Last Updated on January 1, 2023

If your child wakes during the night from a deep sleep and it’s not teething, a medical condition or a wet nappy, it’s most likely a sleep-related issue. And while you might be tempted to ignore the problem and deal with the sleepless nights, frequent night wakings lead to sleep deprivation and can hinder your child’s development, affecting their cognitive skills and socialisation.

Unfortunately, the majority of parents don’t have any idea how to resolve this problem. This article will teach you what to do with a toddler waking at 5am so you can get back to sleep yourself and perhaps keep you from feeling like a zombie in the morning.

How To Put a Night-Waking Toddler Back To Sleep

If your child’s behaviour is driving you crazy and your toddler wakes up in the middle of the night and won’t fall asleep again by themselves, you’ll be pleased to know there are several steps parents can take to ease the struggle. Let’s discuss them in detail below:

Stay calm

When your toddler wakes up at night and has trouble sleeping again, talk to them softly and show compassion to try and comfort them. It’s common for toddlers to wake up crying because they’re confused or nervous from a bad dream. Getting angry or frustrated with them won’t help to solve the issue.

The Association of Psychological Sciences (APS) says you can use a soft voice to coax your child into sleep. Don’t ever yell at your child and don’t threaten them with big statements like: “You’d better go back to sleep or else…” or “I’m really angry with you right now”, as that can lead to fear and contradict the goal of helping your child relax so they can fall back to sleep.

Create a sleep environment

Ensure your toddler’s bedroom isn’t too bright during the night and has no distractions. A room free of toys and other clutter is likely to be less distracting for your child when they have trouble getting back to sleep. However, toys and blankets may, on the other hand, help toddlers who are having trouble sleeping during the night. The APS says that it’s okay for parents to bring this material into their children’s rooms if they ask for them.

Create a routine

For toddlers who just won’t go back to sleep, it’s important to make sure you have a consistent bedtime routine and stick to it. According to Mindell’s view, having a bedtime routine – such as brushing teeth, putting on pyjamas and getting into bed at the same time every night – has been shown to help babies settle better when left alone at night.

Keep an eye on the temperature

As well as making sure the bedroom isn’t too brightly lit for your child, it’s important to ensure it’s not too hot or too cold, as this can disrupt normal sleep patterns. Most modern baby monitors have a room temperature on them, but if not, maybe invest in something that will let you know the room’s temperature throughout the night. According to Room To Grow, the ideal bedroom temperature for toddlers should be between 18°C to 22°C.

Pick a parent

Each night one parent should take the lead on getting their child ready for bed and then putting them to bed. This routine should be repeated every night. This will make your child know what to expect during the night and will make it easier for them to get back to sleep when they wake up at night because they know what’s coming next. Having a set nightly bedtime routine can also reduce your child’s anxiety about being in the dark.

Set-up the bed

Tuck the corners of your toddler’s bed into the mattress so there’s no room for them to crawl out of bed. This may also help ensure that your little one doesn’t have any toys or stuffed animals that could fall out of bed with them and distract them during the night.

Don’t let them fall asleep in your bed

If your toddler falls asleep during the day on your bed, that’s fine. Most children will, and you might even have to help them drift off. However, if they are falling asleep at night in your bed, it is important that you put them back in their beds as soon as they close their eyes. If they wake up later and find themselves alone in their own bedroom, they might cry out for help, and you may need to pick them up again. It is better to teach them not to fall asleep there in the first place rather than to deal with this concern later down the road.

Make associations

Shush or clap gently so that they’ll associate the noise with a time when they fell asleep. This will help them know when it’s time to sleep and can also be useful if they have trouble going back to sleep after waking up at night. However, don’t repeat a noise over and over again like a lullaby, as this will only serve to confuse your child.

Singing and humming

Another way to soothe a scared child down is by singing softly while they’re still in bed. Singing this way will not only help comfort your child, it will also help them associate a particular sound with falling asleep. Be sure to talk in a calm, soothing voice when you sing so your child knows you’re there for them.

Play calming sounds

If your child is having trouble falling asleep again, you can play soothing sounds for them to listen to. For example, many parents find that white noise is good at calming a hysterical toddler, while others find that rainfall and ocean waves are also good at putting toddlers back to sleep.

However, avoid playing sounds that may distract your child from focusing on the fact they’re trying to sleep, like classical music or similar things, which may work for adults, but be detrimental for toddlers because they instead become stimulated by the abundance of sounds.

Trying new places

Some toddlers may suddenly dislike their bed, crib or room due to reasons unknown, usually a nightmare or a bad daytime experience. While it’s important to try and find these reasons and work through them, sometimes, this can be tricky.

You could try a new bed if your toddler suddenly experiences night wakings. If this isn’t possible, you might want to try a new room in your house – perhaps the hallway or living room – where your child hasn’t slept before. However, if your toddler keeps getting out of bed at night after trying a new place, it’s important to try and work through the original problem.

Keep them well-rested

You may also want to consider having extra-long sleep sessions for them. Parents will often find that taking a nap during the day helps their child get better sleep at night. By taking this step, you can ensure that your child’s body and mind are both ready for bedtime and hopefully stay asleep.

De-stress them before bed

You may find that your toddler can be more settled if they are told a story before they go to sleep. Try reading to them from a book on an electronic device. This can help improve their focus and attention and decrease any stress and anxiety they may have developed regarding going to bed. Try and make it fun for them, and remember that actual books are better before slumber than gadgets-too much screen time before sleeping could exacerbate the issue.

Plenty of fresh air

If your toddler isn’t sleeping well throughout the night, you might find that putting them out into a clean air environment can help. Maybe they’re just tired, but it could also be that the smell of their room when they awake is causing them to feel more unsettled than they normally would.

You may also find that letting them sleep with the window open or in a different room can help relax them. If this isn’t a possible option, you should ensure that your child has enough fresh air circulating around their bedroom to keep them from feeling too tense before bedtime.

Wean them off the pacifier

Many children still have a sleep association at this age and often experience frequent night wakings because they want something to suck on. Avoid this problem by weaning your child off their pacifier or other sucking devices as soon as possible. A toddler who relies on his pacifier while asleep will wake up much more frequently than one who doesn’t, especially when he’s bunged up and ill.

Keep a journal

A good tool to help aid parents suffering with toddler night wakings is the sleep journal. The sleep journal is a simple record in which you write down what time you put your child to bed, and the time they wake up. Keeping track of this will help you identify trends that can be used to monitor progress. It can also be helpful if a GP or paediatrician needs this information should the situation worsen.

Crying boy in bed
Crying boy in bed struggling to sleep

The Final Word

While sleep disruption is normal for children, it’s important to pay attention to nights when your child is having more trouble than usual because being over-tired can cause much more damage in the long run.

However, if you have a 1-year-old waking up at night and not going back to sleep, many parents would agree it’s time to take some sort of action.

Always keep a positive attitude when dealing with your toddler’s sleep problems at night. Sometimes, it can take a few weeks before you see any progress. If you remain consistent, you’ll be able to achieve a better night’s sleep for your toddler.

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