As parents, we have all been there- its 3am and your toddler is throwing a tantrum and will not fall back asleep. This can be overwhelming, frustrating, and exhausting. The average toddler needs eleven to fourteen hours of sleep every day, and with nighttime tantrums, these hours can be hard to achieve. Nighttime waking is a common problem that many parents of toddlers must endure.
What Do You Do If Your Two-Year-Old is Having Middle of the Night Tantrums?
The best way to prevent a toddler from having middle of the night tantrums is to create and stick with a consistent nightly bedtime routine. A calming bedtime routine is important in creating good sleep habits in your child.
Why Isn’t My Toddler Sleeping Through the Night?
There are several reasons why you toddler may be waking up in the middle of the night in an uncontrollable tantrum. The best way to solve the problem, is to first figure out what is causing it. Here are some common reasons your toddler may be experiencing trouble sleeping through the night.
If your child is experiencing any discomfort like stuffiness, sore throat, allergies, or an ear infection, they may have trouble sleeping through the night. Waking up uncomfortable and in pain would be reason enough for anyone to throw a tantrum!
Incoming teeth can cause great pain for your child and interrupt their normal sleep pattern. You can try something cold to chew on or pediatrician approved medication to give your child some relief.
Is there a new sibling in the house? Is your two-year-old learning to potty train? Did your child recently start daycare? Big changes in a little one’s life can cause sleep issues. A strong nighttime routine will help ease these anxieties and promote a sounder night’s sleep.
When a toddler experiences a nightmare, they do not always understand that their dreams are not real. This can result in fearful tantrums in the middle of the night. Again, a calming bedtime routine will help keep nightmares at bay so your baby can sleep through the night.
How Do I Create a Healthy Routine?
Every parent has different nighttime rituals and routines. These can vary based on what works for your toddler, but the key is consistency. Relaxing rituals tend to work the best to prepare a child for sleep and help them stay asleep.
Consider bath time with lavender soap, reading a book, or soothing music. When you tuck your child into bed, repeat the same actions each night like a kiss, tucking their blankets around them, a favorite stuffed animal, and using the same goodnight phrases.
The important part is to make sure you leave your child’s room before they fall asleep. This will help your little one adjust to falling asleep on their own. When they wake in the middle of the night, your child will eventually be equipped with the skills to self sooth themselves back to sleep.
It may be difficult to establish a new routine at first, resulting in tantrums and pushback from your child. If you stand your ground, your toddler will eventually get used to their new bedtime routine. Parents who establish a strong nighttime routine have reported seeing better sleeping habits in as little as one week.
If any of these habits are part of your nighttime routine, consider changing things as they may be interfering with your child’s sleep:
- Scary shows or books
- Rambunctious play too close to bedtime
- Excessive screen time before bed (it is recommended that you stop your child from using electronic devices an hour before bed)
To help a child ease into a new nighttime routine and ensure that you will be successful in teaching good sleep habits, here are a couple additional techniques you can try:
- Put a white noise machine in your toddler’s room. These are helpful with blocking out noise from the rest of the house that could disturb your toddler’s sleep.
- Give your child a “comfort” item like a blanket or stuffed animal. When your child wakes in the middle of the night, their comfort item will help them remain calm and make falling back asleep easier.
Is Napping Effecting Your Toddler’s Nighttime Sleep?
Figuring out just how much your toddler should be napping can feel like a bit of science. If your baby naps too long during the day, they may not be tired at night which could result in trouble falling asleep and waking during the middle of the night. However, if your little one doesn’t sleep enough during the day, over exhaustion will also cause them to have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. So, how do you figure out the perfect nap schedule? The best answer is trial and error.
Try changing up your child’s nap time to a little earlier in the day. You can also cut the nap shorter if you think that excessive day sleep is affecting their nighttime sleep. Experts recommend keeping your child from napping too close to bedtime which should be somewhere around 7:30pm and no later than 8pm. If your child skipped their nap during the day, do not be afraid to push bedtime up a bit to ensure they get enough sleep.
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Your Toddler is Awake, Now What?
You have mastered your calming nighttime routine, your baby had the perfect nap in the afternoon, but here you are with a crying toddler at 2am. What do you do now? Although 2am is not the ideal time you want to teach life lessons, you now have the opportunity to work on correcting poor sleep habits. The goal is for your child to learn to fall back asleep on their own without relying on you.
First, experts recommend not rushing to your child’s bedside right away. You should wait a couple of minutes to see if they settle down on their own. Some children are noisy sleepers and may cry out in their sleep without even being awake.
If your child is not falling back asleep, it is time to check on them. However, do not pick them up right away, instead, try a soothing touch like rubbing their back. You want to allow your child to learn to fall back asleep without you lulling them in your arms. Once your toddler has calmed down, leave the room before they are fully back asleep.
You may have to repeat this process several times until your baby falls back asleep. Try lengthening the time between visits to their bedroom. This will allow them to work on self-soothing.
This may seem like a frustrating process but remaining consistent is important. If one night you allow your child to self-sooth to sleep and the next you bring them into your bed, your child will receive mixed messages and will not know which behavior is correct.
Developing healthy sleeping habits for your toddler will take time, but it is possible if you remain firm and consistent.
Why Do Toddlers Throw Tantrums?
Your toddler is busy learning the world around them every day however, they have yet to develop the part of their brain the controls logic, reasoning, planning, judgement, and self-control. When your child is frustrated, overtire, or just plain angry, they do not have the knowledge or words to express how they feel. This causes your child to resort to a screaming, crying, tantrum, because at their age, that is the only way they know how to express their current feelings.