Hey Friends! So today I am talking about how to get your toddler to sleep. I have ideas, suggestions, and advice for helping get your toddler to sleep all night long.
My toddler is a terrible sleeper! He wakes up at the slightest sound, and constantly wants to be held, nursed, or rocked to sleep.
It has been an adventure, to say the least. I have had difficulty getting him to sleep for any length of time pretty much since he was born.
Because we have had so many struggles with sleep I started doing some research and came across this book called The Happy Sleeper by Heather Turgeon, MFT, and Julie Wright, MFT. You can find it here* on Amazon.
This book has been so helpful for me! It doesn’t encourage the cry-it-out method. All of my previous research kept coming up with that answer, but it wasn’t working for me.
If I was capable of letting my son cry it out, I wouldn’t still be having sleep issues with him. Any attempts at letting him cry it out, usually resulted in me sitting in the hallway by his door quietly suffering as much as he was.
So from this book, I found some great tips and advice to share with you to help you get your toddler to sleep. Using these tips helped my toddler go from waking up 3-4 times a night to waking up maybe once a night!
We also shortened the time it took to put him to sleep from an hour to 15-20 minutes! This mama is so very, very grateful!
If you’re also looking to create good sleep hygiene for kids, here are some great tips for how to get your toddler to sleep quickly and peacefully.
*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that I’m happy to promote. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Much love & thank you for your support. To learn more about my policy, click here.
Before Bed: Tips on How to Get Your Toddler to Sleep
1. Be consistent!
This is probably the most essential tip for getting your toddler to sleep every night. Children crave consistency. It helps them to know what is happening in their world. They take a lot of comfort in that predictability. Their brains are literally wired to look for patterns and to try to repeat them.
Whatever routine or habits you have before bed, stick to the same ones, every night. Also, try to keep them in the same order every night. This allows your child to recognize and trust the pattern of events that leads to them going to sleep.
Plus, the more they can rely on the same routine every night, the more they will relax and unwind, which is exactly what we need them to do in order to get them to sleep.
2. Avoid screens an hour before bed.
This tip was quite an adjustment for my family, but I’m glad we made the change. I typically liked to let my kids (and myself!) unwind with some television before bed. This kept them entertained so I could relax. That actually ended up being a little bit of the problem.
My son was so entertained, that I was missing when he was naturally getting tired. Screens in general (tablets, tv, phones, etc.) tend to be very stimulating for children. This can make it harder for their brains to relax and wind down so they can sleep.
When I started turning the tv off earlier in my house, bedtime became smoother for not just my toddler, but my older children as well.
3. Have an early and consistent bedtime.
So this tip turned out to be way better than I expected. My children and I are typically night owls. I took this to mean that if they could stay up late and sleep in, then why not if it was easier for me. Well, it turns out, why not is because I was making my own life harder!
We were staying up past when my son was naturally getting tired. Putting him to bed was such a chore, that I tried to put it off until I had finished up all of my evening chores, put my older girls to bed, and did anything else I wanted to finish before I went to bed myself.
It turns out toddlers need to get a total of 12-14 hours of sleep a day. This includes their nap. We were not hitting that goal with the bedtime I had in place. I started with the time my son usually woke up and then worked backward 11-12 hours. Once I moved his bedtime up earlier and stuck with it, everything got better!
He was less fussy throughout the day and bedtime became a lot easier. His body became used to falling asleep at the same time every night and he was getting all the rest he needed.
4. Put your toddler to bed before they become overtired.
This tip ties into a few of the ones I was talking about before. I was waiting until my son was overtired before I put him to sleep. This often made it difficult for him (and me!) to relax and settle down. Now I look for his “early sleep cues” to let me know when to start his bedtime routine.
Signs your toddler is OVERTIRED:
- Hyper – overexcited, wound up, more energy than they should have for that time of night
Early sleep cues to look for:
- Demands for attention
- Lack of interest in toys
- Staring off into space
- Fussiness with food
- Rubbing their eyes or ears
Once I started paying attention to the signs and started putting him down for a nap or bedtime based on his signals, he was able to go down much more smoothly and sleep longer!
5. Agree with your partner about bedtime routines and habits.
With routine and consistency being such a big factor in how to get your toddler to sleep each night, making sure that everyone on board is so helpful! If anyone else puts your toddler to bed, they need to follow the same routine and habits you do.
Your toddler relies on these habits to signal to their body and brain that it is time to relax and settle down for sleep. When someone does things differently and doesn’t follow the same pattern, your toddler can become more focused, aware, and anxious.
Their brains go to work figuring out what is going to happen next, instead of resting and relaxing into their comforting routine. As your child gets older and learns how to settle down on their own better, you can be more relaxed in allowing other people to create their own soothing routines with your child.
Going to Bed: Tips on How to Get Your Toddler to Sleep
6. Use a white noise machine all night.
If your toddler is a light sleeper like mine, this tip is very helpful. I use a white noise machine in his room all night long. I turn it on when it’s bedtime and leave it on. This helps block out noise from the rest of the family while he sleeps.
It’s also helpful because if he wakes up during the night, that same sound he was listening to when he fell asleep is still there. We use this one here. It has 6 different sound options and can be battery operated so you can travel with it.
7. Create and stick to a soothing bedtime routine.
This tip completely revolutionized our evenings. If you do nothing else, create a soothing bedtime routine that you stick with every night. Bedtime went from an hour-long to 15-20 minutes once I created a relaxing routine and stuck to it every night. You can read my post How to Create a Soothing Bedtime Routine for Toddlers on exactly how to do it.
Creating a soothing bedtime routine helps your child create that pattern they need to settle down and relax into sleep peacefully. It’s a way to help wind their bodies and brains down so they can drift off easily.
Here are some ideas of things to add to your soothing bedtime routine:
- Give your toddler a relaxing bath
- Read a book together
- Gentle singing
- Quiet play
- Brush their teeth
- Get into pajamas
- Say goodnight to their favorite toys or stuffed animals
- Wash their face
- Have a bedtime snack
8. Put your toddler in bed awake.
This tip is the one you want to use if you want your toddler to ever go to sleep on their own. Putting your toddler to bed while they are still awake, allows them to fall back to sleep on their own as they wake up during the night.
Everyone wakes up throughout the night, but most of us roll over and go back to sleep. If your toddler doesn’t know how to fall asleep alone, they wake up and want your help getting back to sleep.
Up until I started my research, I was nursing my son to sleep every night. This meant he was waking up at least 3-4 times a night. I knew it wasn’t the best thing to do, but I didn’t know any other way that I was sure would work.
Combined with these other tips, putting my son down while he was still awake became a lot easier. He was more relaxed and ready for sleep, which helped him to go to sleep on his own. My son didn’t love it at first, but after a couple of nights of doing it consistently, he was on board.
He learned to trust in his own ability to fall asleep and so did I. Now he wakes up no more than once a night if he wakes up at all. Y’all this was huge!! At this point, I had gone YEARS without a full night’s sleep!
I hope these tips on how to get your toddler to sleep were helpful. I know they made a HUGE difference in the amount of sleep my family was getting.
If you have any other great toddler sleep tips please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Pinterest for more parenting tips and advice.
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Candice is a mom of 3 who has been homeschooling since 2013. She has an A.A.S. in Early Childhood Studies and cares deeply about helping other parents get the information and resources they need to help them homeschool their children with confidence.