reassure them you will be there in the morning and return to your room.
5. Allow your child to self-soothe.
If you hear your toddler stirring in their room at night, don’t go into their room unless they call for you. It is possible for toddlers to soothe themselves back to sleep if left to do so.
Reasons why some children can’t sleep through the night
When assessing the reason behind your toddler’s sleeplessness, you need to take note of the following:
- Is your child afraid of the dark? Provide a dim nightlight that is not in their direct line of vision, just something to cast a reassuring glow. Alternatively, you could attach glow-in-the-dark stars to their bedroom ceiling.
- Is your child afraid of being alone or of ‘monsters under the bed’? Ask them why they are afraid and help them work through these fears.
- Is the atmosphere of their room too stimulating? Bright colors are great for toys, but a child’s bedroom should be filled with soft, soothing colors.
- Is your child receiving too much stimulation prior to bedtime via television, rambunctious play, fast-paced video games, etc? Remove these from their routine.
- Is the noise level in your home too loud? Tone things down a bit.
- Is your child receiving caffeine or sugar before bedtime? Make sure to limit his intake of these substances to 2 hours prior to bedtime.
The role of consistency and routines in helping your child sleep through the night
Toddlers thrive on, and learn best from, routine and repetition. So it only stands to reason that they would learn the art of staying in bed by routine and repetition.
Thus, if you want to help your little one start to sleep through the night, make her bedtime routine something to look forward to. Read her favorite book, sing her favorite song or something similar that she can associate with bedtime.
It’s also a good idea to ‘warn’ them that the routine is about to begin. You could set a timer and tell him, “We’re going to start getting ready for bed when the timer goes off.”
Be firm about your bedtime rules
If your toddler suddenly can’t sleep through the night, goes to you and wants to get into bed with you, try to be firm but gentle and remind him about your rules.
When your child gets out of bed, gently but firmly take her back, reassure her that you love her and that her bed is the best place for her, give her a kiss and leave the room. If she follows you, turn around, go back and do it again.
NOTE: Children ages 3 and over should be given no more than 2 or 3 ‘chances’ — warn them that getting out of bed again will result in losing the special treat they will get if they do stay in bed.
EXCEPTION: If your child can’t sleep through the night because he is ill, take the time to comfort him before returning him to his bed. Give him a cool sip of water, fever medication, cough medicine — whatever he needs to make him feel better and will allow him to sleep more soundly.
Make your child’s bed a great place to be
If your child can’t sleep through the night, maybe you can also consider making her bed more comfortable and cozy. Let her select bedding that is soft, not too ‘stimulating’ and something she would be excited to sleep on.
Provide motivation for when your child does stay in bed and sleep through the night
Motivating your toddler to stay in their own bed — complete with their chosen bedding and a special sleep buddy — has proven effective for years. But there are other things you can do to make sleeping in their own bed more appealing to even the most active toddlers.
Here are a few examples: a sticker chart that, once filled, will earn them a special treat; a trip to the ice cream store; a small toy; a new movie or new story book.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure your child understands the reason behind all of it — when they stay in bed and sleep through the night, they also benefit from getting more rest!
What tips and tricks have you tried to get your child to sleep through the night? Share them with us by leaving a comment!