Waking during the night is perfectly normal for toddlers. While they don’t need to wake every couple of hours to feed like they did when they were newborn babies, there are several things that can cause toddlers to waken at night. Some of these can be controlled somewhat, and others are just part of being a toddler. Waking up briefly during the night is normal, even for adults. Usually, we simply fall back to sleep. Some things that can cause your toddler to start waking at night are:
Separation anxiety. If your toddler suddenly realizes that she is alone, especially if she is accustomed to being in the same room with a parent all the time, she may become upset. Experts disagree about the best way to handle this. Some feel you should go comfort your toddler right away, others believe you should allow them to cry it out a bit first. It’s up to you, but being consistent with what you do.
Your toddler may be too warm or too cold. If your toddler is unable to get back to sleep because she is uncomfortable, adjust the amount and heaviness of blankets used. Often toddlers toss and turn in their sleep at this age, and may kick blankets off during the night. If he wakes up crying, comfort him, cover him back up, and he’ll go back to sleep more often than not. If he needs you to, stay and rub his back or speak soothingly or sing to him.
Establish routines for when she wakes up during the night. These will generally be simpler than those for putting her to bed in the first place, but the goal is the same. Your toddler will come to understand that when we’re doing these things, it’s not time to get up yet.
Your toddler might become upset because he realizes that he doesn’t have a favorite comfort item, such as a teddy bear or a favorite blanket. Usually, the item is not far away, simply kicked to the side during sleep. If your child has a favorite comfort item, make sure he has it so he can get back to sleep.
Night terrors. If your child is waking up scared, she may be having bad dreams. This is not terribly uncommon in children this age, who are being exposed to the world in new (and potentially scary) ways every day. If your toddler seems to be having bad dreams, or screams without actually waking up, the best thing to do is usually to let it run its course. Don’t wake her up, shake her, or even say her name. This can be tough on parents, but waking your child fully could upset her more. Make sure she is getting plenty of sleep, even giving her an extra nap if she need it, and if she continues having night terrors for a prolonged period of time, consult your pediatrician.