7 05, 2020

How To Stop Your Toddler From Climbing Out Of The Crib

May 7th, 2020|Categories: Toddler Sleep, Uncategorized|Tags: |

Are you trying to stop your toddler from climbing out of the crib? I have good news for you! Read on!

The newborn fog had lifted, you made it through the baby phase, but then you entered…the toddler years. :O Although the stretch that lays before you can be an exciting time, it is not without its challenges. 

Sleep challenges, that is.

And one of the most common ones is kiddos that won’t stay in their crib.

Even Sleep Consultants Have Sleep-Houdinis

I remember when my first toddler began to climb out of her crib. 

Like most of the families that I help at this age, my husband and I panicked. We had no plan in how to respond.
Which lead us down a road of  failed negotiations and sleeplessness. 

Sleeplessness is an understatement.

In reality, it was like having a newborn again. 

The good news is that there were very specific reasons why it happened and why it went on so long. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we weren’t helpless to changing this limit-testing behaviour.

The even better news is that I’m here to share what I’ve learned with you! So, consider these tips when your little one is showing signs of  joining the circus.

Why Is My Toddler Climbing Out Of  The Crib?

Many parents mistakenly believe that there is nothing that can be done, however that is not always the case.  First, consider the true reason as to why your child is starting to venture out.

Frequently, it is rooted in the need to explore, test boundaries, and/or for a schedule tweak.

My child decided to sharpen her ninja skills after we moved the crib into a different location.

I did not realize that the southeast corner of her room was so evil, but apparently it was.
It was the catalyst to everything going downhill.

To Nap or Not To Nap

Just sometimes though,  redecorating isn’t to blame. 😉  Instead, their routine is in need of an overhaul. Often at this age, it’s the nap.

It can be too long, too short, too close or, confusingly enough, too far away from bedtime

While I’m an advocate for keeping one nap in some form until the child is close to starting school, it doesn’t always work for every situation.
If you feel the nap may be inspiring your child’s new exercise routine every night, then it may need to be tweaked, capped or removed altogether.



Need more help with your toddler or preschooler’s routine?
Download your FREE copy of the Sleep Solutions for Toddler + Preschooler Sleep 

(Side note; I always recommend capping a nap for a while first before eliminating it altogether. And after that, I’m still a proponent of instilling “Quiet Time” in their rooms.

Big Kid Bed; An Answer For Crib Climbers?

Some parents may have been told that when a child can climb out, that it’s time to ditch the crib and move to a bed.

But contrary to popular belief, this isn’t a good benchmark on which to base that decision upon.

Just because they have the physical prowess to hoist themselves up and over the rails, doesn’t mean that toddlers are cognitively or emotionally ready for big-kid beds.

Especially under the age of three. 

Many kids feel very exposed and insecure without the confines of the crib around them. They will leave their bed and come looking for yours.

Yes-even the ones that are climbing out. 

What To Do If  Your Toddler Is Climbing Out Of The Crib?

So let’s say you have a budding acrobat on your hands-what’s a parent to do?

Make It More Difficult; Focus first on making it more difficult for your child to climb out of their crib, while keeping them safe.

  • If you haven’t already, lower the crib mattress to the lowest possible setting.
  • Empty the crib of all bumpers and blankets.
  • Also remove stuffed animals. Children are full of ingenuity and will pile these items up and use them like a ladder. 
  • Some cribs have one side higher than the other. Turn the crib so that the higher side facing out and the shorter side is along a wall.
  • Invest in a large sleep sack. This helps by restricting your child from being able to lift their leg up and over the side of the crib.
  • If your child is on the more adventurous side, you may have to stitch the sleep sack in a little tighter in the lower half
  • If your child thinks they can outwit you and removes the sleep sack altogether, placing the sleep sack on backwards, can help thwart those efforts.

Safety Check: If they do happen to get out of their crib, we still want to make sure they are safe.

  • Make sure to childproof the room. You won’t always get to them in time, or even know they are out, so safety is paramount. 
  • Cover all electrical outlets
  • Tape cords to the wall
  • Remove or secure and anchor heavy furniture to the wall.
  • Think of the making the room like a giant crib.

 

Reinforce The Rules: We wouldn’t allow our children to run out into the street no matter how much they protested. We need to face our children climbing out of the crib with the same with the same amount of determination.

  • When you know they are climbing out, open their bedroom door and give them a firm “no”.
  • This works best if you have a video monitor, but you can also wait by their door and listen, if you don’t.
  • If they have already climbed out of their crib, lead them gently (or pick them out without anger or frustration if they aren’t walking with you) and gently place them back into the crib, again saying “no”.
  • Leave the room each time. Staying will only invite them to engage with you.
  • If available, switch off with another caregiver. This will help maintain consistency, provide a united front, and give each of you a break.
  • Maintain consistency. Toddlers need on average, three days of a consistent message, before beginning to change a behaviour.

 

Logical Consequences For Climbing; Stopping your child from climbing out of their crib is a learning process, consequences help.

  • For children that are two years or older, I recommend following up with logical consequences (not punishments) in the daytime.
  • The consequence must be directly related to the mistake.
  • For example, if your child crawled out of their crib, taking away their favourite stuffed animal would be considered a punishment, not a consequence. This is because it has nothing to do with the event.
  • However, if your child was using their stuffed animal as a step to be able to climb out, then it would make sense to remove it as a consequence.
  • Or, another consequence could be that you decide to not go to the park the next day because they’re too tired from being up late during the night.
  • Logical consequences are respectful in nature and help to teach, rather than shame or punish.
  • This is the best way for a child to learn as it makes sense to the mistake or wrong choice that they have made.

 

It Takes Patience, But You CAN Stop Your Toddler From Climbing Out Of  The Crib

When your child starts to climb out of their crib, don’t be like me and don’t panic!
Children like to explore and push boundaries. This is how they learn what is and isn’t permissible.

By having a plan in place and knowing what steps to take, they CAN learn to stay in their crib.

Take a look at their routine, their environment and make the necessary adjustments.

These methods will need to be repeated several times consistently, but they can absolutely learn to stop climbing out of their crib and stay safely in their crib.

Need more help figuring out a plan for your crib climber?

Book a consultation and we will go over sleep logs, routines, schedules and come up with an easy-to-follow plan to keep your little one safe and secure!

28 01, 2019

Crib To Bed Transition

January 28th, 2019|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep, Transition Tips|

Here it comes; the crib to bed transition. Are you ready?

There comes a time in every child’s life when they outgrow their crib, both physically and developmentally. As much as we may want them to stay little forever, this can be an exciting milestone in your child’s life.

The crib to bed transition is when a child is ready to make the move out of their crib and into a more traditional ‘bed’ style sleeping surface. Whether they are cognitivally ready or developmentally, it has to happen sooner or later.

Tip One: Timing is Everything

As with everything in child sleep development, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ for tackling this transition. And while, many parents will move their toddler between the ages of two and four, I recommend waiting as long as possible. Personally, I find that when this transition happens after three years of age, it goes very smoothly.

Older and Wiser

The reason I recommend waiting until your toddler is three years old before making this transition is three-fold.

First at this age, your child’s impulse control is more developed.

They have learned, and are still learning, to control their impulses. At a younger age, they will act without thinking, which will not make for a smooth transition. At three years old, they might have the desire to get out of bed, but they are learning to rationalize and control these impulses.

Second, at three years old, most children have a pretty firm understanding of rules.
Threenagers have a much better understanding of boundaries and consequences should rules be broken, than their two year old counterparts.

Setting firm limits that your child can understand and adhere to, will help make the crib to big kid bed transition smoother for the both of you.

Lastly, kids can feel overwhelmed when their familiar crib is gone.

A crib can provide a  familiar sense of security, even to those kids who are physically outgrowing it.  When we remove them from it, it can feel a bit unusual and somewhat disrupting to a young child.

Waiting until they are three years old can help avoid this as they are more developed and emotionally equipped to deal with the transition into a new sleep setting.

How to make the crib to bed transition

As with any transition, there are steps to follow to help the situation go smoothly. Once you have decided your child is ready to transition to a big kid bed, here are more tips to consider.

Tip Two: Talk to them

In the lead up to this transition, you can talk to your child about it and explain what is going to happen. Keep it fun and upbeat so that they are excited about the move.

This will help them prepare mentally and emotionally for the switch, rather than having their crib disappear all of a sudden. When talking to them, it’s kind of like you’re trying to ‘sell’ them on the idea of a big kid bed.

Whatever you feel your child will respond best to, use it. You may want to say that it means they’re more grown up, they’ll have more room in the bed as opposed to a crib and/or it will be more comfortable for them.

Tip Three: Activities to Prepare

Another fun activity to help sell them on the idea of moving beds is to select some new accessories together.

You can go shopping for new bedding and sheets, and maybe some new cuddly toys for the bed too.

Countdown calendars can be good fun and a great way to prepare your child, but if you choose to use a countdown calendar, don’t let it go on for more than a few days.

Tip Four: Taking Ownership

Allow them to take ownership, within reason, of this transition. You could let them choose where in the room they would like their big kid bed to be placed, which stuffies to have on their bed, or which sheets and pillows they want.

Try and let this transition happen in a way that feels fun and exciting and like they have control over the transition.

Tip Five: Set Your Child Up for Success With Expectations

Are you familiar with the story; If You Give A Mouse a Cookie? It can serve as a cautionary tale of what happens if you give a toddler a bed without rules. 😉

Bedtimes can easily spin out of control as toddlers are notorious for trying to test limits (and your patience).

Want to keep bedtimes on track before make the crib to bed transition? Get tips on bedtimes, night wakings and more by downloading your copy of : Sleep Solutions for Toddlers + Preschoolers: Easy Tips for Exhausted Parents

To cut down on the requests for multiple glasses of water, stories and hugs, I highly recommend setting up a simple list of expectations.

Not only does this help your little one again take ownership of their sleep routine, but it creates a very specific outline for them to follow.

When creating the the rules or expectations, make it into a fun activity with your child get their input into it.

Make sure that you give clear instructions on what is expected, but don’t over complicate the rules. They need to be simple and unambiguous.

Tip Six: Good Day Sunshine!

While it’s important to set rules and expectations around bed time and going to sleep, don’t overlook the morning and waking up.

Does your child know what to do when they wake up in the morning?

What time is acceptable to start the day?

Should they come out of their room by themselves?

Should they call for you?

When creating rules around morning wake up, remember to keep them realistic! If they tend to wake up around 6:00am, asking them to wait until 7:00am is too long for most young children.  You can always work towards that as a goal, but in the beginning, to help them feel successful, keep the interval much shorter.

Tip Seven: Consistency is Your Friend

It’s very important that you stick to the rules strictly in the first two weeks of the transition from crib to bed. This is the time where your toddler will test you and the boundaries that have been set.  

If you give in or give up, you set the tone for them to continue that behaviour in the future. They can only be as consistent as you are. 

Tip Eight: Follow Through With Logical Consequences

When (not, *if*) they break the rules follow through and employ logical consequences. However keep in mind, this is very different from a punishment.

Punishments breed shame and resent and never help the child to learn.

Consequences are respectful ways for the child to realize the direct impact their choice has.

When deciding on consequences, in order for them to be relevant, respectful and a teaching opportunity, they should be directly related to the mistake the child made.

For example, if they came out of their room at night, the logical consequence may be that they don’t go to the park the next day because they didn’t get a good sleep and are too tired.

While it’s important to ensure there are consequences for their actions, don’t shame, blame or manipulate. Avoid getting into power struggles with them, just have respectful consequences and they will catch on very, very quickly. 

Conquer the Crib to Bed Transition

No transition is easy for you or your child.

Believe me.

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

However, at three years old, your toddler is more developed and able to cope with and understand transitions. Unlike a the two-to-three nap transition which happens at a much younger age, you can have more rational conversations with your three year old to help them understand what is happening and why.

The crib to big kid bed transition can be an exciting one for your child, as long as you present it that way. If you’re stressed about it, your child will pick up on that and be worried too.

Remember that while this has every possibility to be an exciting time, it’s still a new way of doing things, so rules and boundaries need to be set.
Set clear expectations, and follow through with helping your child learn through logical consequences.

Kids are quick learners and before you know it, your toddler will easily be going to sleep in their new bed each and every night.

Need more help getting your toddler’s sleep on track? Grab your free copy of Sleep Solutions for Toddler + Preschoolers; Easy Tips for Exhausted Parents.  

Tired of reading?

Ready for action?

Schedule your consultation today, so you can start sleeping better tomorrow.

27 01, 2019

Crib To Bed Transition

January 27th, 2019|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep, Transition Tips|

Here it comes; the crib to bed transition. Are you ready?

There comes a time in every child’s life when they outgrow their crib, both physically and developmentally. As much as we may want them to stay little forever, this can be an exciting milestone in your child’s life.

The crib to bed transition is when a child is ready to make the move out of their crib and into a more traditional ‘bed’ style sleeping surface. Whether they are cognitivally ready or developmentally, it has to happen sooner or later.

Tip One: Timing is Everything

As with everything in child sleep development, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ for tackling this transition. And while, many parents will move their toddler between the ages of two and four, I recommend waiting as long as possible. Personally, I find that when this transition happens after three years of age, it goes very smoothly.

Older and Wiser

The reason I recommend waiting until your toddler is three years old before making this transition is three-fold.

First at this age, your child’s impulse control is more developed.

They have learned, and are still learning, to control their impulses. At a younger age, they will act without thinking, which will not make for a smooth transition. At three years old, they might have the desire to get out of bed, but they are learning to rationalize and control these impulses.

Second, at three years old, most children have a pretty firm understanding of rules.
Threenagers have a much better understanding of boundaries and consequences should rules be broken, than their two year old counterparts.

Setting firm limits that your child can understand and adhere to, will help make the crib to big kid bed transition smoother for the both of you.

Lastly, kids can feel overwhelmed when their familiar crib is gone.

A crib can provide a  familiar sense of security, even to those kids who are physically outgrowing it.  When we remove them from it, it can feel a bit unusual and somewhat disrupting to a young child.

Waiting until they are three years old can help avoid this as they are more developed and emotionally equipped to deal with the transition into a new sleep setting.

How to make the crib to bed transition

As with any transition, there are steps to follow to help the situation go smoothly. Once you have decided your child is ready to transition to a big kid bed, here are more tips to consider.

Tip Two: Talk to them

In the lead up to this transition, you can talk to your child about it and explain what is going to happen. Keep it fun and upbeat so that they are excited about the move.

This will help them prepare mentally and emotionally for the switch, rather than having their crib disappear all of a sudden. When talking to them, it’s kind of like you’re trying to ‘sell’ them on the idea of a big kid bed.

Whatever you feel your child will respond best to, use it. You may want to say that it means they’re more grown up, they’ll have more room in the bed as opposed to a crib and/or it will be more comfortable for them.

Tip Three: Activities to Prepare

Another fun activity to help sell them on the idea of moving beds is to select some new accessories together.

You can go shopping for new bedding and sheets, and maybe some new cuddly toys for the bed too.

Countdown calendars can be good fun and a great way to prepare your child, but if you choose to use a countdown calendar, don’t let it go on for more than a few days.

Tip Four: Taking Ownership

Allow them to take ownership, within reason, of this transition. You could let them choose where in the room they would like their big kid bed to be placed, which stuffies to have on their bed, or which sheets and pillows they want.

Try and let this transition happen in a way that feels fun and exciting and like they have control over the transition.

Tip Five: Set Your Child Up for Success With Expectations

Are you familiar with the story; If You Give A Mouse a Cookie? It can serve as a cautionary tale of what happens if you give a toddler a bed without rules. 😉

Bedtimes can easily spin out of control as toddlers are notorious for trying to test limits (and your patience).

Want to keep bedtimes on track before make the crib to bed transition? Get tips on bedtimes, night wakings and more by downloading your copy of : Sleep Solutions for Toddlers + Preschoolers: Easy Tips for Exhausted Parents

To cut down on the requests for multiple glasses of water, stories and hugs, I highly recommend setting up a simple list of expectations.

Not only does this help your little one again take ownership of their sleep routine, but it creates a very specific outline for them to follow.

When creating the the rules or expectations, make it into a fun activity with your child get their input into it.

Make sure that you give clear instructions on what is expected, but don’t over complicate the rules. They need to be simple and unambiguous.

Tip Six: Good Day Sunshine!

While it’s important to set rules and expectations around bed time and going to sleep, don’t overlook the morning and waking up.

Does your child know what to do when they wake up in the morning?

What time is acceptable to start the day?

Should they come out of their room by themselves?

Should they call for you?

When creating rules around morning wake up, remember to keep them realistic! If they tend to wake up around 6:00am, asking them to wait until 7:00am is too long for most young children.  You can always work towards that as a goal, but in the beginning, to help them feel successful, keep the interval much shorter.

Tip Seven: Consistency is Your Friend

It’s very important that you stick to the rules strictly in the first two weeks of the transition from crib to bed. This is the time where your toddler will test you and the boundaries that have been set.  

If you give in or give up, you set the tone for them to continue that behaviour in the future. They can only be as consistent as you are. 

Tip Eight: Follow Through With Logical Consequences

When (not, *if*) they break the rules follow through and employ logical consequences. However keep in mind, this is very different from a punishment.

Punishments breed shame and resent and never help the child to learn.

Consequences are respectful ways for the child to realize the direct impact their choice has.

When deciding on consequences, in order for them to be relevant, respectful and a teaching opportunity, they should be directly related to the mistake the child made.

For example, if they came out of their room at night, the logical consequence may be that they don’t go to the park the next day because they didn’t get a good sleep and are too tired.

While it’s important to ensure there are consequences for their actions, don’t shame, blame or manipulate. Avoid getting into power struggles with them, just have respectful consequences and they will catch on very, very quickly. 

Conquer the Crib to Bed Transition

No transition is easy for you or your child.

Believe me.

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

However, at three years old, your toddler is more developed and able to cope with and understand transitions. Unlike a the two-to-three nap transition which happens at a much younger age, you can have more rational conversations with your three year old to help them understand what is happening and why.

The crib to big kid bed transition can be an exciting one for your child, as long as you present it that way. If you’re stressed about it, your child will pick up on that and be worried too.

Remember that while this has every possibility to be an exciting time, it’s still a new way of doing things, so rules and boundaries need to be set.
Set clear expectations, and follow through with helping your child learn through logical consequences.

Kids are quick learners and before you know it, your toddler will easily be going to sleep in their new bed each and every night.

Need more help getting your toddler’s sleep on track? Grab your free copy of Sleep Solutions for Toddler + Preschoolers; Easy Tips for Exhausted Parents. 

7 11, 2018

Toddler Early Morning Wakings;Causes + Solutions

November 7th, 2018|Categories: Toddler Sleep|

Toddler Early Morning Wakings

Toddler early morning wakings…We’ve all been there…

Fast asleep, all warm in your bed. Between dreams, you glance at the clock and see it says 5:00 am.

Happy knowing you have another hour to sleep, you nestle down into your fluffy covers and cozy pillow. You are about to drift off into lala land, when, all of a sudden, you hear your toddler calling for you.

You groan as you get out of bed, fumble to find your slippers and make your way to your child’s bedroom. You try your best to convince them that it’s not time to get up yet.

Rubbing their back, lying down with them, getting stern with them-none of it works.
Giving up, you bring them back to your bed and try to catch a few more zzzs, which, by this time is only a few more minutes.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Many of my clients with toddlers and preschoolers experience variations of this scenario. The good news is that there are many things we can do to help stop toddler early morning wakings.

What Exactly Qualifies as An Early Waking?

It is quite normal for children between the ages of one and four to wake early, but it’s important to know what is categorized as age-appropriate and what is too early.

The typical or average wake up time for toddlers is between 5:30am – 7:00am (but often 5:30am can still be moved out a touch later).

An early waking or rising is defined as waking up for the day prior to 5:30am. Parents tend to define early morning wakings when the child is suddenly waking up more than 45 minutes earlier than they normally would, but *technically* it needs to be earlier than 5:30 am.

Toddler Early Morning Wakings; Why Do They Happen?

There are many reasons why children might experience early morning wakings. No two children are the same, but let’s explore the most common reasons (and solutions) for each.

1. Not Getting Enough Sleep

By far, the number one reason toddlers wake up too early is because they’re overtired. Which leads to the next logical question of…

“Why don’t kids sleep in then, if they’re overtired?”

I know, it seems so irrational, right? But that’s because as adults, our sleep functions differently than a child’s. When we are tired, given the opportunity, we will often sleep in the next morning to catch up.

However, with children, when they are overtired, their body releases extra stimulating hormones to fight the fatigue that accumulated the day before. In turn, their sleep isn’t as deep or restorative and they are more prone to night wakings.

Then, as they approach the early morning hours, and their body naturally reduces the amount of melatonin (the sleep hormone) being produced, it gets increasingly harder for them to return to sleep. So, not only are they not sleeping as deeply during the night, they are also more prone to night wakings and early risings.

You can see the difference between a well-rested child’s sleep (thick, solid line) and an overtired one here (dotted);

 

Are Naps Contributing?

Similarly, early wakings can occur if your child has had too little daytime sleep. Contrary to popular belief, many toddlers don’t drop their nap until closer to 3-4 years of age. Others will nap until full-day school begins.

If their nap is shorter than needed, or dropped completely, then come bedtime, the body, in an effort to try and sustain itself, goes into fight or flight mode. 

If a child’s wake time between the end of a nap until bedtime is too long, this could also encourage early morning waking in toddlers. The nap itself might be the correct length of time, but if bedtime is too late, the child could catch their “second wind” and go to bed too late.

On the flip side, if the child is having too much daytime sleep, this can be a cause of early morning wakings as they no longer require as much sleep at night. This effects children of 3 years and up in particular. If nap is too long, then bedtime becomes too late and the restorative night time sleep is shortchanged.

Every element of the child sleep routine has a knock on effect that could cause early morning wakings.

2. Changes to the Toddler’s Life

Just as sleep debts can accumulate in various spots, there are different areas in a child’s life that can also impact early wakings. Just as something like stress could affect our sleep, changes to their routine can have an effect on your toddler’s sleep as well.

As you may have discovered when they were a baby, milestones can mess with sleep. This is still true for toddlers.

If they happen to wake early in the morning, they might begin to practice their new skills when they wake, instead of going back to sleep. Most notably, this happens around 18 and 24 months. 

Entering daycare for the first time, can also be a difficult adjustment for them, both emotionally and physically. If this transition causes the child stress, it could cause early morning wakings.

Equally, if a new sibling enters the family, this change can be difficult for children and may take some time. Not only are they trying to adjust to new noises, new routines, but  shifting family dynamics as well. 

3. Sleep Hygiene and Healthy Sleep Habits

Just like we try to teach good overall hygiene habits to our children, (brushing their teeth properly, washing their hands after using the potty, etc.), sleep hygiene is an critical component to their overall sleep success.

Overstimulated and wound up kids will struggle to fall asleep. When they do, it’s more likely to be shallow and not refreshing. Their bodies need to be relaxed prior to a sleep period.

And remember; the sleep that children experience in the early hours of the morning is quite light. Any  stimulus such as light, temperature may prematurely wake the child.

4. Are You The Reason?

As parents, we play a very significant role in our children’s sleep habits. This includes early morning wakings. It means that we have the ability to help the toddler overcome them, and be aware of our behaviours that might have a negative impact.

If parents themselves are feeling insecure or unsure with a routine they might inadvertently be spending too much energy trying to get the child to sleep. Ironically, by trying to get them to sleep, this can end up keeping the child awake as there is too much engagement and stimulation.

Another aspect to consider is communicating expectations. When I talk to new clients about what they have done to try and change their child’s early risings, majority of the time, they have missed a significant piece; talking to the child about what they expect.

We often focus on telling kids what they can’t or shouldn’t do, but we forget to tell them what they can or should do.

Many of my clients assume their toddlers know better, but I’m here to tell you, they don’t. If the child knows what you expect from them and what to do when they get up, we are then setting them up for success.

5. Hidden Medical Issues

By now, you know that early morning sleep is very light. The body reduces melatonin production and the desire or sleep pressure, is significantly reduce.

Any disturbance or stimulus can result in them waking early. However, if all of the preceding issues have been resolved and your toddler is still waking early, I have found the final missing piece may be a medical one.

Children with airway issues, breathing difficulties, allergies, restless leg syndrome, or sleep apnea, among other things may still continue have shorter nights, until these underlying root causes are addressed.

Toddler Early Morning Waking Solution #1; Tweaking the Overall Sleep Routine

The key to eliminating these wake ups due to over-tiredness, is to fix your child’s sleep routine. To start, begin by logging their overall sleep for 5-7 days. Then look for the shortfalls.

  • Are their naps too long or too short? A one year old may need about three hours of sleep. This may or may not be split between two naps. (For more information on the 2-1 nap transition, see here.) But a two or three year old may do better with less than that. If an older child is napping too long during the day, it may short-change their night time sleep which then sets up a cycle of over-tiredness.

 

  • Is bedtime too late?If your little one is still napping, then it’s important to consider the distance between the end of the nap and bedtime. Most of the time, they can only handle about 4-5 hours after they wake up from that nap. More than that, you risk a sleep debt starting to build.

Want more valuable tips to help your toddler or preschooler sleep better? Download your free copy of TODDLER & PRESCHOOLER’S SLEEP SOLUTIONS; EASY TIPS FOR EXHAUSTED PARENTS.

 

  • Are naps starting too early or too late? Sleep cycles are based on the body’s response to light and dark signals throughout the day, along with social cues.There are certain times that their body is more ready and able to nap, but if we miss those sleep windows, they will catch their second wind and make it hard to settle into the deep stages of sleep needed to fully recharge the body.

Once you know where the problems lie, you can start to make adjustments and help get them back on track. But be patient, usually early morning wakings take a little while longer to adjust than night issues do.

Toddler Early Morning Waking Solution #2; Coping With Life Changes

Although there can be some large routine shifts, the good new is, we have a way to tackle it!

When it comes to milestone development, although it can be exciting to witness because it means they are getting older, my recommendation stay on top of your child’s schedule. Just because they are older, doesn’t mean they suddenly need less sleep.

Be strict with making sure naps are happening at the right time each day and if they aren’t, that bedtime is adjusted accordingly. Be preventing a sleep debt to form before bedtime, helps to ensure they sleep to their regular wake up time in the morning.

If your toddler early morning wakings start as a result of beginning daycare, then it’s important to talk to the staff. Communicate your concerns, ask them to record all sleep periods and help them work on strategies to ensure proper naps are being taken. You can read more about naps and daycare here.

And finally, if a new sibling entering the picture has thrown your toddler’s mornings out of whack, keeping the lines of communication open, empathizing with them and spending one-on-one time together can help.

If the noise of the new baby is causing your toddler to wake early, then investing in a good quality white noise machine can be an easy solution.

Toddler Early Morning Waking Solution #3; Create Healthy Sleep Hygiene

Create a soothing and relaxing wind down for your toddler prior to each nap and bedtime. It doesn’t need to be long or elaborate, it’s not the actual steps that matter, rather the act of repeating it each day, that’s important.

With repetition, the brain comes to recognize that it’s time to sleep and begins the internal process of winding down. As long as you are leaving while your child is still awake (be careful they aren’t too drowsy or it will become a sleep association), a short and simple routine is great.

Technology is great, but it has its place. If your toddler is watching the TV or an iPad before bedtime, the blue-based LED lights emitted from screens suppress melatonin release which can have negative effects on children’s sleep habits, so avoid this 60-90 minutes before bedtime.

Some ideas to include in your child’s wind down routine are;

  • reading books
  • singing songs
  • saying prayers
  • shutting off lights
  • massage
  • kid-friendly yoga poses
  • saying good night to various family members
  • talking about favourite parts of their day

 

To help your little one sleep later in the morning, keep the room nice and dark. If they absolutely need a night light, get the lowest wattage possible with a warm bulb colour such as amber, orange or pink. Stay away from LED or blue-based lights as this suppresses melatonin, which is the exact opposite of what we want.

Just like light, temperature also has an effect on children waking early. If the room is too hot or cold, children can be sensitive to room temperature which will cause them to wake. Keep the temperature between 17-21 C for maximum comfort. 

Toddler Early Morning Wakings Solution #4; Set Expectations and Reduce Engagement

The easiest solution here is to be preventative!

To help your toddler know what to do in the morning if they wake early, lovingly and respectfully set ground rules and expectations ahead of time.

So, how do we do that?

With their help, create a fun and colourful poster/chart/picture/graphic that lists a specific set of rules or steps to be followed at each sleep period. 

You can also make a “rule” chart for yourself at the same time. 

Find a special place to hang their chart in their room where it’s clearly visible. Likewise, you can place yours in your room as well.

This helps to set them up for successful sleep habits and show how the whole family values sleep. It also gives you a plan and timeline to follow.

If part of the “rules” are that the child gets 2 kisses and 3 hugs, stick to that. Don’t get engaged in power struggles or repeated requests, especially during your toddler’s early morning waking. 

(This is an added bonus of making sleep rules! You get to blame the chart, as a reason to get going. “Sorry honey, I would love to stay and cuddle, by my rules say I have to leave so that you get the sleep your body needs to be healthy.”)

Toddlers are notorious for trying to endlessly engage with parents, so they need you to be consistent. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

The other important component of having an expectation chart, is to follow through with logical consequences later on. If there are no repercussions for their choices, the pattern will continue.

But please note; logical consequences are very different from punishments. Consequences help to teach, punishments tend to shame and come out as anger.  We want to avoid taking things away like favourite TV shows, stuffed animals, not being able to play outside, etc., if they have no relationship to the sleep rule that wasn’t followed. Always keep in mind that A must equal B to see the quickest changes with your child’s behaviour.

Toddler Early Morning Wakings Solution #5; Consider Underlying Root Causes

The best way to solve this issue is to take it to the medical professionals. Before doing that you may want to record your child’s sleep and note any of the following.

  • Does your child snore (or, even breath audibly)?
  • Do you ever hear pauses in their breathing while sleeping?
  • Do they breathe with their mouth, or have open lips when sleeping?
  • Are they chronically stuffed up (or, during certain parts of the year), have runny noses or dark (or red) circles around or under their eyes?
  • Does your child have any allergies; environmental, seasonal or food that you suspect?
  • Do they ever rashes, bumps that aren’t attributed to anything?
  • Do they get several ear infections a year?
  • Do they have a narrow jaw and high, arched hard palate?
  • Does the child’s parents have a history of allergies, sleep problems, snoring, chronic sinus issues?
  • Does one or more parents or grandparents snore or use a CPAP machine?
  • Did the parents have ear infections, adenoids or tonsils removed as a child or tubes put in their ears?
  • Does your child get very hot and sweaty during sleep periods?
  • Do they sleep with their head arched back?

Taking an investigative approach to your child’s sleep can help aid the pediatrician to rule out one of more issues that could be causing your child to wake up early. Record and mention any of the above questions that match your family history. Sometimes a pediatric dentist that specialize in airway issues can also be helpful.

Toddler Early Morning Wakings Can Be Fixed

Waking too early can be difficult for both parent and child. Not only do they leave the child feeling tired, but it’s hard to parent well when we’re exhausted too. However, by using the above information to help narrow down the cause, early morning wakings are nothing that you and your toddler cannot overcome.

Too tired to do it on your own? Join the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page and participate in one of the frequent Q &A sessions.

Remember to pick up your free copy of TODDLER + PRESCHOOLERS SLEEP SOLUTIONS; EASY TIPS FOR EXHAUSTED PARENTS.

Want to get help faster? Book a mini-consult and I will analyse sleep logs, routines and sleep patterns and give you quick, actionable advice that you can start to use right away.

1 10, 2018

Night Terrors & Nightmares; How To Help Your Child Sleep

October 1st, 2018|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep|

Night Wakings, Night Terrors, & Nightmares-how to help your child manage all three

Halloween is coming! And with this season comes with an assortment of monsters, goblins and ghosts – oh my!

For some, this festive season is all in good spirits. For others, such as our little ones, it can be all too new and terrifying. The imaginations of children can be affected by the scary sights that are flying around at this time of year. Their brains are working on overtime trying to process it all and this can cause bad dreams.

How should you handle situations where your toddlers and preschoolers are scared and waking up at night? Is it really nightmares, or something else entirely?

First, it’s important to note that there are three common types of night wakings:

  • Overtired night wakings
  • Night terrors
  • Nightmares

Let’s look at each in a bit more detail.

Overtired Night Wakings

Did you know that no one really sleeps right the way through the night? Especially not children! We all go through periods of rest and brief wakefulness.  As you can see in the following image, our children’s sleep cycle lasts approximately forty five minutes. Once a cycle is complete, they will partially wake up before entering another cycle.

4 month old sleeep

You usually enter and exit these cycles seamlessly. However, children can become overtired due to an increase in stimulating hormones in the body. This will increase the chances of waking during the night when children are trying to transition through the different stages of their sleep cycles.

The Solution To Night Wakings

The solution to night waking is simple (in theory 😉 ). Make sure your child is well rested and getting the right amount of sleep based on their needs.

It goes without saying, but if they’re over tired they need a few days with earlier bedtimes. This will help them to catch up on the deep sleep cycles that occur early on in the night.

In addition, have a soothing wind down routine, dark sleep environment to encourage their body and brain to settle for the night.  Finally, work towards weaning their dependency of sleep props if it is disrupting their ability to transition through sleep cycles at night.

Night Terrors

Night terrors are not a pleasant experience for the child and parents. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the phenomenon, during a night terror your child may have their eyes open and appear to be awake. They might yell, scream and thrash uncontrollably. Your attempts to soothe them will go unacknowledged until all of a sudden they ‘snap out of it’ and come to. This will leave both you and your child confused.

Technically speaking, night terrors, less commonly known as a Confusional Event, occur when part of the child’s brain remains asleep although their eyes are open. When they overcome the night terror they won’t remember what has happened. This might seem similar to a nightmare, but it isn’t. No dreaming occurs during the sleep cycle when night terrors take place. Night terrors tend to happen during NREM sleep  and in the first four hours of sleep.

The Solution To Night Terrors

Like regular night wakings, night terrors can be associated with a child being over tired. Make sure they are getting the right amount of sleep and be sure to allow them earlier bedtimes if they’re lacking sleep.

Night terrors can also happen if the child is too warm. Watch that their bedroom temperature stays between 17-21 C (62-69 F). Dress them in warmer pajamas and have a cooler room temperature. This is better for the body than wearing cooler clothes and having a warm room temperature.

Nightmares

Nightmares and night terrors often get confused with one another. But nightmares differ from night terrors for a few reasons.

  • Nightmares happen during REM sleep whereas night terrors occur during the NREM sleep phase
  • Because of this, nightmares tend to happen later during the night
  • The child will usually remember their nightmare or at least know that it’s the reason why they woke. Children won’t remember their night terrors and may even fall back asleep after one unless woken by a parent

The Solution To Nightmares

Children waking due to nightmares is a common worry I see among my clients. The good news is that nightmares don’t actually happen as often as you might think. I see more night wakings happening in children that are caused by sleep debts and over-tiredness. This is more of a concern than nightmares.

That’s not to say that nightmares don’t happen.  Incidences of nightmares usually peak between the ages of 3-6 years of age and can be brought on by a number of things. More often than not, it’s simply brought on by growing up and being aware that negative or scary things exist.

If a child is dealing with anxiety or stress brought on by changes in their lives such as starting school or a new sibling coming into the family, this can also trigger nightmares. Or, the child may simply have an overactive imagination.

Validate Their Feelings, Not the Fear Itself

When your child has a nightmare, reassure them that the dream wasn’t real and validate their feelings. At the same time, be careful to not validate the actual fear itself. 

Sometimes, in their efforts to reassure a child, parents will start to do a “monster check” or spray a supposedly magic potion to keep them away. But doing this implies that there are actually monsters to check for, or bad things that require a magical potion.

Instead offer gentle reassurance, love and support after a bad dream. Give them the tools to work at building their confidence up. For example; if they are very upset you could try to help them by rewriting the dream and giving it a funny or silly ending.

This not only conveys the message that the dream wasn’t real, but empowers your child to manage their feelings upon waking.

Watch What Your Child Watches

Children have wild imaginations-it can be what makes them so fun to be around.  But many young children are very sensitive and even some cartoons and movies that are targeted for younger audiences can be too scary.

I once made the mistake of letting my daughter watch The Lion King. She was already in school, so I thought it would be fine. However, the hyenas scene bothered her for a few weeks.

We had many conversations about how it wasn’t real, along with ideas of what she could focus on at bedtime instead, such as her favourite parts of her day, what we would do on the weekend, etc.

After that, I always took into account her sensitive nature before viewing other movies.

Limit Electronics Before Bed

It may also be a good idea in some circumstances to monitor and limit the amount of TV your child is watching before they go to bed.

It is recommended to shut TV or similar electronics off 60-90 minutes before bedtime to encourage melatonin release and help your child wind down. This can also help your little one to not incorporate anything too confusing or scary into their dreams at night.

8 takeaways to help you and your toddler sleep easy

  • Make sure they’re getting the right amount of sleep for their needs
  • Give them earlier bedtimes to help them catch up on their sleep cycles
  • Make sure their room is a good temperature
  • Validate their feelings, but don’t encourage the fear
  • Reassure and comfort them
  • Help them to learn coping mechanisms
  • Limit TV exposure before bedtime

When our little ones wake at night, it’s important that we understand the reason, so that we can help them get back to sleep quickly and efficiently. Whether it’s an over-tired night waking, night terror or nightmare, there are several tips and tools you can use to help everyone get the rest they need.

Want more sleep tips for your toddler or preschooler? Grab your free copy of Sleep Solutions for Toddler + Preschoolers; Easy Tips for Exhausted Parents