Newborn to Toddler, how to get a Full-night’s Sleep

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A full night of restful sleep can become so rare that it can almost seem mythical to the parents of toddlers, but there are some things you can do to stretch out the time you’re allotted.

If your child is waking in the obscenely early hours of the morning and you can’t seem to get him back to bed, these tips can help you establish a routine that keeps him sleeping until at least sunrise.

  • Consider His Sleep Environment – Before you assume that your child is waking up so early in the morning because his sleep schedule is off, take careful stock of the room in which he sleeps. Is it particularly noisy in the very early morning? Do the first rays of the sun come through the window to rouse him? There are a variety of environmental factors that can wake your child before anyone in the house is ready, but you may not notice them if you’re not actively looking. In many cases, the simple installation of black-out shades and a white noise machine can be the key to buying a few more hours in bed each morning.
  • Help Him Learn to Self-Soothe – A child that relies upon the soothing efforts of a parent to fall asleep at bedtime may find himself incapable of self-soothing if he awakes on his own. That’s when he makes his way to your room, in search of the comfort he needs. Helping your child learn how to self-soothe may keep him in his bed, rather than wandering the halls in search of assistance to get back to sleep.
  • Keep His Bedtime in Mind – The average toddler needs anywhere from 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night. If you’re putting her to bed right after dinner, she’ll probably wake long before you’re ready to have breakfast. While giving your child a bedtime that’s too late can leave her sleep deprived and cranky the following day, especially if environmental factors are waking her up at obscenely early hours anyway, it’s worth examining the amount of time that you’re expecting her to stay in bed.
  • Don’t Eliminate Naps – When your toddler is waking up too early, it’s natural to assume that it’s time to either drastically shorten naps or cut them out altogether. This may be the case if he’s napping for several hours during the day, but it usually isn’t the answer if his typical afternoon nap only lasts an hour or so. Eliminating nap time will only leave him more tired and difficult to manage in the hours leading up to bedtime if he still needs a bit of daily rest.
  • Address Nighttime Fears – Some kids wake up early because their rooms aren’t conducive to early morning sleep, some because their bedtimes are far too early in the evening and some because they wake up in the wee hours with fears that keep them from going back to sleep. Complaints of nightmares or imaginative stories about monsters in the closet are sure signs that your pint-sized early riser is waking so early because he’s afraid to stay in bed by himself. Working out a routine for addressing and managing those fears is the best way to catch a few extra early-morning zzz’s.
  • Keep Your Schedule Consistent – An erratic schedule makes it impossible for your child to know when it’s acceptable to get out of bed, so try to avoid letting your child’s bedtime become too flexible on weekends. You may be eager to sleep in a little on Saturday mornings, but your toddler’s routine can be completely thrown off when he’s allowed to stay up too late on weekend evenings.
  • Install a Timed Nightlight – There are nightlights on the market that are set up on a timer system, and will turn themselves on at the specified time. Letting older toddlers know that it’s still nighttime until the light comes on, and that he should stay in bed until then, can help them understand when it’s acceptable to wake everyone up. This is especially true if you’ve installed blackout shades that block all the sunlight from coming through a window in his room. Without the sun as reference, it’s easy for young children to become confused about when it’s morning and when he should still be in bed.

Working with your toddler to adjust his sleep schedule slightly is part of parenting, but you may want to consider a consultation with his pediatrician if you suspect that something more complicated is afoot.

Don’t hesitate to speak with a medical professional when you have real concerns.

It’s better to find out that you were unnecessarily worried than to ignore a situation that should be addressed.

Thanks to Barbara Williams

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