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What Causes Sleep Problems In Toddlers?

By Henry Flores


The toddler years can be some of the hardest for parents. Toddlers are still learning about the world around them, they like to test boundaries, and they are prone to having extreme outbursts of emotion. Creating a sleep schedule for your toddler to follow can be hard because of these things. But these aren’t the only factors that may be causing bedtime to become a nightly battle. 

Causes to Sleep Problems

There are many different factors that may be leading to your child having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. It is very common for children to not want to nap or go to sleep at night, but many times there is an underlying reason as to why they feel this way. Some of these reasons are as follows. 

  • Growth and development: The toddler years are filled with growth and development. During this time your child is gaining weight, growing taller, and increasing their strength. The growth that is happening is not only physical, though. Your child is growing cognitively, socially, and emotionally. This means that your child’s mind might be racing with all the new information that they learned throughout the day, or they need to stretch to try and find a comfortable position for their growing limbs. All this growth and change may have an effect on your child’s ability to sleep.
  • Separation anxiety: Many parents sleep with their babies near them. As the baby begins to get older, parents begin to introduce them to their own sleeping area. Being moved from your room to their own room can cause them to experience some separation anxiety. 
  • The day’s activities: If a child has experienced an exciting day where they may have been overstimulated, then it may cause your child to struggle to find sleep. The same can be said if your child has experienced an exhausting day. If you take your kid to Disneyland, be prepared for a struggle at bedtime. Big days, like days spent at a theme park, can leave your child overstimulated as well as exhausted, and it leaves them feeling too worked up to sleep soundly. 
  • Food and drink: Feeding your child with food and drink that contains excessive sugar and caffeine will make it hard for your child to sleep soundly until it has left their system. They are more sensitive to caffeine than adults are, and most adults can’t fall asleep after consuming caffeine. Your child is no different. 
  • Change in routine: Being in a new surrounding or having a significant change to your child’s night routine may cause sleep disruptions. Trying to fall asleep in a new environment can be exciting and your child may rather explore the new place instead of sleeping. In addition, if your routine is changed your child may miss the cues that it is time to relax and go to bed that comes with an established bedtime routine. 
  • Changes in health: In times of sickness children struggle to sleep. Their sleep schedule may be off because they slept more during the day or just more in general  while not feeling well. A cough or runny nose are often culprits for keeping kiddos up at night as well. . 
  • Sleep disorders: Some of the most common sleep disorders that children experience are sleep apnea, night terrors, and restless leg syndrome. If your child is experiencing a sleep disorder, it is important to talk to their doctor about it. Your doctor may refer you to a pediatric sleep consultant. 

It’s important to keep in mind that your child’s sleep needs will change as they continue to grow. If your child is showing signs of sleep deprivation, check to see what has happened that may be causing them to lose sleep and if it persists, it may be time to talk to someone. 

Signs of Sleep Deprivation

Your toddler will more than likely not be able to communicate  that they are sleep deprived however their behavior is a great indicator to you as their parent about if  your child is getting enough sleep. Some common signs of sleep deprivation in toddlers are:

  • Being more cranky
  • Being more clingy
  • Waking up crying and grumpy
  • Not talking as much as usual
  • Waking up groggy
  • Falling back to sleep shortly after being woken up

These are some of the most common signs, but you know your child and their behavior. If you think that they are acting differently and you can’t figure it out, they may be in need of more sleep. If you are still unsure you can talk to a pediatric sleep consultant and they may be able to help you. 

How to Help Improve Your Child’s Sleep 

As parents, you want to ensure that your child is healthy and happy. Sleep plays a big part in your child’s health and emotions. Without the right amount of sleep they may be prone to sickness and irritability. Here are some things that you can do to help your child get a restful sleep:

  • Have a bedtime routine: Creating a routine with a set bedtime helps your child to know that it is time to go to bed. This routine should not vary, as that can be confusing to your child. Having a routine that is relaxing will help your child begin to wind down from the day’s activities. Many bedtime routines consist of a warm relaxing bath, a bedtime story and lullabies. Keep it simple and no more than 20-30 minutes max!
  • Create a comfortable environment: Your child will rest better if their room is at a comfortable temperature (68-72 degrees F), dark, and has minimal noise or a non looping sound machine on to drown out household noises.   A child’s environment that is calm and cosy creates a sense of tranquility  and safety so that they can relax and sleep. 
  • Quiet time: The time between dinner and bedtime should be filled with relaxing activities. Excessive excitement before bed can make it difficult for your child to unwind when it comes time to go to sleep. Activities such as reading a story, playing a board game, working on a puzzle and coloring could be relaxing things for you and your child to do.  
  • Talk to someone: If your child is struggling to get good sleep, you may need the help of a professional toddler sleep consultant. Sleep coaching for toddlers is designed to help families that have a child who is experiencing a sleep issue. These professionals have a knowledge bank that will provide you with solutions to sleep problems such as short naps, early rising, bedtime battles and multiple night wakings. 

Sleepably Can Help

At Sleepably, we believe that you and your family deserve a good night of sleep. We understand that it may be hard to ask for assistance, but our welcoming staff is here to help you. We are dedicated to helping your little one get a good night of rest so that they are able to grow. Our sleep coaching services are available to children and adults in Denver, Colorado, as well as the entire U.S. 

Our professional sleep coaches will sit down with you and discuss the sleep environment, and history of your child. From there they will work to create a sleep plan that will work for your family. Our coaches will be with you every step of the way. They will support and coach you as the plan is implemented. Our coaches will be there to help you through every bump that may come along and to celebrate every victory that your family has on your journey to achieving a good night of sleep. 

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