Why Toddlers Fight Sleep & How to Help Them
When things are going well, nighttime tuck-ins are a pure pleasure—but when they’re not, it’s natural to start to fear seeing the sun go down.
Running after your little wild child, wrestling her into PJs, shutting the bedroom door while she’s shrieking on the other side—Urrgh!
Many of our little Energizer Bunny toddlers resist bedtime. They hate leaving the thrill of running, climbing and touching. Around 18 months they start to go through a very independent phase, where “No!” is their favorite word. And the tired-er they get, the more rigid, hyper and irritable they become.
In fact, the 2004 Sleep in America poll reported that a third of toddlers—and half of preschoolers—regularly stall at bedtime…and many downright fight it.
Besides this normal defiance, there are a few other common reasons why your little guy may fight lights-out:
- He’s overexcited—too wound up on TV, roughhousing or something he’s consuming (like sugary juice, sweet snacks, artificial colors and flavors, cold medicine or a dose of caffeine from colas, Dr Pepper, Mountain Dew, iced tea or chocolate).
- Something is bugging him—bright lights, loud noises or discomfort (he’s teething, too hot, too cold, has a stuffy nose or itchy PJs, ate dinner too late, etc.).
- He’s nosy and stubborn—doesn’t want to go to his room because he wants to see what everyone else is doing.
- He’s hooked on your help—hasn’t yet learned how to fall asleep without you rocking, feeding and holding him.
- He’s going through a fearful stage—having difficulty being alone and dealing with a smorgasbord of worries from strangers to dogs to thunder.
- Your bedtime timing is off—you’re putting him to bed too early (he’s not tired) or too late (he’s overtired and wired).
But no matter what the reason, there are lots of ways to help him get past these sleep speed bumps. And one of the best ways is to work on bedtime skills—all day long.