Screaming Toddler In The Middle Of The Night
(New Albany, IN, USA)
My daughter will be 3 in March and for the last week she has woke up every night between midnight and 4am screaming as loud as she can.
A few nights when I go get her, she screams that she wants to watch the Doodlebops. Other nights she screams she wants to go outside and play. She screams non-stop for a good hour and NOTHING will calm her down.
What can I do?
She has been on a strict routine since she came home from the hospital, so nothing has changed about her daily lifestyle. She goes to bed every night between 8 and 9pm and she still takes a 2-3hr nap every afternoon.
She also talks/walks in her sleep if that makes any difference.
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Tips To Help Night Waking Toddler
Sounds like an exhausting time for you! It is really hard to know what is going on in the minds of our tiny children. Sleep time is the time we process all the events of the day, the time we connect back into our inner wisdom, and dreaming is a really important part of that process. It sounds like your daughter is working pretty hard at night!
It's difficult for me to say what might be underlying it all, and it sounds like you have good routines in place for bedtime etc. Sleep talking and walking are all a part of her brain not quite having the boundaries in place that we
normally do when going to sleep. So it is giving her body messages to partly act out what is happening in her dreams, ie talking, walking somewhere.
Apart from keeping her safe
- barriers over stairs and locks on the doors for example - it is not something to be unduly worried about. She may grow out of it, although some adults still sleepwalk!
Regarding the screaming, since her sleeping is so chaotic, when she wakes she is probably trying to gain some power and control. This is actually a good thing however, as a parent you obviously don't want her watching TV or playing outside at night. Nor do you want to have to keep getting up to her.
As long as you are able to contact her at all during her screaming, she is awake. Some toddlers also have night terrors, and in such case, the children are not awake at all and there really is no point in trying to connect with them. With night terrors, prevention and keeping them safe (and the rest of the family and neighborhood asleep) during the terrors will be the focus.
In any case, talk to your daughter during the day and get her agreement to learn a new way of sleeping
. Including her in the process teaches her she can learn self control. Have her choose a power toy
that will help her sleep the whole night (it might be a doodlebop if they have toy versions!).
Together, come up with a little ritual
she and the power toy can do in the night to put her back to sleep. You might be surprised what she comes up with. Giving her a torch
can be a useful power tool!
Have a reward system
so she gets a gold star, or doodlebug sticker on a chart for every night she puts herself back to sleep. After a week she can earn something bigger. Expect setbacks, she won't master it all at once. When you do have to go in to her, use the power toy to ask "how would Deedee help you go back to sleep?".
Enjoy your time with her, she will grow out of the night time screaming and you will get a proper night's sleep again!
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