Nadya just snuck a peak at the clock–crap, her toddler’s bedtime is in 20 minutes. The dread and frustration from the nights before begin to settle in. Every night at this time Nadya begins a mental preparation just to get through–because her toddler’s bedtime is so damn long. Although if she was being honest–she has zero clue why she can’t condense this routine. Her mom’s friends don’t complain about these intensely long routines. So what is this all about?
Does that scenario sound eerily familiar? I mean if you clicked to read this post–I’m gonna assume you have some similarly long bedtimes at your house as well! Not all toddlers are the same, and some need longer bedtimes than others. AND YET you do not have to feel tortured by bedtime routines–so let’s get to the bottom of what’s happening here. We’ve compiled a list of The five most common reasons your toddler’s bedtime is so damn long, to help you figure out a way to solve your unique bedtime conundrum. So let’s see which one applies to your little one!
Health Related Issues
Guess what–your kiddo not sleeping when they’re sick isn’t just you imagining things. A lot of children struggle with sleep when they aren’t feeling well. But it doesn’t just apply to sniffles, coughs, and tummy bugs. Chronic issues can significantly disrupt sleep as well–meaning your toddler’s bedtime can turn into a long process.
This is the least common and most unlikely reason but it is worth mentioning. Health related issues can include neurodevelopmental disorders and sleep disorders. Some other health conditions involve deficiencies such as lack of iron which can lead to needing a long time to fall asleep. The number one thing to do here is speak with your healthcare provider.
“Valerie, is this really worth bringing up with my healthcare provider?”
Yes it is even if it’s just to rule it out. 😃To get more information on this, check out the baby and toddler sleep courses where I talk all about it.
Lack of Connection
I talk about this a lot! Connection with your toddler is probably the most overlooked yet most important factor that helps you and your toddler have good sleep. It also helps to get your toddler to cooperate with you when you give directions. When your toddler feels connected to you, it helps them feel safe and secure which is necessary for good sleep.
If you are getting resistance at bedtime think about these:
- Has your little one spent extra time away from you recently?
- Has today been a really hard emotional day for you or your family?
- Is your toddler going through a big change like starting daycare, getting a new sibling? Perhaps you moved to a new place and the stress of moving has limited your emotional resources?
Your toddler’s mind is typically occupied by these the most and it can cause feelings of disconnection. One of the ways this disconnection shows up is lengthy bedtime routines. Something to understand is that bedtime is essentially a preparation for spending time apart. You’re about to spend 10 to 12 hours away from each other, unconscious. For your toddler, it is a scary, vulnerable, long time to be away from you.
- “What do you mean by away from you?” 👀
- “Vulnerable and unconscious?” 👀
- “Um, my toddler is right next to me.” 👀
Sleep is a very vulnerable state and it is different for babies and adults. Adults know that they are not going anywhere. They will go to sleep, they are available for the baby’s needs, and will see them in the morning. BUT your toddler’s mind is not processing the same way. They are still learning that when they separate from you, you will be back together again.
With this understanding now, you should approach bedtime as a preparation for spending time apart. Work towards making bedtime an enjoyable, relaxing time of connection and joy. If it isn’t that already, then it is time for a change.
Transition to Bedtime
What happens before you begin your toddler’s bedtime routine? Is it a time or activity that facilitates the transition into the routine? Here’s what I mean, depending on what went on during the day, some little ones might need to slow down, while others might need to let out more energy.
If your 1 – 5 year old is the kind that sleeps better after having some more activity or maybe their day wasn’t active enough, then you want to add 15 to 20 minutes of rough and tumble play before bedtime. Rough and tumble play is the kind of play that dads tend to engage in. Examples include hanging upside down, rolling around, climbing, jumping and other energetic plays. For toddlers that need to slow down and relax, the added 15 to 20 minutes should consist of calming down and lots of relaxation. The calming activities can be just lounging around, hanging out on the sofa, reading a book or doing whatever else you and your toddler find calming.
Non-Existent Boundaries and Limits
It is essential to establish good, consistent, and predictable boundaries and limits with toddlers. Doing so helps them feel safe and secure by making their world more predictable. When routines are consistent and predictable, it is easier for toddlers to get through them because they know what to expect.
The problem comes in when parents are not clear on these boundaries and limits at bedtime.
What you want to do is create an expectation for what you will do together to prepare for bedtime. When you can achieve this with sleep, you will be able to do it in other areas of life. In turn it will add more joy and take some of the struggle out of parenting toddlers.
Boundaries are great because they allow us to say no while maintaining the intimacy and connection in our relationships. They also help protect relationships from resentment. For example, the role of a parent is to protect their relationship with their toddler and prevent the relationship from reaching a point where they’re overstepping the set boundaries.
This plays out like this: You no longer want to nurse your toddler to sleep but you keep doing so and letting them violate your boundary. It is not your toddler’s job to maintain this boundary. All they can do is ask you and it is up to you to keep the boundaries in place.
Your toddler’s brain is still developing and they’re learning how things work in a healthy relationship. In healthy relationships, people can say no to each other and still stay connected, kind, and loving.
Other ways protecting your boundaries looks like include
- Protecting yourself from pain while rocking
- Protecting yourself from spending hours putting them to sleep so that you are a happier parent.
- Saying no when your toddler continually insists on an extra book, extra snack, 300 more kisses. Here, they’re really asking you where the boundaries are.
Unrealistic Expectations of Toddler Sleep
Here’s a shocking truth – Oftentimes, toddlers do not need as much sleep or as early of a bedtime as people tend to think. There is this ridiculous idea that they should be asleep by 7pm or 7:30 pm 😬. Here’s the problem with that, if your 1 to 5 year old is still napping during the day then 7pm or 7:30 pm is just too early for them to go to sleep for the night. Getting a nap during the day and having a decent amount of sleep at night is enough.
It is important to make sure that your bedtime is realistic for how much sleep they need and to tailor it to your individual family’s lifestyle. To learn more about how much sleep they need, how many naps they need at a certain age, make sure to grab the FREE normal toddler sleep guide. In this guide, I tell you exactly how to adjust your schedule and more.
We hope you had your lightbulb moment while reading the 5 Most common reasons your Toddler’s bedtime. As you continue to test out your theories and follow that lighbulb moment–be sure to follow Talklin’ Sleep on insta as we are always posting more helpful informaiton about toddler (and baby) sleep. If not and you need some extra help in identifying your specific toddler’s bedtime struggles–CONTACT US! And we’ll help you find the right next step.