Sleeping Problems in Toddlers

Sleeping problems could be very disturbing for the whole family. Having a child who is not sleeping properly during the night  could grow into a larger problem for everyone if left untreated. As hopeless as the situation may seem, it can be completely manageable if the proper steps are taken. Following are some common problems that toddlers experience as well as ways to treat them.

Night Terrors

Night terrors are also known as pavor nocturnas. This condition makes the child wake up abruptly in the middle of his or her sleep with their eyes wide open, thrashing about as if trying to escape something.  Although they may be sitting upright, they are usually still asleep and in the middle of a night terror. These terrors are different than nightmares, of which children simply wake up feeling frightened. Night terrors occur between the ages of 3 and 8, mostly caused by stress or fever. The best thing you can do is simply comfort your child until consolable and lay them back to sleep. Developing a regular sleep schedule can also help, as well as creating a calming sleep environment in which they feel safe. If these night terrors occur often, make sure to mention it to your child’s pediatrician.

Sleep-talking and Sleepwalking

Sleep-talking and sleepwalking are common in children, occurring more in boys than in girls. This situation is not noticed in toddlers only: it is also seen in older children as well. These disorders could make the child sit up with open eyes in the middle of the night, talking or walking around. But, the child is not able to see even though their eyes are open. It is not easy to understand the speech of the child at these times. Sleepwalking is more dangerous than sleep-talking because of the risk of falling or hurting someone. Some children have even been known to walk out the front door while asleep. In order to prevent this, make sure your windows and doors are locked and that stairs are blocked by a gate. Never shake your child if they are sleepwalking: simply guide them back to bed.


Bed-wetting is very common in toddlers. They are used to urinating in diapers and have bladders that are just learning to hold urine for an extended amount of time. Toddlers need to learn to recognize the feeling of a full bladder, thus learning to wake themselves to use the bathroom. Try to make your child use the bathroom before bedtime and avoid drinking liquids at least one hour before bed. Also, make sure the pathway to the bathroom is well-lit, as sometimes it is a fear of the dark that prevents a child from getting up to use the bathroom, so they go back to sleep and wet themselves. Eventually, they should outgrow it, but make sure to talk to your child’s pediatrician if not.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea affects the child’s ability to breathe properly. The most common type of sleep apnea seen in toddlers is Obstructive Sleep Apnea, in which the airways become blocked, affecting the child’s ability to receive oxygen. Enlarged tonsils are a common culprit. If your toddler is commonly coughing or choking at night, waking frequently, and sweating excessively, they may have sleep apnea. Talk to your child’s pediatrician who will be able to diagnose the disease and provide a solution, such as removal of the tonsils.

Secondary Sleep Problems

Secondary sleep problems are more common than the primary ones mentioned above. Night awakenings and bedtime resistance are secondary sleeping problems, but are easily cured by creating a routine bedtime and comforting environment.

A toddler with disruptive sleep patterns creates a parent with disruptive sleep patterns. Recognizing and treating sleep disorders can create a peaceful night for both of you.

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