Parenting books often cite the age of three months as when babies are capable of sleeping through the night, and according to the National Sleep Foundation, 70 percent of babies sleep through the night at nine months. Although I believe babies may be capable of this action, in my reality, none of my children ever slept through the night until they were toddlers. Even then, a full night of sleep did not come easily. After experiencing many ups and downs, I found the following five techniques to help my toddlers receive a full night of rest.
1. Nap Schedule
Although it may seem contrary to logic, when toddlers take a good nap, they are more likely to sleep better at night. One to two hours is the best length of a midday rest. When my oldest reached the age of two, he fought taking naps and originally I believed he may have been ready to give them up. I found, however, that his nighttime sleep began to suffer. When we returned to taking a daily nap, the length of time he slept at night increased and he cut down on midnight wake-ups.
2. Physical Activity
Toddlers should be given plenty of opportunity to use up their abundant energy during the day. (Parents will want to avoid riling up toddlers right before bedtime, however, as late day exercise can actually be stimulating.) Burning up energy during the day will help a toddler sleep much better at night. Exercise has been proven to help make sleep better and deeper. Parents will also want to use this advice, physical activity will also help improve their nighttime sleep!
3. Meal Times and Diet
Keeping consistent meal times that are not too close to a toddler’s bedtime can help improve sleep. Eating too late in the day can lead to reflux when attempting to lay down at night. Diet also can play a crucial role in sleep problems. Allergies, additives, and caffeine can all effect a toddler. Although a specific food did not appear to play a role in my toddlers’ quality of sleep, I found that they all slept better after eating healthy, balanced meals. Fast food meals, although an occasional indulgence, always seemed to lead to a rough night!
4. Bedtime Routine
A bedtime routine can help a toddler wind down from the day and transition into “sleepy mode.” It can be very simple and easy. At my house, we do a bath followed by a story and song. After a short cuddle time, it’s bedtime. The routine has proved so effective, I’ve continued it with my older children past toddlerhood. Not only does it help prepare my children for a good night of sleep, it has become a time of bonding for all of us.
5. Snuggly Friend
A snuggly friend can help prevent a toddler from getting scared at night. Often called a “lovey,” these stuffed animals, blankets, or soft toys provide a source of comfort to a toddler. Some children will become attached to a snuggly friend and others will not. My oldest child had no interest in sleeping with anything until he became older, but my younger two both became attached to their snuggly friends as toddlers. Try to be sure a snuggly friend can be easily replaced in case it becomes misplaced!
More From This Contributor:
10 Tips for Disciplining Your Toddler
How to be an Awesome Parent
Preschool Play Date “Etiquette” Tips
Children and Sleep, National Sleep Association
Toddler Sleep, Today’s Parent
Pantley, Elizabeth, Eight Sleep Tips for Every Child, The No-Cry Sleep Solution