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  • Post last modified:September 7, 2022
  • Post comments:3 Comments

toddler won't sleep at night

Mom’s question:
My toddler won’t sleep at night and don’t really know what to do.

My daughter turns 2 years old in 2 months and she refuses to sleep at night. She has been up until 6 AM for the last week or so! I’m totally exhausted (with 2 other children on top of this).

We have tried giving her a nap early in the day and then we tried skipping naps altogether, but when we still have the same results. When she stays up til 6 am I try to wake her up early (after about 4 hrs), but she can never make it through the day without a nap. She whines and cries, falls down and just becomes really irritable and upset because she’s so tired.

Please help! Thank you


Baby Helpline:

Tips When Your Toddler Won’t Sleep at Night

What an exhausting situation, both for you and for your daughter!

To me, it sounds like your daughter is a very bright young lady. She has discovered that she is a separate person from you and that there is a way to control a part of her life rather than just obey. And who needs sleep anyway? :-)

Toddlers can have so much willpower and so little sense – of course, she doesn’t understand the connection between staying up all night and being weak ad cranky during the days. All she sees is all the attention she gets and that she gets to stay up longer than any other kid. What an adventure!

5 Steps to Make Your Toddler Sleep at Night

I have a few suggestions on what to do – hopefully, some of them might help:

  • First of all, you need to mark that the nighttime waking will have to end. In my experience, it is possible to change a toddler’s behaviors, but it takes both patience and smartness. Yelling at a two-year-old doesn’t help at all. But they want so much to be a “big girl or boy” and that is something you can use. Start with telling her that from now on we will all sleep during the night. She too, since she is such a big girl. And to reinforce how big she is, get her a big bed or a new blanket or pajama that she gets to choose. A super-soft lovey, like this cute rabbit if she is into stuffed animals, is another option. And really let her choose as long as it is within your budget and safe for her.
  • Once the bed/blanket/stuffed animal is in place, declare that now the new times begin. And then make it a wonderful time. Take a bath together, curl up in her bed and read a few stories and then lights are out. Stay with her until she is asleep. If she refuses (very likely) don’t let her get up and do anything fun. Stay in the room with her, stay calm but be firm on that now is sleep time. You can get a night lamp if you have to turn the lights on. No more books, possibly a second lullaby and a back rub. But nights are for sleep, period.
  • I don’t know what you do all night long when she is up, but it is very important that this is not a fun time for her. She might still be up until 6 am that night and even a few more, but if there is no bonus with staying up, I would be surprised if she continues for long. She might throw a few fits, but stay calm, stay in the room and let her show her anger and frustration if she has to. The new rules will be there anyway. Don’t be mad at her if she acts out; she might think the change is a really stupid idea. Just be calm, firm and patient. She’ll adapt. (Have the rest of the family sleep with earplugs if you have to.)
  • The first time she actually goes to bed and falls asleep in the evening make a BIG celebration in the morning. A cake, candles, her favorite breakfast, sing to her or whatever. Let her really know how proud you are that she has learned to sleep at night – wow, what a big girl she is! And keep showing her your appreciation of it during the coming days too, until the new habit really sits.
  • Regarding her days, most toddlers really need their nap, but it is good if it comes right after lunch rather than later. Also, make sure that she gets a lot of daylight, running around and playing outside. The more of fresh air and activity, the more tired she will be in the evening.

I hope this gives you a few ideas.

I have a toddler who did fall asleep in the evening, but who woke up at 3.30 am and refused to go back to sleep. It was extremely exhausting!

But after a week of slightly less napping during the day (he slept too much at daytime) plus spending almost all hours of the days outside, he started sleeping until 8 am.

It was like a miracle! And actually, I think it was mainly the daylight, activity and fresh air that made the biggest difference; we had tried reducing nap time before without any positive effects at all.

So take your girl outside and PLAY!

PS. This online course on positive parenting has great tools for toddler sleep issues, as well as tantrums and lots of other behaviors. It is a great course! They also offer completely free webinars, so be sure to check it out!

(You can read here about more suggestions if a baby wakes up too early.)

More Toddlers That Won’t Sleep At Night

Hey moms and dads – any additional tips to share when a toddler won’t sleep at night? Comment below! :-)

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Tasha

    My 20-month-old is definitely finding her limits in the past couple of days. She has been sick the past couple of weeks and slept alone fine, but now that she is feeling better she suddenly refuses to go to bed without cuddling.

    I’ll try your suggestions, I think I will convert her crib to a bed with her today and make a big deal out of it and show her how she’s a big girl now.

    Here’s to hoping!

    1. Paula

      Glad to be able to share some ideas. I hope they work, at least over time. 🙂

  2. ninobambino

    Hope these all work.. nice article