One of the biggest factors that give most parents sleepless nights is their toddler’s erratic sleep
schedule. Just when you thought that your little one’s transition to toddler-hood would help
stabilize both your sleep patterns, you are proven wrong. It’s almost every day that your kid’s
tiny little hands shake you from your deep slumber in the middle of the night.
After you’ve struggled to put him back to sleep, you spend the rest of your night merely tossing and turning on the bed, trying to catch a few winks, but all in vain. You’ve tried all it takes to bring your
toddler’s sleep schedule right on track – from tucking him to bed early to giving him a warm bath
before kissing him goodnight. However, there are many other factors that could also be
impacting your child’s sleep that nobody might have shared with you. Here are five hidden
reasons that could be the reason behind your toddler’s poor sleep:
1. Altered Circadian Rhythm – There might have been times when you’ve let your little
one stay up late at night before the weekend because he can sleep in until late the next
morning. Though this may not seem wrong in theory, the science behind sleep explains
why it is!
The circadian rhythm, also known as the body clock is a 24-hour cycle that
regulates some bodily mechanisms like sleep, hormone production, and cell
regeneration. If altered due to factors like delayed and advanced sleep phase, it could
result in excessive sleepiness and insomnia, a study conducted by the Journal of
Clinical Psychiatry suggests. It is important that your child sticks to a proper sleep time
routine with very minimal alterations.
2. Night Terrors – Though nightmares are common among little kids and more often than
not, they grow out of them, night terrors are bouts of intense panic, fear and worry
experienced by your little one. Your child may begin to scream and panic without waking
up completely and may have no memory of the experience the following day.
Many a time parents mistake the cause of these experiences to be a bad dream, but they are
often hereditary and can be triggered by extreme tiredness. While these episodes aren’t
necessarily a cause for concern, you must ensure that you speak to your child about
instances that could be bothering him. If overtime these episodes don’t stop and their
intensity doesn’t reduce despite a defined sleep schedule, make sure to consult a
3. Inconsistent Sleep Environment – If your toddler sleeps next to you, while hugging his
beanie, he is sure going to face some trouble catching the zzz’s when he has to sleep in
his room. Since kids associate sleep with certain familiar environments and objects,
continuously altering those can impact their peaceful sleep. It helps to encourage your
child to sleep by himself from a very early age, as it reduces nighttime awakenings and
prevents negative daytime behavior, an Acta Paediatra study reports.
4. Parasomnias – Parasomnias include a category of sleep disorders such as
sleepwalking, bedwetting, bruxism, and sleep talking, which are characterized by
unusual movements during sleep. These behaviors are common among toddlers and
are often a result of genetic factors, REM sleep behavior disorder, specific medications
and obstructive sleep apnea. These symptoms can result in problems like sleepiness
the next morning and may even persist into adolescence reports a study by the
American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
5. Other Medical Conditions – Did you know there could be medical reasons behind your
child’s erratic sleep habits and poor sleep quality? Conditions like asthma, eczema,
ADHD, etc. can result in disrupted sleep patterns. Similarly, lack of sleep can also result
in numerous physical and mental health problems like obesity, fatigue, reduced
cognitive performance, and irritability. If your child is experiencing recurrent trouble
sleeping, make sure to consult a doctor at the earliest.
Remember that your toddler requires at least 10-12 hours of sleep daily, so you must schedule
his day accordingly. Help him channel his energies in physical activities during the day. Refrain
from giving him high calorie and high sugar foods before bedtime as these can hinder quality
sleep. Watch out for warning signs such as a change in behavior, fatigue or social seclusion that
can give cues into the causes for his sleep trouble. Here’s hoping both you and your toddler
enjoy numerous nights of peaceful sleep and happy dreams!