Q: My sister tells me I am too uptight about getting my toddler to sleep every night. She allows her three-year-old to stay up late, sleep in the next day and take naps if he is tired. She does not have him on any sleep routine. What do you think of this?
A: When you talk to sleep experts, they will tell you that a consistent sleep routine is important for a toddler. Sleep actually helps a baby’s brain grow! A study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that inconsistent sleep may contribute to obesity later in life. The study also noted that napping does not replace the benefits of nighttime sleep. According to the CDC, three to five-year-olds need 11-13 hours of nighttime sleep. So, yes, a toddler needs a regular bedtime. Since a lack of sleep can create problems opt for the regular bedtime routine and be patience. A toddler may need help to wind down by reading a book, taking a warm bath or doing something quiet before bedtime. Of course, parents need to avoid chocolate, sodas and even juices before bedtime. A warm cup of milk is calming. Then, make sure there is a consistent wake up time as well, as oversleeping and prolonged napping can create sleep problems. The atmosphere should be quiet and peaceful. Some toddlers like a little music to relax them as well. Even small things like keeping the room temperature comfortable and the house quiet can aid a good night’s sleep. And you are setting habits for the future. Most of us do best with a regular sleep routine as well.
Resource: Take Charge of Your Child’s Sleep: The All-in-One Resource for Solving Sleep Problems in Kids and Teens by Owens and Midell (Marlowe & Company, 2005.