Everyone used to tell me, “wait until the baby is born, you’ll never sleep”, or tips like “sleep when the baby sleeps”. I can say both ring pretty true but it wasn’t as dramatic as I thought it was going to be. The newborn sleep stage wasn’t too bad, maybe I got lucky. Meanwhile, it was the 8 and 9 month sleep regression that is emphasized most in my mind. Until now, once that 2 – 3 year old sleep routine has been jumbled, it is a problem.
We’re all tired, nobody is sleeping, and well, the days are overwhelmed with extra tantrums of tired little boys and mama. I found myself dedicated to solving this issue or at least trying to so I can say I did something. These are the 13 tips we’ve put together and urge you to take a peek at if you’re going through the ever exciting, fun filled nights of toddler sleep regression.
- White Noise Machine
As someone who is in their 30’s and still sleeps with a fan on, even in the dead of winter, for that perfect white-noise sound, I can only promote the idea of a noise machine. The silent night is erie to even me, so I can only imagine the true fears of a toddler in their dark room.
During this stage of development they are beginning to recognize “scary” noises at night, animals that come out or the sounds of windy trees. And according to my 3 and 4 year old the howling of “wolves”. Which then leads them to their very creative imagination of these creatures somehow coming through the window and into their bedroom.
This is my absolute favorite for many reasons. The White Noise Machine for Sleeping – VanSmaGo Sleep Sound Machine & Night Light for Baby Kid off Amazon! I had tried many other brands but they broke within a month or didn’t do all of the things I needed. I even grabbed an expensive one but I returned it since I didn’t feel like it was worth it for our needs.
The VanSaGo Sleep Sound Machine literally has 28 different sounds. This is the most I’ve seen, we don’t use them all, but hey it’s a nice option to have. I love that it is both a sound and night light. The night light has two types, and is highly customizable. It can be dimmed to several variations with also 12 different colors and combinations. This also can be set on a timer of 30, 60, 90 minutes or continuous – which is what we do now since they need the light all throughout the night.
- Low watt night light
During my research on night lights I found that the best colors to use are red or yellow tones during sleep. Also, ensuring the light is low wattage and not placed too closely to your child’s face. This is another reason why I really like VanSaGo Sleep Sound Machine because of its customizable capabilities. You can pick any tone, color or brightness that suits your child’s.
However, if you do not need something that fancy you can absolutely find other products. Another is Cloud b Twilight Ladybug Classic Night Light Soother. The only issue I found with this option is my son waking up in the dark once it shuts off after the 45 minute timer, and he then comes into my room. But if you aren’t having this issue, it’s great to help ease into sleep. The timer automatically moves through red, green and blue tones for 45 minutes.
- Cooler temp
Introducing a cooler sleeping environment allows for easier production of sleep hormones like melatonin. To ensure a deeper sleep, your room should be below 70 degrees F, ideally between 60 to 68 degrees F, in order to encourage your body’s natural melatonin. I’ve always been one to crank up the heat, I’m always cold. I even use 2 pairs of socks most of the time! But, during the night we’ve switched to 65 degrees and I certainly notice a difference in my own sleep quality.
There are certain fabrics and even mattresses that aid in keeping you cooler. We switched our 3 and 4 year old to twin beds when they were 2 and 3 because they kept crawling into each other cribs and it was another nightmare. We went with Classic Brands Cool Gel Memory Foam 6-Inch Mattress, the gel naturally pulls heat away from the body during sleep.
There is a toddler size option as well, Moonlight Slumber Cooling Memory Foam Dual Firmness Crib Mattress, the toddler side is the cooler gel foam while the baby side is waterproof. We used these with both our boys.
I like to think of my own sleep experience when it comes to my children, would I enjoy sleeping comfortable and cool or sweating hot? I think a mattress especially during toddler years when they are moving from crib to bed is important to get a good night’s rest. However if my kiddo wasn’t having trouble and things were well for bedtime I wouldn’t feel the need to go above the norm. These are all tips to look at if you’re already having a hard time. I certainly know of children who can sleep in ANY condition, the hardwood floor even, haha. I however haven’t been so lucky in the toddler years.
- Comfortable bedding
An issue we always ran into with the boys was loosing their blankets during the night. They’d attempt to cover back up, usually just getting their head. I’d find their little bodies curled up half-way poking out exposed to the cold with their head hidden underneath.
I ended up coming across bedding for bunk beds that ended up being a solution to this problem. Our boys share a super cute, low rise bunk bed but making them is a pain in the butt. We got these as a gift from their Nonni (our italian grandma) to ensure they were covered and cozy all night long, they are Beddy’s, a women owned company of two Mom’s!
I won’t deny they are a bit pricey, but you can pay in installments. They are awesome and totally worth it! For starters, it’s a sheet, soft minky blanket liner (or cotton), and comforter all in one, with zippers that goes around both sides, to help ensure your little one is cozy and not losing their covers. And if you really think about all the pieces and their cost separate it isn’t too much more.
It also takes the hassle out of making any bed, especially bunk beds by 10x, even my 3 and 4 year old can do it. That is a major Mom win! They have super cute patterns, and designs and are made of great quality materials. They are far from flimsy and certainly will last a long time.
I never worry that the heat is too low, plus kids seem to like that snuggly feeling and if not you can unzip each side for more movement. They range in size from toddler to king! Totally worth the splurge.
When opting for regular bedding, try to stick with sheets that are 100% cotton. It’s breathable and won’t cause overheating or sweating like most microfiber bedding. The same for polyester, as it may be cheaper in the long run if your kid is sensitive to heat I’d skip and hop over to the cotton side.
- Appropriate sleepwear
I know you’re all aware of those fleece footie PJ’s that look really comfortable and cute until their laying in bed under the blankets and sweating their little butt off. I mean, who sleeps with socks on? I certainly don’t. I actually believe it’s a fact that sleeping without socks is better for you.
Anyways, my kids both got two pairs for Christmas recently and after two times of putting them on, I felt hot just getting them ready, they woke up and took their jammies off, sleeping in their pull-up instead.
Light, breathable fabrics are best with a looser fit. Stick to nightgowns and cotton T-shirts with a light short, or loose pants. This is all in reference to an older toddler, I think the footie jammies are a good alternative for when a blanket isn’t safe, I’d just ensure the material is breathable. I used to pack up the summer jammies but we’ve switched to keeping that lighter option all year. My 3 year old can barely stand pants at bedtime, he usually wakes up in just his shirt.
6.) Get the sillies out.
Jump around, dance around, run around, play for the last bit of the night. This is usually after dinner when my husband and I are cleaning up. This typically involves all 3 boys ages 9, 4, and 3 years old, even their big sister joins in playing “bad guys” verse police-man, puppy dogs or some invented karate moves – whatever it is, it’s something they’ve created on their own that is usually pretty exhausting to watch.
7.) Bedtime routine
We have a set bedtime routine for all our kids ranging in ages 3 to 10 years old and even on the weekends for the most part, we stick to it. The younger boys are top priority for sleep schedules because if not, we have Mr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde rooming with us.
It’s a pretty basic routine starting after dinner or around 6/6:30 PM depending on if it is bath night, we don’t do baths every night if so my boys would have sand paper as skin.
- Cup of milk
- Possible “treat” if necessary (I’ll get into this next section.)
- Go potty
- Wash our face and hands
- Brush teeth
- Lotion and/or Lavender oil on the feet (I’ll also get into this)
- Book, or TV show (depends on the night and everyone’s behavior)
- Bed is between 7:30 PM and 8:30 PM typically
Tip: Encourage independence (tiring them out and winding down)
We guide the boys, 3 and 4 years old, to follow their routine independently as much as they can. We currently have two ways of doing so, when they are doing well, I allow the Timo App on their tablet which walks them through the steps and rewards them stars, they also feel really grown up using a fun electronic device.
However sometimes that isn’t the best choice, so we have a checklist with images for them to follow. This keeps them in the motion of it’s bedtime soon, and also they feel good about doing their big boy checklist. We follow along with them either way as much as they need. However I’m big on trying first alone.
It works fabulous for the older two kids as well, less nagging and reminders all I have to say is, “Night time checklist.” We have morning, and afternoon ones too but that’s for another post.
8.) Foods that aid in sleep
I didn’t really think of this one until someone mentioned, you wouldn’t drink a cup of coffee before bed, right? I decided, well no, so why am I offering dessert right before bedtime, filled with a crap ton of sugar? I decided I couldn’t completely remove these treats as it saves my sanity on many nights.
But, I could switch it up a bit, especially for the little guys. These are just a few toddler approved choices, salmon is great too, however I don’t think my boys would appreciate me swapping their treat for a piece of fatty omega’s.
Almonds – Since my boys aren’t chomping down on almonds, at times I do a half almond milk mixed with regular cows milk. Almonds are high in melatonin and magnesium, two sleep promoting minerals.
Milk (Warm) – Contains four sleep-promoting compounds: tryptophan, calcium, vitamin D, and melatonin.
Cherries – A shockingly delicious “treat” alternative, a little vanilla yogurt and some cherries, dollop with some sugar free whipped cream for effect.
According to agricultural research studies, cherries are one of the only natural food sources of melatonin. It is recommended to eat an hour before bedtime.
Bananas – Bananas contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps your body to produce serotonin that aids your body to regulate sleep. Bananas are a great source of potassium and magnesium, which allow your body’s muscles to relax.
Sliced bananas sprinkled with cinnamon
and a dollop of vanilla yogurt or whipped cream (sugar free)
You can also add melted peanut butter!!
It is also a sleep promoting food filled with tryptophan,
and makes it extra yummy.
9.) Monster spray
This option either really helps or makes things worse, it is entirely up to you to decide based on your child’s personality. My youngest who is 3 is majorly sensitive to the idea of monsters or anything scary in the night. We must deny the existence altogether and reassure him that scary Halloween stuff is all pretend.
I’ve done this DIY spray with my 4 year old, who actually enjoys a good scare, and he loves the idea of his blue night time magic spray. We’ve added a few drops of lavender and a little blue coloring, I do suggest if there is light color fabric in the room stick with no color. He can handle the idea of this keeping out all the scaries. My 3 year old not so much, this was a confirmation “they were real” so it was a toss up on whether to keep or not. Now I use it with my older son, otherwise all that halloween scariness stuff is pretend.
10.) Lavender Oil/Lotion
Both my boys, especially my youngest, have such dry skin so I try to do Lavender Lotion before bed, plus I find it to be super relaxing and a good way to wind them down. But the magic is really the lavender oil roll we use directly on the bottom of their feet right as they lay down for a book or TV show.
I’m sure by now, especially with young children you’re familiar with the effects of lavender oil. There are several studies showing lavender oil can improve sleep quality, including in people with insomnia, depression, and anxiety.
11.) Alternative sleep option
For me, sharing a bed with my 3 year old is extremely difficult. He moves all night long and is truly a little incubator. So, we had to come up with an alternative for the times he just wouldn’t stay in his bed.
We made a small little spot on the floor in our room with some couch cushions. This is a choice after we’ve attempted to move him back and forth a few times already. This may be counter productive but after the 3rd time I need to sleep in order to function the following day. I’m sure you can relate, fortunately this is something that is less frequent since implemented some of our tips.
12.) Routine and consistency
If the little one gets up, calmly and quietly, go back to their bed, tuck them in and reassure them it’s alright and super safe in their comfy bed. I usually lay down for a few minutes (unless I fall asleep, oops) and then sneak back out. The nights I don’t have to do the half-awake-walk back to his room more than once – it’s a good night.
13.) Little rewards for improvement.
Stickers! It’s all about the stickers. Cars, trains, planes, dogs, cats, you name it. When they stay in their bed all night we add a sticker the the Sleeping Chart and one to keep for good luck. I feel like it’s a good way to reward good behavior without sugar and spending too much money. You can search on Amazon and find 1000+ stickers for $8 dollars!
I wish you all the best of luck. Trust and believe this was no magic fix but with consistency we are getting there! Sending all the sleepy vibes your way.