Sleep Training Toddlers

image001Toddlers between the ages of 2 and 3 require nothing less than 11 hours of sleep. Afternoon naps are also essential and these should range from an hour and a half to 2 hours. Usually, children in this age group are put to bed from 7 pm to 9 pm and they normally wake up from 6:30 to 8 in the morning. While it appears that these sleep patterns resemble that of an adult, your child spends more time in light rapid eye movement (REM) sleep which means that they undergo more sleep transitional phases. As a result, they wake up more than you do and it helps to sleep training toddler so as to avoid having to wake up and soothe them back to sleep every time they wake up at night.

Important Techniques for Sleep Training Toddlers

1. The Gradual Withdrawal Method

The gradual withdrawal technique provides reassurance to the toddler and could help kids who usually get out of bed.

  • This is a 6 step process which begins with creating a bedtime routine that involves reading your child 3 stories. It helps to look for books with bedtime themes.
  • The second step involves using sleep tools such as a comfort blanket, bedtime music or sleep items that don’t necessarily require you to be present at night.
  • The third step involves reassuring the child and you can lie in bed with them or simply sit by their bedside until the child falls asleep.
  • You can continue this step for a couple of nights while gradually withdrawing.
  • In step 5, continue withdrawing by moving further away from the toddler while still being present in the room.
  • Finally in step 6, withdraw by simply kissing your child goodnight and letting them fall asleep without your physical presence.

2. The Pop-out Method

This technique is great for toddlers who are already making progress and those in need of a little reassurance. The technique involves sitting with them for a short while, preferably less than a minute then leaving. Each time you 'pop-out', say something simple like 'Mum has to pop out for a drink of water, I'll be back in a sec'. Pop out quickly then return.Pop in again and sit for a while as they are falling asleep and pop out, encouraging them to sleep on their own. Gradually decrease the amount of time you are in the room to help make your toddler more self-dependent. 

3. Follow the Bedtime Routine

Have a consistent bedtime routine and keep it simple. This shouldn’t be like a chore but a pleasant time that takes as little time as possible. A good routine would be dinner, a bath, bedtime stories, goodnight kiss before tucking in the child’s sleep items such as teddy bears into the bed. You can create a chart for the bedtime routine and have a clock guiding the routine. While some resistance is expected, the child will eventually ease into it.

4. Give Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement encourages the child to sleep on their own and you could reward the toddler with a sticker chart or small rewards. Simple rewards tend to work better and of course they need to be age appropriate such as a crayon box, toys, small items for playing dress up, stickers and others. Giving rewards in the morning is proven to work better. This is very important in sleep traning toddlers as you are encouraging him. 

5. Help Him Establish a Fixed Biological Clock

You can also help your toddler set their biological time by putting them to bed at the same time, every night. Letting your child stay up till they fall asleep makes them tired and allows their stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin to kick in hence keeping them going for much longer. This makes it more difficult for them to sleep and leads to frequent sleep disruptions. Ease the toddler into bedtime by dimming the lights and having calming routine to slow down the mood. Combine this with the bedtime routine.

6. Make the Bed Cozy

Children have more sleep phases and transitions; they wake up a couple of times every night. It therefore helps to have a comfortable bed that helps the child fall back asleep when they awake. You can have a soothing noise machine and also ensure that the curtains do a good job of keeping the street light out. Warmth helps in encouraging sleep and because children are prone to kicking their covers off, ensures that they sleep in warm pajamas. Plan the transition to a bigger bed exciting as opposed to scary.

7. Keep Him Active During the Day

Ensure that the child gets enough exercise during the day as well as a lot of fresh air and sunshine. However, these games should be during the day and not at night since you don’t want to re-energize the child. Laughter is essential and you can have a few humorous games before dinner to allow your toddler to vent out the day’s anxieties. Keep the games simple to help them settle down better for bed.

8. Learn How to Deal with the Cry

Crying is expected during the first stages of training your toddler to sleep and you need to acknowledge the cries of your young one. Reassure the child, it is okay to hold and cuddle the child. You can also stay close by to help the child sleep better. If the child is getting too upset, it may not be the right time and you could try this exercise later. Don’t force it, instead create a smooth transition.

9. Manage Naps

Managing naps could help your child sleep better at night. Toddlers need between an hour and two hours of naps during the day so as to get their 12-14 hours daily dose of sleep. You can have two nap times instead of one depending on how much sleep the child gets during the day or have a long lunchtime nap. Don’t let the child oversleep as this will reduce the amount of time he sleeps at night.

Watch a video to learn the experience and advice of one mom sleep training toddler without a fuss: