Hello, Sleep 911.
Is this an emergency?
If you are the exhausted parent of a toddler with sleep issues, your answer is–
Well, good news, you are at the right place for sleep solutions. I know tired parents don’t want lengthy jargon. You want answers, so I’ll cut right to the chase.
Here are 5-steps towards fixing your toddler’s sleep issues:
1. Identify how much sleep your kid needs.
Use this handy-dandy chart to figure it out: You really ought to keep a log of your child’s sleep schedule for at least a few days. You may think they’re getting enough hours, but when you see it on paper, it can be a totally different story.
If your child is getting less than the recommended daily amount, your kid is suffering from “sleep debt”…advance to step two.
2. If your kiddo has “sleep debt” then you probably need to put them to bed earlier.
I know…It seems counterintuitive. When your kid is waking up early in the morning, your first instinct, is to put them to bed later so that they will sleep-in. However, due to REM cycles, and some other sleep mumbo-jumbo (you can read about the details here at The National Sleep Foundation website, if you’re interested), your kid’s sleep is going to be completely out of whack if you keep them up too late.
One tell-tale sign that your child is staying up too late is a behavior of complete mania and delirium or what I like to call “the point of no return”.
This is the behavior when your kid is so tired, they run around, jump on the bed, and scream or giggle uncontrollably. This is their little body’s way of trying to stay awake when they are completely exhausted. This. Is. Not. A. Good. Sign. If your child has already reached “the point of no return“…You have some work to do.
I know what you’re thinking now…”How am I supposed to put my kid to sleep earlier when they wake up from nap at 5:00 PM?” Good question!
3. Initiate the Sleep Gap Rule.
The Sleep Gap Rule is this: your child needs a certain number of hours of active wakefulness between arising in the morning and taking naps. Plus, more awake time before going to bed at night. Refer back to the handy-dandy chart to know how much wakey-wakey your kiddo needs.
4. Establish a routine.
This means two things. First, decide on a set bedtime and set naptime. So, you know how many hours of sleep your child needs a day AND you know how many hours they need to be awake between the sleeping times. Now figure out a schedule that works for your family.
WRITE IT DOWN.
What time is bedtime?
What time is naptime?
At what time can your child come out of their room in the morning?
Next, figure out that pre-bedtime routine. How is it going to look each and every time before you put your child to sleep? Will you read a story, rock-a-bye, or sing a song before putting your child to sleep?
Kids need routines and–trust me–every time they hear that same story, say the prayer, or hear that same song, it will be like turning on a switch, telling their bodies, “it’s time for you to go to sleep.”
5. Just Do it!
This is actually the hardest step. You have done all the work to figure out what your child needs. Now, comes the tough part. It can take weeks and sometimes even months to transition your child to this new sleep routine. Be patient and diligent. I promise. If you stick to the plan. Stay the course and maintain that routine. Your child will become a better sleeper!
Sweet dreams and Happy Napping!