My 18-month-old was sleeping well until recently. Now, she struggles to fall asleep at night around 7:30 and wakes frequently around 2 am wanting to be snuggled to go back down. She also has started waking up between 5:30 – 6 in the morning. She normally takes a 2-hour nap around 12:30pm. Is she getting too much sleep? What can I do to regulate her? We are all exhausted and running on fumes.
Uh oh, you’ve hit the running on fumes point. It sounds like the time is ripe for everyone to get a better night’s sleep.
When I think of healthy sleep habits, I think of a jigsaw puzzle. I want to know what pieces of the puzzle are out of place. The fact that your little one was sleeping well but is now struggling at bedtime, is waking during the night, and is waking earlier in the morning points to some of your sleep puzzle pieces needing tweaking.
Getting too much sleep is rarely the issue when parents are struggling to get their little ones to sleep better on their own.
You’ve likely heard or read “sleep begets sleep.” That means, the more sleep our children get (based on appropriate amounts needed for their age), the better they will sleep. It’s counterintuitive but if they aren’t getting enough sleep or are missing their sleep windows, they may have a harder time falling asleep, a harder time staying asleep, and may start waking earlier and earlier in the morning. Sound familiar?
Though you said your toddler was sleeping well, you didn’t say how she goes down for sleep at night.
Does she go down independently – awake but ready for sleep? On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being wide awake and 10 being fully asleep, ideally, she will be going down at about a 7 on the scale. That means, she is awake and ready for sleep, and is doing the work of falling to sleep herself. In other words, she is not falling asleep – or even falling almost to sleep – in a parent’s arms or lap before being laid in her crib.
Your daughter may already be overtired by 7:30 p.m. An easy place to start making changes is by moving her bedtime earlier by 20-30 minutes. Begin creating a Zen-like environment and calming the energy down around 6:45 p.m. so she can work on falling asleep on her own by 7-7:15 p.m.
If you want more support making changes, a good sleep consultant can help.