Skip to main content

How to sleep train a toddler who won’t stay down for the night

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night to two beady little eyes staring at you? Then, you realize your toddler is standing inches from your face. Once your heart rate goes back to normal and you put your little one back to bed, you think everything is fine. You feel like you just fell asleep but can feel your child crawling into bed with you.

Your toddler is having sleep issues. If you don’t get it under control soon, you’re in for a long road ahead. There is a list of things to check off and to try to get your little one back in their bed and out of yours. Let’s go over how to sleep train a toddler so everyone can get a good night’s sleep.

A toddler girl holding her blanket in bed.

Waking up can be normal

We know you don’t want to hear this, but all toddlers wake up at some point. It won’t be every night, and it won’t be every hour as with a newborn. But they will get up. It’s natural for a toddler to wake between zero and two times a night.

But if they wake up more than that, and every single night, then you have a problem. Thankfully, there are plenty of things to try to get you both back to bed.

Watch out for a change in their environment

There are easy to overlook environmental factors that could cause your toddler to wake up in the night. Pediatrician Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson states “these tend to be obvious” but aren’t normally the first that come to mind.

If your toddler is sharing a room for the first time they will need time to adjust and it could result in disturbed sleep. If you put a TV in their room, your toddler could stay up watching it if left on. You have a tough time sleeping if it’s too hot or too cold, and your child will feel the same way. Check these off before you look for the next culprit.

Reestablish the bedtime routine

Toddlers thrive on routine whether they like it or not. If you took a trip, had a crazy weekend, or did anything to throw that routine off, your toddler will let you know in the form of disturbed sleep. Reintroduce the whole routine. Whatever it was before the fussiness, start doing it again.

Your toddler isn’t tired

A toddler should sleep between 11 and 14 hours a day according to the National Sleep Foundation in the USA. If your toddler is sleeping later in the morning and taking longer naps, they might be ready to party in the middle of the night.

Naps are amazing and give you a much-needed break. But if your toddler doesn’t want to go to bed at night, or keeps waking up, they are fighting it because they aren’t tired. If your toddler is still on two naps, cut one out.

A toddler boy crying standing in his crib.

Canines can be cranky

Teething at any age is not fun. Between one to two years old, your little one will get their canines and molars. If you remember how fun it was when your baby cut their first tooth, it’s going to be like that, but worse.

Those teeth are a whole lot more painful when they come in. But you know once the teeth come in your toddler will turn back into a normal terror instead of also being a night terror.

Night terrors

You might still wake up to Tim Curry’s clown from IT chasing you. Imagine how a toddler feels when they have a nightmare! But toddlers can also have night terrors. If your toddler is experiencing one or the other (hopefully not both), they won’t be able to get a proper night’s sleep.

If your toddler has night terrors too frequently for your liking and it is seriously affecting their sleep, you should talk with their pediatrician.

Toddler regression

If you thought sleep regression was only for babies, we are sorry to report it happens with toddlers, too. With big milestones, your toddler will be thrown off their sleep game. If your little bundle has hit big steps like walking or talking, you can know to be on the lookout for some sleepless nights to come.

A little boy not wanting to go to sleep.

Whatever the reason is, keep getting back to bed boring

Nicky Barker, a pediatric sleep specialist, says that any part of putting your toddler back to bed “needs to be made as boring as possible,” where you should “keep dialogue to a minimum and maintain a really low-key speech.”

The less of a deal you make of them getting up the more they’ll come to realize that it won’t turn into playtime or a big deal. They’ll learn they are better off going right back to bed. If nothing works and you can’t figure out how to get your child to stay asleep, don’t give up hope. You can talk with the pediatrician and let them know everything you’ve tried so they can see if there’s something else at play.

But these reasons for sleep interruption and methods for sleep training are going to be what gets you through the next year or so. You might need to try a combination of these or go through the full list. One (or a few) should stop those middle-of-the-night screams for you. It’s natural for a toddler to wake up once or twice. But if you find yourself making a spot for yourself in your toddler’s room to get them to stay in there and sleep, give this list a try before you move into their room.

Editors' Recommendations

How to plan your toddler’s feeding schedule to keep them happy
Here are the benefits of a toddler feeding schedule
Toddler girl eating fruit in the kitchen

As children grow from babyhood to toddlerhood, a lot of things change, including how, what, and when they eat! It's an exciting time introducing your toddler to new foods, textures, and flavors, but they can also be a picky bunch. If we left it up to toddlers to create their own feeding schedule, they'd probably munch on Goldfish crackers, string cheese, and not much else.

A toddler's feeding schedule is important because not only does it help keep the growing little one from getting "hangry," but it also helps ensure they're getting the nutrients they need for their physical and mental development. Keeping toddlers on any kind of schedule isn't always easy, but having a toddler feeding schedule is a great way to keep your little one happy and healthy. Of course, every child is different, but here are some easy ways to create a toddler feeding schedule that will work for your family.

Read more
Which of your teen’s behavior problems should concern you and which are normal
Normal teenage behavior includes good and bad attitudes. We break down which are which
A group of diverse teenagers smiling

Anyone who has teens knows it's not an easy road. Parents of young ones think they have it made once the terrible 2s and threenager stages are done. But, oh, are parents of teens in for a treat. But what every parent needs to know is that your teen acting out is as normal now as it was when they were 2 or 3. We're here to help you break down negative teen behaviors that are perfectly normal and ones that are a cause for concern, so you can understand normal teen behavior versus teen behavior problems.

Behaviors that are natural for a teen
All they want to do is sleep
It feels like your teen is lazy because they can't get up before noon. But really, a teen's sleep schedule is unique to them just like a baby or toddler's is.

Read more
Why do toddlers have weird eating habits? The mystery is solved
Why you shouldn't worry about your toddler's weird eating habits
Toddler girl pouring ketchup on spaghetti

If you've noticed your child has developed some rather odd eating habits, you don't necessarily need to worry. After all, toddlers love to keep their parents on their toes. Once you've fully stocked your pantry or refrigerator with a certain food that your toddler has been devouring nonstop, they will suddenly develop an aversion to said food and absolutely refuse to eat it. Toddlerhood is a lot of fun.

Picky and weird eating habits seem to be borne out of toddlerhood, and the reasons aren't that surprising. As toddlers develop, they quickly learn that what, when, and how they eat are the few things they actually have control over (or they think they do).

Read more