Sleep problems in toddlers

Sleep problems in toddlers
Sleep problems in toddlers

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February 1, 2024, 10:59 PM

A sip of water, another kiss, another story: toddlers sometimes go to great lengths to avoid having to sleep. This is completely normal: every toddler has a phase where he doesn’t feel like sleeping. Break this pattern by maintaining a fixed daily rhythm and a fixed bedtime. This way it is clear to your child when he should go to sleep. A fixed bedtime ritual ensures that your child can end the day well and sleep peacefully. If he does get out of bed, respond calmly but firmly. For example, say: ‘The day is over, go back to bed’. Keep repeating this the next time he visits you.

It is very important that you also check your toddler’s bedtime. It is often the case that an (over)tired toddler has more difficulty falling asleep than a well-rested toddler. For example, it may be that bedtime is a little too late, or that the afternoon nap has stopped, but your toddler still really needs that afternoon nap.

There may also be other reasons that your toddler (suddenly) no longer wants to go to bed or has difficulty falling asleep. For example, your child is not feeling well, is ill or does not feel well. Click here for more tips if your toddler doesn’t want to sleep for whatever reason.

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Also read: These are this year’s best sleep trainers for kids

Just like you, your child also dreams a lot at night. In this way he processes all the impressions from the day. Usually they are pleasant dreams, but it can also happen that your child has a bad dream and wakes up screaming or crying from a nightmare. Go to your child immediately at such a time, because he may be very scared. Comfort him in his own bed and then let him fall asleep again. There’s a good chance that your child won’t even remember having a nightmare the next day.

Also read: Practical tips for your toddler’s nightmares

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Does your child sit up in bed screaming and terrified, or does he kick and punch around but doesn’t really seem awake? He probably suffers from night terrors, too night terror named. Your child may even have his eyes open, but you may have the feeling that he is looking right through you. Night terrors are different from a nightmare in which your toddler does wake up because of the bad dream. Another difference: night terrors do not occur in the middle of the night, but in the first three hours after falling asleep. Sometimes a child always suffers from this at the same time. Night terrors can continue into primary school age.

Does your child suffer from night terrors? Then don’t wake him up. Leave your child alone as much as possible, make sure he is safe and cannot hurt himself. If necessary, you can turn on the lamp in the hallway. Keep in mind that the more you do, the longer the night terrors last. So it is best to do nothing at all, even though it is probably very difficult for you to see because your child can be quite upset during a night terror. If your child regularly has night terrors at the same time, put him to bed a little earlier. There is often a relationship with over-fatigue. Does your child wake up from one night terror? Then calm him down and remember: although an attack of night terrors can last quite a long time and look intense, your toddler will remember nothing about it the next day.

Read more: This is the ideal bedtime per age: a handy sleep schedule

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Children aged three and four have enormous imaginations. In fact, their imagination is so highly developed that they cannot properly distinguish between reality and fantasy. It is therefore not surprising that many toddlers suddenly develop all kinds of fears. Especially when it is dark and your child is alone in bed, he can be afraid of all kinds of things: strange shadows, sounds that suddenly sound scary. And is there really no monster under his bed?

Always take these kinds of fears seriously. Talk about it with your child, chase away ghosts together and explain where that scary sound or shadow comes from. Try to do this explanation as much as possible during the day and not immediately before going to sleep. Therefore, explore the room together during the day and explain where all those sounds and shadows come from in the evening. It can also help to give your child something to take with him to bed that will support him, such as a cuddly toy or a photo of mom or dad. Leaving a nightlight or hallway light on can also help if your child is afraid and does not want to go to sleep.

Look here for more tips if your child is afraid of the dark

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Does your toddler prefer to fall asleep anywhere than in your bed or does he regularly crawl between you at night? No matter how cozy, there is a good chance that this will soon become a habit and he will no longer want to sleep in his own bed. If this is the case and you think it’s time for him to sleep in his own bed, you will have to break this pattern. Tell your child that from now on he must fall asleep and/or stay asleep in his own bed. Expect that this will not happen overnight, breaking a pattern takes time. And if things go well for a while, your child may well have a relapse. In that case, remain consistent in your approach. If you give in once, you give your child the message that he can eventually sleep in the big bed again. Here you will find more tips to help your child sleep in his own bed.

If your toddler is sitting up in bed with his eyes open or is suddenly walking around but is clearly not really awake, your child is probably sleepwalking. Sleepwalking usually happens when your toddler has just been sleeping for one or two hours and is a normal phenomenon in children. If your child sleepwalks, do not wake him up, but gently take him back to his bed. If your child suffers from this more often, make the house ‘sleepwalk-proof’. Clean up any toys lying around and make sure the stair gate is closed. Furthermore, make sure that your toddler has a good rest an hour before he goes to sleep and do not let him look at a screen. This reduces the chance that your toddler will start walking while sleeping.

Read more: Your child will sleep better with this sleep ritual

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Does your toddler wake up regularly during the night? This is not only tiring for him, but also for you. Try to find out why your child keeps waking up. Is it perhaps too hot or too cold in his room, or is he dressed too warmly or too coldly? Check the ideal TOG value for safe sleeping here (with handy schedule). Your child may also suffer from nightmares or be afraid of the dark. If you know the cause, you can deal with it. Can’t figure out the reason he keeps waking up? Then discuss this with the child health clinic or a children’s sleep coach.

Is your toddler cheerfully standing next to your bed every morning at half past six? Your child may have been a little too tired when they went to bed the night before. Therefore, try to advance his bedtime a bit. To ensure that your child sleeps longer, you can also use a sleep alarm clock or sleep trainer. This is an alarm clock where, for example, a light turns on or the eyes open. Make sure that the alarm clock does not make any noise, for example, some alarm clocks make a click when the eyes open, which may wake your toddler while he is still sleeping soundly. TIP: Here you will find more great sleep trainers!

Of course you can also use a simple light on a timer for this. Set this to an achievable goal. If your toddler wakes up at 6:30 am, it is not realistic to expect him to get out of bed until 8:30 am. Rather, build it up in small steps. So set the alarm for a quarter to 6 a.m., then you might be able to celebrate a success quickly. Then you simply set the alarm later at 6 a.m. and so on. Better to celebrate a success every time than a disappointment every morning. Here you will find ten more useful tips for early birds.

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Source: CJG Leiden

Also read: That’s how much sleep your child needs right now

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The article is in Dutch

Tags: Sleep problems toddlers


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