1 10, 2018

Night Terrors & Nightmares; How To Help Your Child Sleep

October 1st, 2018|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep|

Night Wakings, Night Terrors, & Nightmares-how to help your child manage all three

Halloween is coming! And with this season comes with an assortment of monsters, goblins and ghosts – oh my!

For some, this festive season is all in good spirits. For others, such as our little ones, it can be all too new and terrifying. The imaginations of children can be affected by the scary sights that are flying around at this time of year. Their brains are working on overtime trying to process it all and this can cause bad dreams.

How should you handle situations where your toddlers and preschoolers are scared and waking up at night? Is it really nightmares, or something else entirely?

First, it’s important to note that there are three common types of night wakings:

  • Overtired night wakings
  • Night terrors
  • Nightmares

Let’s look at each in a bit more detail.

Overtired Night Wakings

Did you know that no one really sleeps right the way through the night? Especially not children! We all go through periods of rest and brief wakefulness.  As you can see in the following image, our children’s sleep cycle lasts approximately forty five minutes. Once a cycle is complete, they will partially wake up before entering another cycle.

4 month old sleeep

You usually enter and exit these cycles seamlessly. However, children can become overtired due to an increase in stimulating hormones in the body. This will increase the chances of waking during the night when children are trying to transition through the different stages of their sleep cycles.

The Solution To Night Wakings

The solution to night waking is simple (in theory 😉 ). Make sure your child is well rested and getting the right amount of sleep based on their needs.

It goes without saying, but if they’re over tired they need a few days with earlier bedtimes. This will help them to catch up on the deep sleep cycles that occur early on in the night.

In addition, have a soothing wind down routine, dark sleep environment to encourage their body and brain to settle for the night.  Finally, work towards weaning their dependency of sleep props if it is disrupting their ability to transition through sleep cycles at night.

Night Terrors

Night terrors are not a pleasant experience for the child and parents. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the phenomenon, during a night terror your child may have their eyes open and appear to be awake. They might yell, scream and thrash uncontrollably. Your attempts to soothe them will go unacknowledged until all of a sudden they ‘snap out of it’ and come to. This will leave both you and your child confused.

Technically speaking, night terrors, less commonly known as a Confusional Event, occur when part of the child’s brain remains asleep although their eyes are open. When they overcome the night terror they won’t remember what has happened. This might seem similar to a nightmare, but it isn’t. No dreaming occurs during the sleep cycle when night terrors take place. Night terrors tend to happen during NREM sleep  and in the first four hours of sleep.

The Solution To Night Terrors

Like regular night wakings, night terrors can be associated with a child being over tired. Make sure they are getting the right amount of sleep and be sure to allow them earlier bedtimes if they’re lacking sleep.

Night terrors can also happen if the child is too warm. Watch that their bedroom temperature stays between 17-21 C (62-69 F). Dress them in warmer pajamas and have a cooler room temperature. This is better for the body than wearing cooler clothes and having a warm room temperature.

Nightmares

Nightmares and night terrors often get confused with one another. But nightmares differ from night terrors for a few reasons.

  • Nightmares happen during REM sleep whereas night terrors occur during the NREM sleep phase
  • Because of this, nightmares tend to happen later during the night
  • The child will usually remember their nightmare or at least know that it’s the reason why they woke. Children won’t remember their night terrors and may even fall back asleep after one unless woken by a parent

The Solution To Nightmares

Children waking due to nightmares is a common worry I see among my clients. The good news is that nightmares don’t actually happen as often as you might think. I see more night wakings happening in children that are caused by sleep debts and over-tiredness. This is more of a concern than nightmares.

That’s not to say that nightmares don’t happen.  Incidences of nightmares usually peak between the ages of 3-6 years of age and can be brought on by a number of things. More often than not, it’s simply brought on by growing up and being aware that negative or scary things exist.

If a child is dealing with anxiety or stress brought on by changes in their lives such as starting school or a new sibling coming into the family, this can also trigger nightmares. Or, the child may simply have an overactive imagination.

Validate Their Feelings, Not the Fear Itself

When your child has a nightmare, reassure them that the dream wasn’t real and validate their feelings. At the same time, be careful to not validate the actual fear itself. 

Sometimes, in their efforts to reassure a child, parents will start to do a “monster check” or spray a supposedly magic potion to keep them away. But doing this implies that there are actually monsters to check for, or bad things that require a magical potion.

Instead offer gentle reassurance, love and support after a bad dream. Give them the tools to work at building their confidence up. For example; if they are very upset you could try to help them by rewriting the dream and giving it a funny or silly ending.

This not only conveys the message that the dream wasn’t real, but empowers your child to manage their feelings upon waking.

Watch What Your Child Watches

Children have wild imaginations-it can be what makes them so fun to be around.  But many young children are very sensitive and even some cartoons and movies that are targeted for younger audiences can be too scary.

I once made the mistake of letting my daughter watch The Lion King. She was already in school, so I thought it would be fine. However, the hyenas scene bothered her for a few weeks.

We had many conversations about how it wasn’t real, along with ideas of what she could focus on at bedtime instead, such as her favourite parts of her day, what we would do on the weekend, etc.

After that, I always took into account her sensitive nature before viewing other movies.

Limit Electronics Before Bed

It may also be a good idea in some circumstances to monitor and limit the amount of TV your child is watching before they go to bed.

It is recommended to shut TV or similar electronics off 60-90 minutes before bedtime to encourage melatonin release and help your child wind down. This can also help your little one to not incorporate anything too confusing or scary into their dreams at night.

8 takeaways to help you and your toddler sleep easy

  • Make sure they’re getting the right amount of sleep for their needs
  • Give them earlier bedtimes to help them catch up on their sleep cycles
  • Make sure their room is a good temperature
  • Validate their feelings, but don’t encourage the fear
  • Reassure and comfort them
  • Help them to learn coping mechanisms
  • Limit TV exposure before bedtime

When our little ones wake at night, it’s important that we understand the reason, so that we can help them get back to sleep quickly and efficiently. Whether it’s an over-tired night waking, night terror or nightmare, there are several tips and tools you can use to help everyone get the rest they need.

Want more sleep tips for your toddler or preschooler? Grab your free copy of Sleep Solutions for Toddler + Preschoolers; Easy Tips for Exhausted Parents

28 08, 2018

Back-To-School Sleep Routines; How to Recover From Summer

August 28th, 2018|Categories: Preschooler Sleep|Tags: |

Have you ever heard of the “summer slide”? It’s the term given to the idea that students lose some of their academic skills over the summer.

But when it comes to sleep, children experience a different kind of summer slide. One that involves later nights, a more fluid routine and less sleep overall.

As we enter the new school year, it’s important that our children are refreshed, rested and ready to tackle the year ahead. Here are some tips to get your little scholar’s sleep back on track.

Wind Down Routine

The first step is to create a relaxing pre-sleep routine that is easily repeatable. This wind down routine helps your child’s body gear down, cue their brain to release the sleep hormones, and set the stage for sleep.

Depending on the age of your child, their wind down routine may include;

  • a warm bath,
  • bed time stretches or yoga,
  • reading books,
  • writing in a journal
  • cuddles with a parent

Whatever you and your child choose, you want to repeat a variation of it each night. This creates a cue for the brain and helps the body to relax quickly and settle down for a good night’s sleep.

The Right Time for Bedtime

Children under the age of 6 can require up 12 hours of sleep each night. However, if they are going to bed too late and waking up early for school, they will miss out on precious hours each night. This can leave kids overtired, and unable to fulfil their full learning potential. To conquer this, make sure your child is getting the right amount of sleep each night in the days and weeks leading up to the beginning of school.

To do this, you need to look at when they will need to be awake each morning and count backwards from there.

For instance, if your child must be awake by 7:00am in order to get to preschool or the bus stop in time, count backwards the amount of hours they need to get a full rest. That is when bedtime needs to be placed.

So if they on average sleep 11 hours at night, with a 7:00am wake up time, they need to be asleep by 8:00pm.

If bedtime has been later or, morning wake up will need to be earlier than it is now, you can start adjusting their routine ahead of time. This gives their internal body clock time to adjust gradually.

Add Sleep to the Shopping List

If you’re like me and excited to purchase the back-to-school supplies, be sure to add sleep supplies to that list. We want our young students to get the most restful sleep possible and that means being comfortable and cozy.

New pajamas, sheets, pillows, are always a special treat. But don’t forget to shop for their sleep environment too. Black out blinds to help with early bedtimes and morning wake ups are important, as well as white noise machines to mask the noises from the older siblings, family pets or street traffic.

If you’re creating a new wind down routine as mentioned previously, this is also the time to find a special journal to write in, or new books that can become old favourites.

Be Mindful of After School Activities

Now this tip isn’t necessarily for the time before school starts, but after. Starting school, for anyone, especially those in preschool, kindergarten or full-time days, is a huge adjustment. Not only emotionally, but physically. Children often need more sleep in the first few months as their body adjusts to these big changes.

Therefore when registering them for after school activities, be mindful of this. Consider when these start and end as well as the driving time involved.

If they mean your little one will be getting to bed later on a week night, you may want to consider doing a weekend activity instead or, doing it in the spring once they have adjusted.

As much as we want our children to be well-rounded and have a multitude of experiences, they won’t enjoy them if they’re exhausted. More importantly, not getting enough sleep will also hinder their focus, attention and behaviour at school.

We all enjoyed the lazy-hazy days of summer, but now it’s time to get back into a regular routine. Don’t worry if the summer slide hit your household. By following the tips above, your children be ready for the school year ahead-bright-eyed and well-rested.

 

 

 

16 08, 2017

The End of Toddler Bedtime Battles

August 16th, 2017|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep|

It’s bedtime.

You have a two year old…

“Let the (toddler bedtime) gamessssssss, BEGIN!

You see your toddler yawn and rub her eyes. Glancing at the clock you realize bedtime is on its way.

You decide to get her to pick up her toys by “making it a game” like the last parenting blog you read had suggested, but it only results in you playing the “game” alone as she starts to dance around you.

After bath, she proceeds to run around naked while you desperately try to get her dressed. Finally catching her you get her PJs on in a manner that you imagine it would be like to dress a goat.

Next comes potty time. You’re getting more tired and it’s not even your bedtime, but she seems to have even more energy-how is that possible? But you see her rub her eyes again.

Bedtime snack follows. She complains about it and starts crying. And yawns again. You quickly get her another snack and then take her to her room.

There (and after finally getting her to stop jumping on the bed), you think your work is done. But you hear;

One more story

“I have to pee”

“Why is the sky blue?”

“I need a hug”

“I have to pee again”

After honouring all the requests, you leave the room.

Collapsing on the couch, you marvel at your child’s ability to stall. Putting your feet up, you turn on the TV and hear her door open. You meet her in the hallway and decide that it may be easier to just lie down with her.

“It’ll only be for a few minutes” you say to yourself, but aren’t able to leave until forty-five minutes later.

Annnnnd *scene*.

Did I just describe your nightly ritual?

Most of the parents I help experience some, if not all, of the previous scenario during bedtime. The good news is that this can be a thing of the past.

Change Your Frame of Mind

When I help parents, the first issue we work on, is mom and dad’s mindset.

They have been stuck in a cycle of doing all the work during their toddler’s bedtime and (understandably) truly believe their child needs 37 glasses of water and 24 songs, in order to fall asleep.

But there is a difference between a need and a want. The child doesn’t need the water, they want it.

Because the parent has (out of love and desperation) regularly been accommodating their wants, the child begins to expect it each night, and it quickly develops into what is called a sleep association.

To be able to fall asleep independently though, without the sleep associations, parents must believe that their child  is capable of learning this valuable skill.  Before they can change their child’s habits, they must change their own.

The transition from constantly helping a baby, to, stepping back and allowing a toddler to be more independent, can be a little scary and let’s be honest; a little bittersweet. But the good news is that parents don’t have to do all the work anymore. Their child can start to take ownership of bedtime.

Solution

When mom and dad are able to trust in their child’s ability, we see amazing progress in a very short time. Children begin to feel their parents confidence. So set the bar higher and be amazed when they rise to the occasion!

If you find yourself worrying that your toddler can’t sleep without you, or without all the “stuff” you’ve been doing for her, ask yourself these two questions;

“Does my child behave differently for me than for other family members?”

“Does my child go to sleep easier for another caregiver such as a daycare worker, grandparent or relative?”

95% of the parents I work with say yes to one or both questions. Why is that? It’s not that your child likes them better, that they are more skilled or have a magical formula.

It’s because;

  •  your child feels the most safe with you (really, her tantrums are a compliment 😉 ),
  • she knows what buttons to push (It’s not manipulation, it’s nature. Toddlers are hard-wired to test limits.) and
  • your child is incredibly smart by this age and understands cause and effect

To begin, start working on your mindset when it comes to your child.  Every time you catch yourself thinking “my child needs me to….”, reframe the sentence to “my child wants me to…”.  

As simple as it sounds, by consciously thinking about the situation differently, your brain will begin to frame your thinking about bedtime differently. too. It will give you the clarity in the moment, stopping you from responding on autopilot.

Toddler Bedtime Battles Got You Down?

Get your FREE copy of Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night

Next, make a list of all the things your toddler can do. If they can follow instructions through the day, list that off, if they can play independently, write that down. Whatever it is, even the smallest task, make a note of it.

Third, review it and see how those skills can transfer to bedtime.

Recognize that if your little one usually is able to get their shoes or jacket out when you ask, they will also be able to get their toothbrush out when you ask.

If they can choose a shirt in the morning, they can choose their PJs or a stuffed animal to sleep with at night.

Finally, pick one or two areas that your child can start doing and implement that each night. Not only will this give your child some ownership, but it will help you to see how quickly they can learn a new skill.

Understand, Acknowledge and Deal With Your Fear

“Wait, what?!? I’m tired, not scared.

Well, maybe I’m scared I’ll never sleep again…”

Ok, so hear me out.

Often we feel that there are many external reasons why our children aren’t sleeping well such as;

  • Molars,
  • Not enough outdoor time,
  • Weren’t at daycare that day and aren’t tired out
  • Were at daycare that day and are overstimulated
  • Company stayed late,
  • Another sibling/parent/friend revved them up.

The list goes on.

But as much as we want to blame external factors, most of the time, it’s because of us.

And I lovingly say this without judgement because I’ve gone down this road, too and speak from experience. But us parents are usually the main reason why bedtime spirals out of control. And the reasoning lies deeply-seated, almost unconsciously in fear.

The fear of the unknown, of our child’s outburst, of other parent’s judgement of us, of resistance, but most of all, fear that our children will stop loving us.

It can be hearbreaking to think we may do something to lose the love/bond/attachment that we have with our children and from that, stems the inability to set and enforce limits.

However, as crazy as it sounds, children feel MORE secure and MORE loved, when there are clearly defined limits. They feel confident in our abilities and that reduces their need to test them.

Think about this; who would you trust more to fly you through a storm?  A pilot that was nervous, skittish, and indecisive or, one who was confident, had a concrete plan and was secure in their decisions?

Our children are the same way. If they see you as a nervous pilot, they are going to be nervous travelers who are going to question your every move.

Solution

Take some time to think about what is holding you back from enforcing limits around bedtime and through the night. Then find ways to deal with that fear.

If your child’s potential to tantrum is scaring you, then seek out and research parenting experts that can put your mind at ease. If you’re worried about others’ opinions of your parenting style, then this isn’t the time to post your intentions on social media.

If having no plan is scaring you, then let’s work together to create one that suits your family.

Whatever it is, consciously acknowledging and accepting what is preventing you from getting your child on a solid sleep routine is an important step towards seeing success. Don’t let fear stop you from what needs to be done.

Spend Quality Time Together

Sometimes parents find themselves feeling guilty at bedtime. It can stem from many areas, but a common one is when a new sibling enters the picture.

We can’t avoid it-newborns require a lot of attention.  And it’s normal to worry that the older child may feel displaced, left out or ignored.

However, when parents allow guilt to dominate their decision making at bedtime, problems can emerge.

As the stalling begins or the requests are made, parents feel obliged to honour them which they hope shows their love. Unfortunately this leads to reinforcing the very patterns they are hoping to change.

Solution

To get out of this loop, first focus on spending quality time with your little one during the day. It doesn’t need to be long, just twenty minutes of dedicated one-on-one time can help strengthen your bond.

It also doesn’t need to be complex outings; just sitting together and reading a book, taking a walk, doing a puzzle, or playing with toys is enough to strengthen the bond between the two of you.

But quality time, means quality time.

Be present in the moment. Focus on them without any interruptions. Put away the electronics. 

They are little people, but like us, they like to talk, share, complain to an active listener. They don’t always need you to solve their problems, but they do need to feel like they are being heard.

Second, when you are talking with your child, don’t shy away from discussing how having a new sibling makes them feel (or whatever the issue is). Listen and empathize. It’s normal for the older siblings to not love the changes, and like us, they want to feel validated.

If they say they hate having a new sibling, empathize; “Yes, having a new baby in the family is hard.”

Although our gut reaction is to try to convince them that they don’t really mean it, by empathizing, we allow space for their feelings and show them that we respect and  honour what they’re going through.

Crystal Clear Expectations

Have you ever had a boss reprimand you for not doing your job properly, even though expectations were never clearly explained?

If so, then you can relate to how your toddler may feel about bedtime.

Many parents mistakenly assume that their child knows what is expected in the hour leading up to sleep. But you know what they say about assuming. 😉

Sometimes parents aren’t really sure either, and this is like a personal invitation for a power struggle to develop.

Toddlers can find our triggers quite easily, namely the  “Big Three”;

  • saying they are hungry/thirsty,
  • needing the washroom and
  • needing love (hugs, kisses).

Children can sense the indecision, and as soon as that door is cracked open, the pleading and negotiation begins.

Solution

So, what does your perfect bedtime routine look like? Does your child know this? Have you ever specifically told them what you expect? If not, now is the time to start.

Begin by having a short, positive, and encouraging conversation about sleep; why your child needs a good night’s sleep, why *you* do as well (it’s important for your child to understand that mommy and daddy need rest, too) and how each member of the family can help support each other in achieving this.

Clearly and with love, communicate your expectations around bedtime for your child so they always know what to expect. Ask for their suggestions too, which encourages and empowers them to take ownership of their sleep routine.

Talk about how bedtime should go and what each person’s job or responsibility is such as;

  • Dad finishes up the cleaning the kitchen
  • Mom starts the bath,
  • Kids pick up four toys each and then brush their teeth
  • Have bath and start wind down routine
  • Read two books
  • Cuddle for five minutes
  • Parent leaves room by 7:00pm

Make this into a fun chart and post it where everyone can see and follow it.

Remember to only commit to what you feel comfortable doing though, because it’s vitally important that you are able to follow through.

If bedtime is 7:00pm but your toddler has taken fifteen minutes getting their PJs on and there is only time for one book, then one book it is.

Will there be protests? You bet.

But that’s normal, so take it in stride. Don’t take their protests personally or engage in a power struggle. Empathize, encourage them to move faster tomorrow, but don’t go back on your word. The more consistent you are in following the expectations, the more they will be too.

Watch the Clock

If you go back and read the opening scenario, you will see that as the night routine moves along, the child continues to shows sleep signs, but yet is hyper and energetic. This is a classic over-tired sign in toddlers and preschoolers.

When children become exhasuted, their body will begin to produce extra stimulant hormones to fight the fatigue. This is why in theory they should be tired according to the clock, yet are doing cartwheels and somersaults in their bedroom.

Solution

Avoid creating a sleep debt like the plague! Sleep debt/exhaustion/sleep deprivation; different terms to describe the same thing. Kids that are over-tired. You can read more about how over-tiredness impacts children here.

The culprit?

A bedtime that is too late.

Most two and three year olds, can only handle about four hours to four and a half hours of awake time after their nap has ended. Meaning a mid-day nap that ends between 2-3 pm, places bedtime by 7:30pm at the latest.

However for children who have been chronically over-tired, they may benefit from an even earlier bedtime for awhile.

Moving bedtime earlier helps to capitalize on how the brain cycles through sleep. Since there are more deep NREM sleep cycles in the first part of the night (the kind the body needs to rid itself of the sleep debt), early bedtimes provide more opportunity for this restorative type of sleep.

Children whose bedtime is too late, lose out on the maximum amount of this deep sleep because the brain doesn’t replace it later on in their sleep cycle. Even if they sleep in (which is not common unless extremely sleep deprived), the quality of sleep is not the same.

You Can End the Toddler Bedtime Battles!

You really can. Don’t be scared of your child’s big emotions. Change your mindset, face your fears and put a plan into place that gives your toddler structure and limits. As crazy as it may sound at first, one of the most loving things you can do as a parent is to say “no”.

Sleep is essential for your child’s development (not to mention your sanity), and by allowing them to get to sleep more independently, you are taking care of their most basic and fundamental need.  You got this!

Have a question about your toddler’s bedtime routine? Feel free to ask it during one of my FREE Q & A sessions on the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook Page, most Wednesday nights between 8-9pm CST.

6 04, 2016

Sleep Training Your Toddler; 5 Tips for Success

April 6th, 2016|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep|Tags: , , , |

Is sleep training your toddler right for you?

It happens to the best of us; we have a baby that was sleeping well ( or not) but then the toddler years hit and all hell breaks loose. Your child is climbing out of the crib, coming out of their bed and into your room, resisting nap, waking early, not letting you leave-you name it, you’ve got it.  You start to think that sleep training your toddler is needed. But how to begin? All the baby books focus on just that-babies.

The good news is that I have helped many families with toddlers (and preschoolers! ) start to have healthy sleeping habits so that the whole family *including mom and dad* are feeling well-rested and happy. It is never too late!

Let’s not waste another moment of you feeling tired or frustrated, shall we? Here’s what you need to know…

Sleep Log

The best place to start at is with documenting your child’s sleep. Without having a base from which to start from, it is hard to move forward.

Maybe you’re back to work during the days and struggling to get your little one to sleep at night. The last thing you want to do is start writing everything down, *BUT* it’s exactly for this reason that it’s important to log your child’s sleep. As a busy mom myself (are there really any other kind?) I know it’s hard to accurately remember everything from day to day. But after working for years with exhausted parents, I know it’s even more difficult to remember details when you’re sleep deprived.

Record it on your computer, open up your favourite sleep app, or go old school with a pen and paper, but whatever you choose, there are some important factors to document;

  • Wake up time
  • Nap starting and end times
  • Bedtime
  • Night wakings, and
  • Your child’s mood

Record this information for 5-7 days to provide valuable clues about your child’s sleep. It will help you to asses how much overall sleep and nap time they are getting each day on average. From there you can adjust accordingly.

This sleep logging time period should be one where everyone is on a pretty regular schedule. Don’t do it when there is illness, vacation, vaccinations, or house guests that may influence your results.

Baby or Toddler?

The term “toddler” is pretty ambiguous, describing everything from 12 month-3 year olds. When you’re looking at developing a healthy sleep routine though, it’s important to know where your little fits in for two reasons.

The first being is that you need to know what the average sleep requirements are for his or her age. And the second is for the most appropriate sleep training method options for their cognitive level.

A 13 month old toddler is going to have very different sleep needs than a 23 month old toddler. And each will have different options in terms of what is appropriate to expect from their level of understanding when trying to change behaviours.

Another special area to note is whether or not your child is still in their crib as it will impact your sleep training methods. I generally recommend that you wait until at least 3 years old to move a child to a big-kid bed for reasons outlined here, but I understand that not every family is able to do that.

Age Appropriate Routine

When you’re thinking about sleep training your toddler, it’s essential that you make their daytime and bedtime routine the primary focus. Although the talk in moms’ groups tends to focus on the sleep training aspect, it is in fact only focusing on the sleep training part that will ensure failure.

A perpetually overtired child will continue to cry, have temper tantrums, get silly, resist sleep period even after being sleep trained if their routine isn’t on track. Sleep training is *only* meant to get rid of sleep associations. It does not fix routines that have poorly timed naps and/or a bedtime that is too late.

If your little one is taking 2 naps a day, they will generally need a morning nap around an hour in length, and an afternoon nap ranging from 1.5-2 hours. A toddler that has completed the 2-1 nap transition will need a midday nap ranging from 1.5-3 hours in length and bedtime falling somewhere between 6-8pm.

Please note that these are just averages-always take your child’s unique sleep temperament into consideration.

Manage the Sleep Debt

This goes hand in hand with the preceding tip. As you focus on your child’s routine, their sleep debt will begin to be reduced. You can further this process along by not allowing bedtime to be too late.

How late is too late?

Well-rested toddlers can handle about 4-5 hours from the wake up of their last nap until bedtime. However if they are overtired, moving bedtime up earlier than this will be very helpful.

Change Sleep Behaviours and Expectations

Now it is time to decide how you want to change your child’s sleep behaviours. Do they come out of their room each night? Need you to lay down with them? Insist on something to drink before they go back to sleep? This is where you would choose the appropriate sleep training method and employ it consistently to change these sleep habits.

This is one of the last areas to consider and should never be done without addressing any daytime routine issues first. This way, we tackle the child’s sleep debt which assists with reducing the amount of crying. Win-win!

Picking the actual sleep training method for your toddler will be based upon their age (see point #2), their personality, and your parenting philosophy. Consistency is essential; pick a method that you can see through to the end. Constantly changing your method or response will ultimately confuse your child (read: crying) so following through once you have begun is the quickest path to success.

For a comprehensive review, I detailed many options in this sleep training series and several of them can be adapted for older children in big kid beds.

BONUS: A Tip For Older Toddlers

The older a child is, the more you can talk to them about how great sleep is for their bodies, preceding any changes you intend to make. You want to sell them on the idea of sleep and what it can do for them.

Most toddlers love to be physically active; running, jumping, swinging, climbing play structures and the like. Use this to your advantage and begin to draw the connections for them about how sleep helps their energy levels; allowing them to feel good enough to play.

By discussing the benefits of getting enough rest before sleep training your toddler, and then following through during the implementation period, you will help your child start to take pride in their sleep skills.

It is actually pretty amazing and quite touching to see when this transformation begins to happen. I have had many parents amazed how suddenly their child is eager to go to sleep (after resisting sleep for sometimes years). The child begins to appreciate and feel the difference in themselves!

If your little one has been lacking sleep for sometime, it may be time to consider making some changes in their routine. Sleep training your toddler can result in your child getting healthy and restorative sleep, and teaching them a valuable life skill. The preceding tips are a great place to start and should you want more detailed help, check out the toddler sleep consultation options.

If healthy sleep habits are well under way, but you need to ask a quick question, be sure to like and join the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page’s Wednesday night free Q & A sessions.

14 04, 2015

Taming Your Toddler’s Sleep Part 2; The 1-0 Nap Transition

April 14th, 2015|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep|Tags: , , , |

 

The 1-0 Nap Transition

We’re exploring a big milestone in the life of your child today; the 1-0 nap transition.  Check out Part One where we also delved into the Big Kid Bed Transition.

For better or worse, you have probably had a long history with your baby’s naps. In the beginning you and naps were in the initial stages of your relationship.

It was all new and exciting. You loved your baby’s naps! They were so pleasant and low maintenance; they appeared whenever and wherever and often lasted for hours. It was wonderful and you barely had to do anything!

Then came the 4 month sleep regression and you started to see a new side to naps. They started to become resistant and stubborn and often only stuck around for 45 minutes at a time. Your baby would wake up, still tired but wouldn’t go back to sleep and the novelty wore off quick. You started to become resentful of how much time you and naps spent fighting.

But, if you were lucky, those naps started to listen to your concerns and decided to really try to change. With some time and patience, they learned to  lengthen back out again sometime around month 6.

Somewhere between months 6-9 your baby dropped their 3rd catnap, leaving you with 2 solid naps and life was good. You could depend on naps again to always be there for you-in the morning and again in the afternoon.

Hopefully, the love affair continued until you hit the 2-1 nap transition somewhere between months 14-18. This is where you and naps hit the lowest point in your relationship. It was a really rocky patch and you didn’t think you two would make it. But surprisingly you did!  You persevered and found your way back to each other for another few years.

But now the time has come to finally say good-bye to your child’s afternoon nap. Like any breakup; it’s bittersweet. You know it’s for the best, but you will be sad to see it go. So, how does one survive the emotional toll that going through the 1-0 nap transition takes on a parent?

Of course, the above is all tounge-in-cheek, but anytime a child goes through a nap transition, there are certain steps you can take to help make the switch as painless as possible. Often, by the time a toddler or preschooler is ready to drop his nap, many parents make the mistake of thinking that the child is old enough to handle the change without any problems. But this is usually not the case and our little ones will often be very tired by the late afternoon. Much like the 2-1 nap transition,  this may not happen right away, but problems may start to show up a few weeks later. So here’s what you can do:

Is Your Child Really Ready to Drop Their Nap?

This is by far the most common mistake parents make. They’ve heard from their friends or well-meaning relatives that “so and so never napped after the age of 2” and take the first instance of nap resistance as a sign that their child doesn’t need to nap. The vast majority of children don’t permanently drop their nap until somewhere between the ages of 3.5-4 years old and even then will still require naps every few days to help their bodies adjust. What is more common though, are periods of time when your toddler or preschooler will not nap. If your child is under the age of 3, then this is likely just a phase and will return to napping in a few weeks. In the meantime keep offering nap time every day.

Know the 1-0 Nap Transition Signs of Readiness

The biggest indicator of your child being ready to drop their final nap lies in their mood and behavior in the afternoon and early evening.

If, on the days that your child misses her nap, she is still able to stay calm at minor grievances,  plays independently with ease, does not become defiant (or more so than what is usually attributed to this age group), grumpy, whiny, hyper, extra silly or clumsy as the afternoon wears on, then she may be ready to go without that nap. If not, it’s likely she is becoming overtired and a sleep debt is forming.

Keep ‘No Nap’ Days Dull and Boring

When your child skips a nap, it takes a toll on their bodies and although they may not show it, they get tired quicker. Try to keep the afternoons on these days low-keyed and uneventful.

Obviously you won’t always be able to do this, but try as best as you can. Those days are not the days to decide to go to a restaurant for dinner or to a sporting event. You don’t want to over exert or over stimulate your little one who is already going to be tired, making a meltdown much more likely.

 Put Your Child To Bed Early

On the days that jr. misses a nap or is actually starting the 1-0 nap transition, then it’s imperative that you put them down to bed super early.

Not just early, but super early!

SEBT (super early bedtime) will be your best friend through this, just like it was through all nap transitions. Your child is missing anywhere from 1-3 hours of sleep and their bodies still need to get it somewhere as they adjust to going a full day without any rest. Remember, this isn’t a permanent change of bedtime, just long enough to help them through the transition.

If you don’t do SEBTs, then expect your child to grow fangs and a tail around 5pm.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 😉

Instill “Quiet Time”

Just because your child is no longer napping, doesn’t mean that they can’t still go to their room for some down time. This allows their body to rest and gives everyone in the house a break.

Depending on the child, you may need to set a timer and/or go over expectations first. Purchase some “quiet time” toys (see the Baby Sleep 101 Pinterest Board for more suggestions!) or books and only let your child use them during this hour. They may or may not nap during this time, but at least you have provided them the opportunity to do so.

Going through a nap transition can be challenging at any age, but it can be quite difficult when you’re dealing with a toddler or preschooler and the 1-0 nap transition. However, if you follow the above advice, maintain the consistency and have some patience, it will help you make it through relatively unscathed. 🙂

When did your child drop their final nap? Tell us about your experience with the 1-0 nap transition in the comments below!

If your child’s transition didn’t go so well, or if you’re needing expert help with their current nap routine, consider investing in a consultation package.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net