8 steps to end toddler bedtime battles

If your bedtime war stories can fill a novel, you’ll want to try these handy toddler sleep tips!

Bedtime is a special time for most families ― the evening lights are dim and cosy, junior enjoys a warm bath before settling down to a calming bedtime story…or not!

Sleep struggles, especially when it comes to your terrible tots, are common. “At this age, they are more playful and curious, and of course, would rather play than sleep, if their parents have not prioritised sleep in their lives,” explains sleep expert and parenting coach Zoe Chu of SG Supernanny.

Chu adds that toddlers want power and attention, so if “parents do not set the rules right from the start, they will start exerting their power and kick up a fuss when it comes to bedtime”. Bedtime is also when they can get all your attention ― it is still attention even though it might be negative.

Toddlers who go to bed late will miss out on the growth hormones that are released at between 10pm and 2am when they should be in deep sleep.

Louisa Yap, mum to Glenn, 2, and Adam, 3, spends almost two hours from 8pm in her sons’ bedroom every evening trying to get them to sleep.

“We will start with a story, and then more stories, then chit chat for a while, but they never seem to be tired. They will ask for water, some toys and even the TV sometimes,” Yap says. “They used to be able to sleep by 8pm, but as they get older, their bedtime has become later. They end up only falling asleep when they are fully exhausted,” she laments.

Yap adds that she is happy to spend time with her boys in the evening, but it eats into the time she gets to spend with her husband if it’s drawn out. “We miss the days when we could wind down with a glass of wine in front of the TV after the boys have gone to bed. These days, we are so tired after they sleep that we just fall asleep, too!”

Besides frustrating parents, a prolonged bedtime routine can also mean insufficient sleep for junior, which can have a negative impact on your child’s growth. Chu notes that toddlers who turn in late will miss out on the growth hormones that are released at between 10pm and 2am when they should be in deep sleep.

Chu points out, “It will affect their healthy brain development, as well as physical and emotional development.” In addition, an overtired child is often cranky, irritable, clingy and may “show symptoms of ADHD, as sleep deprivation can cause the child to be hyperactive and act wired”.

Insufficient sleep has also been linked to a higher risk of obesity, according to a study by the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health.

Achieve hassle-free bedtime daily with these tips:

1. Be present
Your sweetie may be stalling at bedtime simply because he misses you as he hasn’t seen you the entire day. Whether it’s cuddles, a chat, or bonding over a story, give your child your undivided attention as bedtime is the best time to focus on your child (or children if you have more than one). Don’t bring your phone into the room, or think about the chores you’ll need to finish once he’s asleep. Just enjoy the time together, and both of you will feel more relaxed.

2. Have a routine
A regular and consistent bedtime routine allows your child to understand and expect bedtime. Let junior have a warm drink, brush his teeth or take a warm bath, then snuggle up for a story. “Once the bedtime routine is done, it’s lights off, and nothing they do will get them out of bed and into the living room. Parents need to be firm about this. Always make bedtime non-negotiable,” Chu advises.

More strategies ― hint, watch what he eats ― to win that bedtime war with your little one…next!