My Toddler Refuses to Go to Sleep

Would you like to have me answer your toddler sleep problem in my next video? If so, scroll down and submit your question in the comment section below. I will pick several questions each month to answer and post them here on the blog!

Hi. I’m Kim West, the Sleep Lady. In this video blog, I’m going to answer Kelly’s question. Her toddler refuses to go to sleep. Here’s what she wrote in:

“Please, please, please help me. I’m at my wits end. My daughter was 8 months old when I discovered your book and she’d never slept for more than 4 hours straight. Within 3 nights of The Shuffle, she was sleeping all night. Early waking was a problem for months to come. But finally at two and a half years old, we have been in and are on an excellent routine.” Good job, Kelly! “We wake by 7:30 or 8 everyday, nap at 1, and bed by 8. She moved to a bigger bed at about 4 months ago. She runs out 4 to 5 times a night, but eventually goes to sleep. She has never slept in our bed. Two nights ago, she ran out of her room, scared of thunder and lighting, so I put her in our bed for an hour. She never slept. I took her back to her bed and she went back to sleep the rest on the night. The next night, there was thunder and lightning again, so my husband stayed with her in her room. She did not come back to ours. “Now, she refuses to go to sleep. She wants us to stay in the room with her and she’s never done this before. She’s very strong-willed. We put her to bed at 8pm. At 11pm, she’s still running outside of her room. I’ve tried everything from threats to not talking at all and just putting her back to bed. I have no idea of what to do. I know I need to be consistent but I’m not going to sit with her every night. My toddler refuses to go to sleep. Please help.”

Good Conditioned Response

Sometimes it’s just a stroke of bad luck when you have two nights in a row of bad thunder and lightning. It doesn’t take much to ingrain a new habit (like staying with her, or sleeping with her), or for a child and an adult to get what experts call a good conditioned response. You’ll see this sometimes in older children, and definitely in adults, where they may be having a difficult night going to sleep or difficulty for two nights, and then they start to get anxious about going to sleep.

When Your Toddler Refuses to Go to Sleep

I want you to reassure her that she’s safe, and tell her that “Mommy and Daddy will keep her safe and are there for her, but she has to stay in her bed and put herself to sleep, and sleep through the night.” I know it’s not going to happen easily, and I really think that you’re going to have to develop a sleep manners chart. I actually have a tear-out chart in my Workbook that you could use. Her sleep manners chart can include these tasks: Lies in bed quietly Put self to sleep without Mommy and Daddy lying down with you Put self back to sleep during the night Stays in bed until your normal wake-up time.

The Sleep Lady Shuffle

I would encourage you to get a wake up clock or music. You can also have a family meeting, go over the sleep manners  at bed time, review them in the morning, and work your way out slowly with The Shuffle. I know that you don’t really  want to do that. You don’t want to stay in her room, but I think that you have to reassure her of her anxiety and The Shuffle will gently break the pattern, especially since I don’t know how long this pattern has been ingrained. Not knowing whether it was only 2 nights, but that was a week ago or this behavior has this been going on for months now and it’s started building on itself. So I think it’s better at this point to return to The Shuffle, rather than just returning her to her room a million times, or closing the door and just increasing her anxiety. Most importantly, right now that’s not working. You’ve nothing to lose by staying in her room, but you have to move every three nights. Don’t stay longer because you will create a new problem. I definitely don’t want you sitting there. What that means is that you may need to sit by the door as a beginning stage with her, and that’s okay. Don’t forget to move every three nights. I hope that helps. Sleep Tight, Kim

Have you experienced a major change in your toddler’s sleep? How did you handle it?

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Video filmed by In Focus Studios


2 comments
katiagirl7
katiagirl7

HELP! PLEASE! I have a 22 month old daughter that was sleep trained at 4 months of age, and slept through the night ever since then, except for during an illness. Now, for the past 3 months, she has been having VERY LONG night wakings about 2-3 times per week. She wakes up crying, and it seems to be a fairly distressed cry, so I go into her room to comfort her. She eagerly snuggles up with me in the rocking chair, but after a few minutes I ask her if she's ready to go back to bed, to which she answers "yes". So back in bed she goes, but then lays in bed, alone, awake, and usually NOT upset, for anywhere between 2 and 4 hours! It is absolutely maddening, as I feel like I can't go to sleep until she falls asleep, and I lay there wondering what on earth has gone wrong. Her naps have been roughly 12:30-2:30 for quite some time. I often have to wake her at 2:30 so that bedtime isn't a battle. She goes to bed at 7:30 but usually lays awake for almost an hour, and eventually falls asleep at 8:30 (6 hours after waking from nap). She typically wakes at 7:30am.  Do these long night wakings happen because she is getting too much daytime sleep? I s it possible that a 22 month old could be dropping her one and only nap already? I thought it was just a phase or a regression, but after 3 months, it seems like more than just that. I worry about ignoring her cries, as it seems like a nightmare or bad dream that is waking her up, though she doesn't seem upset or worried once I put her back in bed, because she is not usually upset or crying once I've come in and settled her down and put her back in bed. I'm desperate for an answer!!! Please help me Kim! 

breefawn
breefawn moderator

@katiagirl7 I'm so sorry to hear that! She may be going through the 2 year sleep regression…but I highly recommend that you post your question on The Sleep Lady Facebook Page, where a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach can help you figure this out :)

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