Toddler Doesn't Sleep: Causes and Remedies

Are you one of many parents who find themselves waking in the middle of the night to soothe a crying child? Is your two-year-old consistently waking every night, screaming out in fear? Most of the time, this type of disruptive behavior can be attributed to childhood development. However, if it continues with no sign of relief, it may be a sign of a psychological or underlying health condition. No matter the case, there are solutions that may help resolve the issue.

Why Wouldn’t Your Toddler Sleep at Night?

A toddler not sleeping can cause havoc to your whole household. There are several reasons your child may be waking at night, such as:

1.  Inappropriate Sleep Triggers

If your child likes to fall asleep when rocked or being held, this can cause problems later in the evening when you are not around. These are considered inappropriate sleep triggers, meaning they are not present when your infant wakes later in the evening to comfort him back to sleep. Children often wake throughout the night for brief moments when transitioning from deep to light sleep. If the triggers aren’t there to put your child back to sleep, it may cause an interruption in sleep.

2. Nighttime Feedings


When you are feeding your baby at night, especially if she drinks a couple of bottles through the night, she will expect to eat throughout the evening. This will cause your infant to wake up hungry several times at night, expecting to eat. If she associates sleeping with eating, then she may not be able to do so without a bottle. To remedy this issue, slowly reduce the number of feeding in the evening while scaling back the time so nighttime feedings are mostly eliminated.

3. Underlying Medical Condition

Your child may have an underlying medical condition that is interrupting his sleep. For example, acid reflux can cause belly pain, nausea and vomiting at night. If your infant has sleep apnea, his sleep may be disrupted several times throughout the night. If he is constantly waking up during the evening, you should see your pediatrician for an evaluation.

4. Environment


Is your toddler not sleeping due to something in the environment? If you have barking dogs in the neighborhood, they may be keeping her up. Maybe your child’s sleep is disrupted due to the snoring coming from your spouse in the next room. Room temperature can also be the cause if it is too hot or cold. You can remedy the noise issue by putting a fan in the room to create white noise. Adjusting the thermostat can make the bedroom more comfortable for sleep.

How to Get Your Toddler to Sleep

1. Stick to an Evening Routine

Try to follow the same schedule every night. This will help your toddler establish a routine that leads to a predictable bedtime. Getting ready for bed should be a calm transition. Often, parents find keeping it simple is best. After dinner, it is time for your child’s bath, then he gets tucked into bed to enjoy a few bedtime stories. As his eyes grow drooping, it is time to turn the lights out.

If you have not established a routine from the start, your child may resist at first. To get him on a schedule, consider putting a clock in his room. Create cards with pictures showing what should be done at what time. For example, if bath time is at 7 p.m., then have a picture of the clock set at 7 p.m. with a picture of a tub. Eventually, your toddler will be able to follow the cards to stay on routine.

2. Find the Right Bedtime

Set a specific time for your toddler to go to sleep. If she follows the same bedtime every night, her body will set her biological clock to go to sleep at a set time. Most young children need to go to sleep between 7 and 8 p.m., depending on what time they take their last nap and what time they get up in the morning. Keeping your child up late will only make her fussier and interrupt her sleep more often.

To help set a bedtime, look for the signs of when your child normally gets sleepy. Then work from there. If she gets tired around 7:30 p.m., make sure bath time is at 6:30 p.m. so stories can follow shortly after and then time to turn the lights off.

3. Make a Comfortable Bed

Children are just like us in the sense that they want a comfortable bed to sleep in. They also go through sleep cycles that go from deep sleep to light sleep. During the light sleep periods, you want to make sure your child has a comfortable bed so he won’t wake. You also want to make sure the noise of a TV does not wake him up. Your toddler may be sensitive to light, so room darkening curtains may help. They will be especially useful when the sun goes down later than your toddler’s bedtime.

4. Give Your Child a Late Snack

Toddler not sleeping? Maybe your child is hungry. While you don’t want your infant to get used to nighttime feedings, you also don’t want her to wake up because she is hungry. This is very important when your toddler is going through a growth spurt. You want the snack to be something light, yet fulfilling. A piece of toast or a glass of warm milk might work. Make sure your toddler eats the snack before brushing her teeth to thwart off cavities.

5. Get Enough Outdoor Time

Your toddler not sleeping will have an easier time falling asleep if you incorporate outdoor fun time and exercise into his schedule. Timing is key as you don’t want it too close to bedtime. Doing so will ruin the wind down time. Exercise and laughter helps your child release stress, which will allow him to let go of the day’s worries and fall asleep more easily. Keep in mind, sometimes the opposite is true. If your child was stressed throughout the day for some reason, he may need to cry and let it out so he can settle down for the evening.

6. Teach Your Toddler to Sleep on His Own

As you will not be in the bedroom to soothe your child back to sleep when he wakes during the night, he needs to know how to do it himself. It may take some time, but in the end, it will help your child get a good night’s sleep.