Common sleep problems in the third year

Just when you thought newborn sleep was as bad as it could get, enter your two-year-old and her raging battle against rest. If you find yourself refilling that coffee cup once or twice in the morning, you’re not alone.

Toddlers and sleep issues tend to go hand-in-hand. Toddlers this age are becoming more independent, and also more imaginative. This can lead to more bedtime protests, and also some new fears.

Here’s a list of common sleep problems, and some tips on how to conquer them.

Prolonging bedtime

“One more story.”
“Some more water?”
“I’m not tired.”

If this sounds like your new nightly routine, it sounds like Baby has discovered a popular toddler tactic: prolonging bedtime. This is done, of course, because she would rather stay up with you than go to sleep; after all, sleeping is no fun, and playing with you is a blast. To nip this in the bud, be firm with Baby, and don’t bend on that extra story or bedtime song. The more she knows she can get from you, the further she will push.

Skipping naps

Some toddlers will outgrow their afternoon nap this year, while others may still need a nap for years to come – but the children who want to drop a nap aren’t always the ones who are ready to. If Baby is starting to phase out her nap, gauge her behavior on days when she stays awake. If she is extra grumpy and groggy by late afternoon, odds are, she still needs that block of afternoon sleep. However, if she is full of pep and ready to crash earlier in the evening, it may be fine to go with that, so long as she is making up for those lost hours at night.

Fear of the dark

Toddlers have active imaginations, and this is the age when Baby may start to be afraid of new things, like a monster in the closet or a shadow on the wall. You can help calm her fears by showing her how the room looks with the lights on, and promising her that the room is safe. You may also choose to offer her a night light, so she doesn’t need to fall asleep in total darkness.

Leaving the bed

For many parents, one of the biggest barriers between them and a good night’s sleep is finding their toddler climbing into bed with them, which can very quickly become a routine. This is a common part of the transition from the crib to a toddler or “big kid” bed, as toddlers suddenly realize they’re able to get out of bed and move around. To avoid making this a habit, calmly and quietly walk her back into her own room at night, and tuck her back into bed.

Early rising

Much like adults, some toddlers prefer to sleep in, while others are early risers. If Baby is waking up earlier than you’d prefer, but still at a reasonable time, you may just have to adjust to her schedule. However, if she is up before the sun, try to think about what might be causing it. For example, if a noisy neighbor leaving for work is waking Baby before she is ready, try placing a sound machine in the room. If that first ray of sun is causing her to pop out of bed, try keeping the room dark with shades to give the illusion that it’s still nighttime.

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