When your toddler is tired, there’s a very good chance you will know about it before she does! Sometimes fatigue and exhaustion are more evident to us than it is to them, or perhaps they just don’t want to admit it. Whatever the reason for conflict, many toddlers will want to assert a little control over their lives where they can, and resisting sleep can be one such way to do this. So if you have a tired toddler at home, and naps are being refused for whatever reason, here are some tips to help you out!
Understanding the tiredness
Half the battle can be understanding why your toddler is tired, and how you can help her to fall asleep. It might also help to understand what the body needs to be able to fall asleep too. The hormones melatonin and cortisol are key for getting good sleep, and the levels of these change throughout the day. So your toddler will find it easier to fall asleep at some times of the day rather than others.
Cortisol keeps us awake, and its levels are highest around 8 am. So plan your activities for this time of the day, when your toddler is likely to be most responsive and alert. Cortisol levels drop throughout the day, and are raised when you feel stressed or upset.
Melatonin helps us to sleep, and levels are increased when there is an absence of light. So if your room is dim and quiet, you are more likely to be able to fall asleep.
When your toddler is over tired
The over tired toddler is a difficult one. Perhaps you missed the nap window, or perhaps she didn’t sleep well last night? Or maybe it’s just been a long day, and bedtime didn’t come around soon enough for one reason or another. An over tired toddler will find it hard to switch off because her Cortisol levels have started to raise- so it’s going to be up to you to convince her that sleep is a really good idea!
You can spot an overtired toddler easily:
● She becomes argumentative, and fond of the word NO!
● She starts to yawn a lot
● She becomes fidgety and ‘twitchy’
● She displays ‘hyperactive’ behaviour
● She falls out with friends
● Fighting sleep
So once you know your toddler is overtired, what do you do? It can be a turbulent situation at this point, but resist the urge to argue with your toddler. Remember that you are the adult and your little one isn’t always 100% in control of her actions. Keep calm and try these tips:
● Remove your toddler from all stimulation. No TV, no computer games, and go inside if you’re out.
● Have some quiet activities ready and spend some time together doing them for a while. Read a book, for example, and give her body a chance to relax.
● Encourage sleep, by perhaps lying down with her for a moment. Remember that as she is over tired she may take longer to fall asleep than usual.
● Make sure the room is dim so that Melatonin levels can begin to rise, and Cortisol levels can drop.
An over tired toddler can be hard work, but there’s no reason why you can’t beat it! And after a nap your toddler will be ready for the day once more… hopefully!
General tips for better toddler sleep
Making sure that your toddler doesn’t become overtired is often the first step towards securing better sleep overall. But it can be easier said than done! Here are some general tips for better toddler sleep all round:
● Keep a good routine and make naps a priority
● Have plenty of quiet times in between busy activities
● Encourage your toddler to spend time relaxing if she is growing out of naps
● Eat and drink well- avoid sugary snacks
● Get plenty of fresh air and exercise
● Make bedtime a priority too- keep to a flexible but consistent routine and encourage all care-givers to do the same.
● Try toddler massage to help your little one to relax at sleep time
Over time, your toddler will learn how to manage her own behaviors around sleep and may go on to lie in a little at the weekends. Or is that wishful thinking?