Have you got to a place in your life where your toddler is still waking at night?
Or perhaps your toddler was sleeping well but now it's the opposite?
I know that I expected sleep disruptions when my boys were newborns and I am thankful that they are both good sleepers now but there are so many parents of toddlers out there who are dealing with nightly wake ups and struggles. Studies have shown that "10% of 12 month old children do not sleep through the night, five percent of toddlers have more than sporadic night terrors or sleepwalking....[and] early narcolepsy can deceptively present as hyperactivity, poor school performance or depression." 
If you dream of your child staying in bed ALL night, check out my explanation that covers why your little person may be waking up and how you can encourage better sleep for all.
REASONS WHY YOUR TODDLER MAY BE WAKING IN THE NIGHT
1. THEY ARE OVERTIRED
Mood swings are a classic sign of overtiredness. Your child was happy and looking at a picture book one minute and the next is screaming because you said no to something they wanted to eat. Overtired toddlers have a sufficient amount of sleep debt, which leads to cortisol (stress hormone) levels rising and this stops them being able to fall into a deep sleep.
2. LACK OF BEDTIME STRUCTURE AND ROUTINE
Does your child have a structured bedtime routine such as dinner, bath, teeth, stories and bed? Do they have a set bedtime such as 6:30pm or 7pm or do you just put them to bed when you feel like it or you think they are tired? Some toddlers will fall asleep on the couch when they are tired, which is great! Most however will continue to play and jump around and need to be told that it is bedtime. Toddlers who are overtired go into an almost hyperactive state so they may not look tired but they definitely are. If you want your toddler asleep by 7pm, I suggest starting the bedtime routine at 6:30pm - it's always going to take longer than you think.
3. NO BOUNDARIES OR LIMITED CHOICES
"I want another bottle of milk", "I want another story...no not that one...I want to choose another one", "I need to do a wee"....sound familiar? Your toddler would ask you a million questions at bedtime if you let them...simply because they do not want to go to bed. Who is in control at bedtime? Is it you or your toddler? If it is your toddler then you need to think about this and start implementing some changes right away.
Janet Landsbury, a childhood expert explains that "children need lots of opportunities to be autonomous and have their choices respected. At the same time, they also need to know they are not in charge, and we demonstrate that through our confident, decisive, gentle leadership."
Give your toddler choices. For example:
"Would you like to wear your red or green pyjamas tonight?"
"Would you like to choose two books to read tonight?"
If your toddler starts mucking around, either choose two books for them or tell them there will be no stories tonight. They will learn very very fast.
4. TOO MUCH STIMULATION BEFORE BEDTIME
As adults we seem to be able to transition from watching a movie to going to bed quite easily but children really struggle to do this. Children, especially toddlers can get overstimulated very easily. They find it hard to simply shut their brains off and go to sleep. Think of how you feel when you have a big event the following day or are nervous about a job interview - we find it really hard to fall asleep (and often to stay asleep too).
Toddlers will really struggle to go from high energy activity and play straight to bed. It is important that you have a good amount of winding down time in the evening, screens off after 4pm and quiet activities such as puzzles, books or colouring just before bed.
5. LETTING SOMETHING SLIDE ONCE HAS NOW BECOME A BIGGER ISSUE
So your little person asked you if they could fall asleep on the couch next to you "just this once" and because they are so cute you gave in and said yes. Now that said toddler or child will not budge and insists on falling asleep on the couch every night.
Or your toddler begged with you to lie down with them to go to sleep at the beginning of the night and now expects that every single night and every time they wake throughout the night.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
1. IS YOUR CHILD GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP OR EVEN TOO MUCH SLEEP?
Too little sleep and your toddler will be overtired by bedtime. Too much sleep and they will be undertired and wake throughout the night.
A 2 year old requires 11.5 to 12.5 hours of sleep overnight and a maximum of 2 hours in the day. As they move closer to 3 years, their daytime sleep requirement reduces and as they mature and their body requires most of their sleep at night. So by 3 years if you are not looking at dropping that day nap, which I encourage you to do so, your little one should be sleeping for 30 to 40 minutes maximum in the day!
2. GET ONTOP OF OVERTIREDNESS PRONTO!
Come up with a simple strategy to get your toddler more sleep. Do they need a nap every other day to simply catch up? If your toddler is refusing to nap they may need to go to bed earlier to make up for that lost sleep at night. Look at how much sleep your toddler is currently having and how much he or she needs.
3. SET CLEAR BOUNDARIES
Set up these boundaries in the bedtime routine as explained earlier in this article. Give your toddler limited choices. Routine is very healthy for children and provides them with stability. It will also help you to avoid those bedtime battles and the stress that comes along with it.
If you start noticing that you are giving in more and more to your toddler, take a step back. As long as you are aware of the problem you can address it. For example, if you have been lying in bed with your toddler while they fall asleep and now they expect that when they wake in the middle of the night then stop lying down with them initially to go to sleep.
Think of it in terms of a "treat" food during the day. If your toddler demands chocolate for breakfast you are not going to give it to them right? They are probably going to act out because they are trying to get you to give in. It is the same at bedtime and overnight. When you are establishing change there will be resistance but you need to stick with it and be strong.
Janet Landsbury again explains that, "a toddler acting out is not shameful, nor is it behaviour that needs punishing. It's a cry for attention, a shout-out for sleep, or a call to acting for firmer, more consistent limits. It is the push-pull of our toddler testing his burgeoning independence. He has the overwhelming impulse to step out of bounds, while also desperately needing to know he is securely reined in. There is no question that children need discipline."
4. IGNORE, IGNORE, IGNORE
Do not engage with your toddler if they start acting out at bedtime or during the night. Simply take them back to bed and that is the end of it. There is no bribing, no chatting, no negotiating. Your toddler does not care if you give them negative or positive attention - the fact that you are engaging and talking to them means that they are getting what they want.
5. STICK IT OUT - IT WILL GET BETTER!
Being consistent is very hard especially if you are tired. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of any strategy. Just because it isn't working after two or three night doesn't mean you should stop. It takes 3 weeks to completely change a habit but you will start seeing improvements before then.
 Solve your child's sleep problems
Brown, Lawrence W.
The Journal of Pediatrics, Volume 107, Issue 3, 412
 Short Sleep Duration in the First Years of Life and Obesity/Overweight at Age 4 Years: A Birth Cohort Study
Halal, Camila S.E. et al.
The Journal of Pediatrics, Volume 168, 99 - 103.e3
Lauryn Stanlake - Infant and Child Sleep Consultant