What is Night Waking?
To be honest, most humans don’t actually “sleep through the night” no matter what age we are. We follow a sleep pattern made up of sleep cycles. When a sleep cycle ends we may experience a short waking period. If we fall back asleep into another sleep cycle quickly we may never even notice this period.
It’s perfectly normal for toddlers to have brief waking periods after a sleep cycle. The problem is when they can’t settle themselves back to sleep, and this is what is usually referred to as a “night waking”. It’s a common issue, one that many parents of toddlers and preschoolers deal with.
What Causes Night Waking?
There are many causes of night wakings in toddlers including:
- Night Terrors
- Stress (new sibling, transitioning to a bed, moving, giving up a pacifier, potty training, etc)
- Being overly tired (toddler bedtime too late, recently changed nap schedule)
- Sleep Apnea
- Acid Refux
- Waking up for a bottle
- Needing a blanket put back on or getting too hot
What Can I Do to Help My Toddler Sleep Through the Night?
- Avoid late bedtimes, especially if your toddler has recently given up a nap. Being overly tired can make it harder for toddlers to fall back asleep.
- Stick to a relaxing bedtime routine. Make your routine one that soothes and prepares your child for sleep. Make sure to end the bedtime routine by laying your little one down awake. Imagine the shock of a toddler who falls asleep in a parent’s arms and wakes up alone in bed! By falling asleep in bed your toddler won’t be startled and upset about this in the middle of the night when s/he wakes up briefly.
- Try weaning from the night bottle. Not only will your toddler have one less reason to wake up at night, but it’s also a good way to help protect your toddler’s teeth.
- Help your child learn to deal with stress in a positive way. Teach your little one about emotions and help your toddler learn the names of the emotions that s/he feels. Help guide your toddler through any major life changes.
- If you hear your toddler waking at night, don’t immediately go in there to help. Wait a few minutes to see if your toddler will go back to sleep without any help.
- If you suspect acid reflux or sleep apnea, talk to your child’s doctor.
- Dress your toddler in seasonally-appropriate pajamas to prevent him/her from getting too hot or cold at night.
- If your child does wake and needs help going back to sleep, make sure not to do anything that would stimulate your child instead of relaxing him/her. Don’t let your tot get up and play or watch TV at night, but help your little one lay back down and focus on trying to get the needed rest.