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Toddler sleeping problems

Christa Riekert, Advisory Nutritionist

It’s really quite common for toddlers to go through a phase of restless and sometimes sleepless nights, which can be exhausting for both you and your child. We have some great information to help you to understand why your toddler may be having trouble sleeping, and tips to help make night time the peaceful time it’s meant to be. We’re here to help when you need it – just get in touch with our team and talk things through with us.

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Sleeping problems are common

Many toddlers experience problems sleeping. Your toddler may have difficulty settling down, or wake frequently in the night and many just wake up too early in the morning.

What can cause sleeping problems?

There are no hard and fast reason why toddlers have sleeping problems, but often there are some small changes you can make which might help your child sleep better at night so they are happier during the day.

Diet: Toddlers who are used to being fed on demand eat smaller amounts of food more often, so they may not be used to going for longer periods of time (like night-time) without food. If that’s the case try and encourage your toddler to eat more during the day to sustain them throughout the whole night.

Over-tiredness: It might sound odd, but many toddlers may actually sleep badly if they’re over-tired – so setting and sticking to a bedtime routine for your toddler with a set ‘lights-out’ time may help avoid restless nights.

Over-stimulation: It’s great to have energetic play time with your toddler, but they need time to unwind before settling down – too much fun and games before bedtime can leave them wide-awake and restless.

Discomfort: You know how hard it is to sleep if you’re too hot or too cold, or feel uncomfortable in your nightclothes or sheets; your toddler is no exception.

How can I introduce a routine to help my toddler sleep?

Your toddler should be more relaxed and get to sleep easier if you create a simple, regular routine before bed, including 15-20 minutes of quiet time. This can be a really special time together, when you can read them a story, give them a bath or simply sit and have a cuddle! They’ll find it much easier to switch off at the end of the day this way.

Making sure your toddler is dressed comfortably and in a room where the room temperature is not too hot or too cold will help. It’s also good to keep the house quiet and the lights low to help them learn the difference between night and day.

Some other things you can do to help if your toddler is restless:

  • Staying calm and relaxed yourself will help your child relax too. If it takes a while for your toddler to settle, try putting them down and leave the room. Wait for five or ten minutes before going back in, if they call for you.
  • If your toddler wakes in the night, go through the same steps (put down, leave, wait), taking care to keep any fuss, sound and light to a minimum. It should then be easier to settle them back down gently but firmly.

If you think your toddler isn't sleeping because they are unwell, you should take them to your health care professional.

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