Last updated on May 26th, 2024

Author Avatar

Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

Learn More

Toddler Won’t Sleep at Night? Your Tough Sleep Question, Answered

A mom of five is having a sleep problem with her youngest. This mom’s toddler won’t sleep at night, and she’s tried it all:

“Our 2-year-old is the youngest of five and hands down the worst sleeper in the world ever. In his life, he’s only slept 10 consecutive hours at night, 12 times over a 24-month period. We have followed all of the typical rules; baby whisperer, baby wise, cry it out…everything. But our baby seems to not be able to hit that restful sleep stage. He’s very active while sleeping, tossing and turning all the time. He dropped from two naps to one at just 9 months old.

He now naps from 1 to 3:30 p.m. every day which is fine and has an 8:00 p.m. bedtime. He wants to spend time with daddy and siblings who don’t go to bed until 8:30, 9pm. So, he’s in this room talking, yelling, and saying, ‘Mommy out,’ for 30 minutes before the house quiets down. Please help me. I’m exhausted as my husband can’t hear him wake up between two and four times nightly, so the burden is completely on me. Thanks so much.”

It’s great to hear that he’s still napping, especially since he went down to one nap at just 9 months, and that his bedtime sounds pretty reasonable. He should be getting about 11 hours of sleep at night. He should be starting his day between 6:00am and 7:00am, and your response to his night waking and bedtime struggles is something you’ll need to address.

Some suggestions that will help this mom are:

  • Rule out health problems
  • White noise
  • Consistent responses

toddler won't sleep

Talk to Your Pediatrician

It sounds like he’s really never been a good sleeper, and tosses and turns all of the time. Basically a super active kid. Talk with your pediatrician to make sure that he doesn’t have signs for obstructive sleep apnea. One of the top three signs is tossing and turning or very, very restless sleeping.

He also would need a few other symptoms for a diagnosis, of course. Sweating during sleep is common, as are snoring, mouth breathing, and a child who is frequently congested during the day. With children his age, it could be caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids.

So, go back to your doctor. Make sure that part of your son’s long history of not sleeping well isn’t because of an underlying medical problem.

Is your toddler resisting sleep?

We can tell you why and how to fix it in Gentle Sleep Solutions - an online sleep training e-Course!

Get Some Sleep
toddler won't sleep
When the toddler won’t sleep, try moving the rest of the family bedtime routine farther from where the toddler needs to fall asleep.

Use White Noise

Depending on your family routine, you could get a white noise machine and put it in his room by whatever door or wall the sound comes through. You could also try to see if you can get the rest of the family to do their bedtime routine in another part of the house that’s further away. That might not be realistic, but you could try.

Learn about bedtime routines for toddlers:
Read: Bedtime Routine For Toddlers — Soothing And Predictable

Turn up his white noise machine just until everybody is finally asleep and see if that helps a little bit. Otherwise you just have to power through. Tell him everyone is going to sleep, and try to keep the other siblings as quiet as possible.

Toddler won’t sleep? Get more help:
Read: The 2-Year Sleep Regression – How to Get Your Child Back to Sleep

Respond Consistently

You need to have a consistent response to all of his night waking. Look at what you do after that 30 minutes of crying while he’s going to bed; are you consistent or are you teaching him that “If I continue to yell at you, you will eventually get me out.”

Author: Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

My name is Kim West, and I’m the mother of two beautiful girls, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 21 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. My sleep journey began when I started experimenting with gently shaping my daughter’s sleep by not following the conventional wisdom at the time. After having success (and then more success with my second daughter!), I began helping family and friends and my step-by-step method spread like wildfire, exactly like an excellent night of sleep for a tired parent should!