Interrupted sleep and unpredictable napping are common difficulties parents face. Although most common in infancy, many parents find themselves back in the sleep battle trenches once their children reach preschool age. Read on for common problems and some simple solutions.
Problem: Your child has learned to escape his bed…and his first destination is yours!
Solution: Once your young child makes the transition from a crib to a toddler bed, or a “big kid” bed, they’ll eventually learn that 1am trips to Mommy and Daddy’s bed are easy! Being consistent with your little one is the key. As soon as she enters your room, take her right back to her own bed. Letting her get comfortable in your room will only reinforce her behavior. Try keeping a chart in her room, rewarding her with a sticker each time she stays in her own room throughout the night. Reward system not working? Try a baby gate in her doorway, and leave her door open so that she doesn’t feel alone as she’s falling asleep.
Problem: Monsters, monsters, everywhere!
Solution: As young children’s imaginations develop, so do their fears. Your little one may develop a fear of the dark itself, or of the countless imaginary creatures who could be hiding in the dark beneath the bed or in the closet. First, respect your child’s fear, letting him know that you understand why he’s scared. Come up with solutions for making him feel protected at night. Let him know that monsters don’t exist outside his imagination, but be prepared to get creative when that reasoning doesn’t click. Keep a small nightlight on in his room and let him know exactly where you are while he’s sleeping, so that he knows he’s not alone. You might want to spend more time playing in his room during the day as well, so that it seems more familiar and less scary to him.
Problem: Your young child still needs daytime rest, but isn’t napping reliably any longer.
Solution: Remember the days when you would put your toddler down for his nap at 1pm, and he’d sleep for a blissful one, maybe even two hours? As your child gets older, his need for a nap may change. While he may still need an afternoon rest each day, he may not sleep for as long as he used to, or at all! Try tweaking his naptime. Putting him down just a little later might ensure a better rest. If he simply won’t sleep, but is an overtired mess by bedtime, give him an afternoon “rest”, allowing him to read in bed, or snuggle a toy quietly, even if he doesn’t nap.
Problem: Bad dreams.
Solution: Again, that developing imagination that makes your preschool age child so funny, creative, and unique, is also able to scare her from time to time! Many kids over the age of 3 complain of bad dreams, and may wake in the middle of the night. Keep track of what your child is dreaming about each night. If you begin to see themes, talk about the things that scare her. Sometimes they might be monsters, but sometimes they might be situations that she is worried about in real life. Helping her to quell her fears by talking about them during the day may help her sleep better at night.
Problem: Your child is wide awake at 3am.
Solution: Just when you think you’ve gotten nighttime sleep under control, your little one may decide that at 3am or 4am, he doesn’t need to sleep any longer. He may be wide awake in his room for hours, or may want you to come and join the party. Try adjusting his daytime sleep schedule. Reduce the length of his afternoon nap to see if that helps. While your child is going through this phase, remember to be consistent in telling him that nighttime is for sleeping, and that he needs to stay in bed.
Have you been there and done that? Do you have some sleep tricks up your sleeve for your fellow parents? Let us know about them in the comments!