If he's used to snuggling with you, he may not think he can sleep alone.

How to Break Bad Sleep Cycles in Toddlers

by Kathryn Hatter

A wide-awake toddler in the middle of the night can set the whole family on edge. When your little one has a habit of waking, you might adopt the habit of sitting with her to help her get back to sleep. At this rate, it won’t take long before you’re a walking zombie. The good news is that you can make changes to correct your toddler’s bad sleep cycles. Expend a little effort now so everyone will soon be snoozing happily.

Make a comfy, cozy bed for your little one with soft bedding. Include a special stuffed toy or doll for a sleeping companion. Do what you can to make the room dark and quiet, too, to help your toddler sleep. This means using light-blocking window shades and a white noise machine to cancel out household activities, if necessary.

Run your toddler around during the day, giving him plenty of fresh air and exercise. The more activity a little one gets during the day, the better sleep cycles he’ll have at night because he’s sleeping soundly.

Give your toddler a nap in the afternoon to prevent her from getting overtired. Although you might think that the more tired your toddler is at bedtime, the better she’ll sleep, this isn’t necessarily true. In fact, kids often have a harder time getting to sleep and staying asleep if they’re overtired, according to DisneyFamily.com. Paying attention to a nap schedule can break a negative sleep cycle.

Create a positive bedtime routine that eases your toddler into sleep mode. This routine can be anything that fits your family – maybe a bath, a snack, brushing teeth and then a story right before tucking in. Don’t underestimate the power of a bedtime snack, either. Toddlers have little tummies and they often need a little something before turning in to get them through the entire night.

Tuck your little one into bed and make sure he’s all snug and cozy. Give him a special toy or “lovey” and then lots of hugs and kisses. You might linger a little to make sure he’s drifting off. If your toddler resists being tucked in, tell him, “It’s bedtime now. It’s time for sleep. You need to stay in your bed to go night-night.”

Attend to your toddler if she resists sleep and gets upset at bedtime. This might be her reaction if you’ve been rocking or nursing her to sleep since babyhood. It’s fine to sit in your little one’s room near her until she falls asleep, but you should insist that she stay in bed – even if she’s upset. Eventually, she’ll give up and crash.

Expect a late-night visit from your toddler when his sleep cycle rises to the point where he wakes in his bed. He may think that he needs you to help him get back to sleep. When this happens, carry him back to his bed and tell him, “It’s still time for sleep. You need to stay in your bed to go night-night.” He’ll probably cry and fuss, but stay firm and insist that he lay in his bed to go back to sleep.

Items you will need

  • Light-blocking window shades
  • White noise machine


  • Gear yourself up for about a week of tough going when you’re working to break a toddler’s bad sleep cycle. Once you get over the hump and your little one learns that she doesn’t need you, the process should go better.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.

Photo Credits

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