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Toddler sleep challenges

Thursday 21 October 2021

Sleep challenges are often associated with babies, right? How often did you get asked the question, ‘Is your baby sleeping through the night yet?’

You thought that once they became a toddler or even older – cue the ‘my baby isn’t a baby anymore’ moment – that your sleep woes from the baby days would be behind you. But they aren’t, and it’s hard. REALLY HARD. Especially as your little one can now get out of bed for what seems like a hundred plus times and protest!

These cute little humans have great imaginations and energy levels to match, which often means sleep isn’t appealing to them. In addition, they are learning fast about the world around them and can suffer from major FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). This, in turn, can have an impact on their sleep.  

Let’s start with the basics

What are the benefits of sleep, and how are toddler sleep cycles different to babies and adults? 

We all know sleep is essential. It helps growth, brain development, promotes increased well-being and mental health, increases the ability to concentrate, can help with weight loss, and SO much more.

When we sleep, we all transition through different stages, and a typical sleep cycle varies depending on how old the individual is. For example, an adult sleep cycle is anywhere between 90-120 minutes. For a toddler, it’s anywhere between 35-60 minutes. We all wake at the end of these sleep cycles, it’s just that as adults we mostly know how to put ourselves back to sleep during these partial awakenings. For little ones, however, some may struggle and sleep challenges can occur. 

How much sleep do toddlers and young children need?

Sleep needs completely vary depending on the age of your little one. For example, for an 18-month-old child, this is anywhere between 13-14 hours, including nap(s) in a 24-hour period. For a 4-year-old, this is anywhere between 11-12 hours.

The range is vast, and the individual sleep needs vary depending on the age of the child. 

What you can do to help

There are many different solutions that you can explore to help your little one catch those all-important zzzzz’s. 

  • Try keeping a detailed log of your little one’s sleep in a 24-hour period. Some suggested areas to include would be temperament, food and milk intake, activities, how long it took them to fall asleep, length of naps, any night wake ups etc. By putting pen to paper, it will be easier to identify any trends and thus a schedule based on their individual needs. 
  • Talk to your little one about sleep in the day and carve out ‘special time’ to enjoy together. Let them choose a toy/game and be led by them (within reason). 
  • Encourage your little one to play in their room. This can be a great tool in helping them to love the environment that they sleep in. Choose a time of day which doesn’t coincide with naps or bedtime. 
  • Reducing screen time before bed. The blue light emitted by electronic devices restrains the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls the sleep wake cycle (aka the circadian rhythm). This can make it even more difficult to fall asleep and wake up the next day.  
  • Teach your little one what to do if they wake up at night time by rehearsing this in the day.  
  • Be consistent in your approach. For any change to happen and be successful, you must be consistent from the outset. 

Quite often, sleep challenges can be the symptom, NOT the problem. If you would like to chat through any of these points further, book in for a free discovery call with me and let me support and guide you. Having that bespoke support and guidance in place can often help you see quicker results.  

About the author

Charlotte Hillyard

Charlotte Hillyard is a Certified Sleepy Lambs Sleep Consultant based in Essex. Mum to a gorgeous little girl, Charlotte knows first hand the impact that sleep deprivation can have on families. After working with a Sleep Consultant herself, and seeing the incredible transformation in her little girl and her entire family, Charlotte became passionate about supporting other families on their journey to better sleep.

Visit Charlotte’s website to learn more about Charlotte, her sleep support options and to book a free discovery call.


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