Aaah! Coping with Toddler Sleep Issues

One of the things that can be most frustrating about baby and toddler sleep disturbances, is their inability to tell you what is causing the problem.

Recently, Immy (who is now 33 months and usually a good sleeper in terms of going to sleep and staying asleep) has been waking in the night. Sometimes only once, more often two or more times through the night. Sometimes she wakes with a cry as from a dream, sometimes she just calls out to us. And she is also waking in the morning much earlier than she was.

Those who know me well, know that I need my sleep and that I am not a morning person so the combination of night time disturbances and early starts is making me a much less pleasant person to be around! Don’t get me wrong, I know that this is part of parenting. I have friends with babies and toddlers who have had much longer term sleep issues than we have ever had with Immy. But honestly, knowing that doesn’t help when I am falling out of bed bleary eyed at 3 o’clock in the morning. However you child sleeps, you get used to a certain status quo and whenever it changes, it means an adjustment for the whole family.

So what could be causing this latest adjustment? In our sleep deprived desperation, we have considered;

Is she warm/cool enough given the recent change to warmer weather?
Changes in weather call for changes in heating or cooling, sleep attire and bedding.

Is she waking as she needs to wee?
Now completely day trained, Immy wears a nappy for sleeping. We have not yet attempted night training, mainly because she is still in a cot and cannot get to the toilet by herself and us taking her requires getting her out of her bed, a sleeping bag, pjs and the nappy to get to the toilet. When we move her to a bed in the new year, it will be much easier to tackle.

Is the brighter (very) early morning light waking her now that we are moving into summer?
Most probably!

Is she waking from dreams?
We think so. Immy recently felt afraid when another child of the same age wouldn’t let her out of a cubby house. It really upset her and she has been talking about it on and off for almost three weeks now. Sometimes when she wakes, she is calling out, “Open,” and I think it is dream related.

Honestly, I don’t know that there is just one cause. I think at different times each (if not all) of these factors have contributed. All I know is that I was getting tired and grumpy and that we (as in Dad 101 and I) were both getting frustrated and snappy! So what have we done?

Firstly, we have tried to get back to our basics. Making sure the evening is as calm and un-rushed as possible in the lead up to bedtime. Sticking to our routine of bath, books and bed. Calming her as she settles into bed with her favourite bedtime songs.

We have tried to ensure that her room is at a comfortable temperature and that her pjs, sleeping bag and blanket are all suitable, sometimes this means changing things around a bit as we are going to bed if the temperature has dropped in the meantime.

When it comes to the night waking, if she calls or cries out we try and respond quickly to re-settle her before she wakes all of the way up, going in to soothe her with soft words and a song or two, a cuddle if she is upset. Most of the time this is enough to get her back to sleep.

For the morning wakings we are trying a toddler clock which let’s her know when it is okay to get up (and get us up!) This seems to be helping her understand that even if it is light, it may still be too early to call out, that she should try to get back to sleep.

And in the daytime, if she brings up the incident in the cubby house, we listen and acknowledge her feelings calmly and reassuringly.

So far we haven’t eliminated the night waking although these things all seem to be helping to reduce the number of times she actually wakes. I guess we will just have to stick with it, knowing that bubs, tots and kids sleep differently to adults, and that this will eventually change again too!!!

What are your strategies for dealing with night wakings? What strategies do you return to when it all goes pear shaped???

Image source: Melanie Hughes

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  1. Ahhhhh … I got nothing. Except sympathies.

  2. Seana Smith says:

    Hi there,

    Is there a simple toddler clock that you can recommend?? I've just put a digital one with large numbers into MrFour's room, but he has been known to change the time by himself to whatever he wants it to be!

  3. ButterflyMama says:

    I'd like to know about the clock, too.

    I think night waking is just part of toddlerhood.

    Could she be reacting to something she is eating? Maybe she is waking to wee in her nappy?


  4. If you ladies go check out they recently featured a great clock designed exactly for this purpose. I think if you search for clock it should come up with all the various clocks they've featured.
    Sorry I can't remember what it's called as I didn't need one so didn't pay too much attention but it's a fab little clock just for this 🙂

  5. Christie - Childhood 101 says:

    I actually chose a Gro-clock as I liked the visual representation of the stars and the sun, plus I found some of the others a bit ugly!! I have friends who just use a digital clock and teach their child to look at the first digit but I wanted something immediate!

  6. Narelle Nettelbeck says:

    Does Immy have enough room in her cot? We found that our boys got too big and needed more room to wriggle around. They slept much more soundly in a bed once they were about 2.

  7. Christie - Childhood 101 says:

    I must admit that I had never thought about that, Narelle. She seems to have enough length but maybe it is moving around side to side? As long as that doesn't mean she will fall out of a bed! A whole new host of problems to deal with! LOL

  8. I don't know if there is a local source for this outside of the USA but we got the Good Night Light recently.

    Our daughter LOVES it. The moon comes on when it is bedtime and the sun comes on when it is okay to get up.

  9. Busy Brissy Mum says:

    Narelle's suggestion is a great one. We found the same thing. I thought I wanted my girlies to stay in their cot but moving to a bigger bed helped heaps. You can buy sides for the beds so they don't fall out.

  10. I have a whole lot of sympathy for you Christie. Our 23 month old daughter (who slept solid 12 hour nights for her 1st year) has been waking for 2 – 3 hours at a time in the last few months (but not every night). My husband and I are getting so tired and cranky from the lack of sleep.
    We have been experimenting with different issues and are still left wondering what to do. Might need to invest in the clock!

  11. Infant Bibliophile says:

    Sorry you are having sleep issues!
    our son never consistently slept through the night until I was pregnant with #2 (yup, just in time for us to start all over again!). Bigger bed definitely helped, as he'd roll into the sides of the crib. We were also late weaners. I wondered when I read your post if she is still napping. Our son wakes more when he DOESN'T nap. Sort of counter intuitive, but as I've heard people say 'sleep begets sleep' I guess.

  12. Narelle Nettelbeck says:

    Both of my boys hated the side rails on their beds so they went without. They fell out of bed once each and never again!! I was worried about them falling out too Christie but it really wasn't a problem.

  13. Yes, we found the same with the cot rails, so have one side on, and one side off. She has fallen out of bed a couple of times, but you can also put a small mattress or cushions down beside her bed. We have a boori cot and the bed side rails didn't work very well. They were ok up (from memory) but the cot is so low, they wouldn't fold down (it would hit the carpet at an angle).

    I think I've also seen some similar clocks in Target or Kmart too, where the clock faced turned to show the stars or the sun. I can't remember the price, but didn't think it was too pricey at the time. I do like the gro-clock idea though as it could also be a night light. I Seana's clever son though who changes the clock to what ever time he wants it to be, no doubt our girls would do the same LOL. Good luck, night wakes are exhausting, but as we know, it all passes too quickly too. Sweet dreams!

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