Are Your Toddler Behaviour Issues Due to Missed Sleep?
We all know that not getting enough sleep can turn the sweetest kid into a whining, irritable shadow of himself the next day (the same also applies to a lot of adults). A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics (JAMA Pediatrics) has shown that toddler behaviour issues can show up with missed sleep. Toddlers at 18 months who either don’t get enough sleep or who wake up frequently at night have a statistically significant higher incidence of behaviour problems at age five when compared to their peers who get enough sleep. The study was comprised of 32 662 children who were studied between 1999 and 2008 at the Norwegian Institute for Public Health. What does this mean for parents? It underscores the vital role that sleep plays in development and emphasizes the importance of having a good bedtime routine in place. Getting your toddler to sleep through the night can be a struggle, but there are some tried and true ideas that can help you with this vital task.
Keep Naptime Into Toddlerhood
There has been a movement towards eliminating daytime napping in toddlers, keeping them up all day and letting them keep going until they basically pass out from exhaustion. This is problematic for a couple of reasons: the first is that you wind up with a cranky child for the second half of the day (definitely not ideal). Secondly is that an overtired child is actually harder to get to sleep than a well-rested one. Watch your child for cues that he’s ready to nap such as rubbing his eyes, yawning, and general crankiness and put him to bed. Make sure you don’t put him down too late in the day or for too long or you risk making bedtime harder.
Both bedtime and naptime will benefit from a bedtime routine. A calming routine done at the same time every day will allow you to bond with your toddler, which is sometimes hard to do in the business of daily life with young children. Another benefit of a bedtime routine is that it helps eliminate bedtime battles because the child knows what to expect.
Earlier Bedtimes are Better
Unfortunately, many children in daycare or preschool don’t get long enough naps to fulfill their daytime sleep needs. Children need a lot more sleep than adults, and in order to get the sleep that they need, preschoolers should be going to bed no later than 7:30 pm and toddlers should be in bed somewhere between 6 and 7 pm.
Banish the Early Birds
Many parents try to put their kids to bed later in hopes that it will discourage the early morning waking that many young children seem prone to. In reality, an earlier bedtime will actually help facilitate longer and better sleep, so putting your toddler to bed earlier will actually result in a later wake up time. Make sure that your child’s room is set up to promote sleep – use blackout blinds to block early morning light, turn on a fan or a white noise machine to mask traffic sounds or birds, and make sure your child isn’t too cold or too hot. By using a consistent bedtime routine, adjusting the sleep environment, and making sure your child is getting enough sleep, your little early bird should start sleeping to a more appropriate time.
The study wasn’t all negative though, it demonstrated that if changes that promoted more and better sleep were made, the behavioural impacts were lessened. Making sure your toddler gets enough sleep will help set him up for success in both the short and long term.
Alanna McGinn is a Certified Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site – a Global Pediatric and Family Sleep Team. She provides free child and family sleep support through her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She invites you to join her sleep community as she works towards Good Night Sleep Site’s mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips please visit Good Night Sleep Site. Join our movement and #BringBackBedtime.