We’ve all been there – it’s time for sleep but our little one has other ideas. Bedtime battles could be your toddler having a huge tantrum because they just don’t want to go to bed, it could be your baby crying everytime you leave the room or it could be your little one running wild and refusing to settle down.

We all experience this now and again, but if you’re experiencing bedtime battles on a regular, or even daily basis, one of these top five factors could be at play:

Your little one is overtired

The more tired our little ones are, the more wired they get. This could present itself as your little one seeming so wide awake you actually question if they really are tired. But they are. They’re most likely experiencing what we sleep consultants call a ‘second wind’. It basically means, your little one has passed the point of being tired and become overtired. Their brains are telling them they need to stay awake, and a hormone called cortisol is released. Cortisol fights against melatonin (the sleepy hormone) and results in your little one becoming hyperactive just at the point you want them to settle down for bed.

The best way to avoid this is to ensure your little one is getting the right amount of day sleep they need and that bedtime is at a reasonable hour. If your baby or toddler has been awake for quite a long time since their last nap, you might want to look at an early bedtime.

Or if your child no longer naps, consider letting them have an early night for a while so they can catch up on some sleep.

Your little one is undertired

The complete opposite of overtiredness, but with many similarities. But how can you tell the difference?

The main way is to know whether your child is getting enough sleep. If they’ve napped well during the day, have been sleeping well at night (so you’ve ruled out overtiredness) or if their last nap wasn’t that long ago, they may just not be ready for sleep yet.

To prevent this, keep an eye on the period of time between the last nap of the day and bedtime (otherwise known as your little one’s wakeful window). If it’s too short, your little one hasn’t had enough time to feel sleepy again before bed.

If you’re not sure what your little one’s wakeful windows look like, then download my free sleep needs chart.

Your little one isn’t able to self-settle yet

You might find that your little one seems happy and relaxed through their bedtime routine but when you come to leave the room they won’t stop crying or calling for you. Or perhaps you have to rock your little one to sleep, but as they get older this is taking longer and longer and you’re finding your evenings quickly disappearing.

This is most likely caused by the fact that your little one isn’t able to self-settle. After the age of 18 weeks, and certainly by six months old, babies and children do have the ability to get themselves off to sleep – but the caveat is, they need to know how.

If your little one has always been rocked, cuddled or fed to sleep they may just not have had the chance to try. If your child has strong sleep associations like this, it won’t always be a simple question of one day expecting them to be able to fall asleep independently. They will need your support to learn how to do it. And this is where sleep coaching comes in.

If this is something you feel could be beneficial for both you and your little one, then you can book your free discovery call with me to have a chat about this.

Your little one may be experiencing a fear or anxiety

For toddlers and older children, fears and anxieties may be at play, especially if bedtime battles are a relatively new thing for you. They could be scared of the dark (this fear can randomly develop in young children), they could have had a nightmare a few nights ago and be unsettled by it still or they could have seen something on TV that’s upset them.

Try talking to your little one to find out what’s upsetting them. If they’re able to explain, you can work on alleviating their fear.

Separation anxiety could also be at play. Some children experience this more strongly than others and it can go up and down. If there are changes in your little one’s life, like potty training for example, they could be feeling more anxious than normal and want extra comfort and support.

Your little one doesn’t have a routine

If your little one doesn’t have a set bedtime then they don’t know when to feel tired. It might sound silly, but one of the best tips for sleeping well (both adults and children) is to have a set bedtime and wake up time each day. It helps our internal body clock know when to feel tired and when to feel awake.

Introduce a consistent bedtime routine so your little one knows what to expect each night. If your child is happily playing and then suddenly you just announce it’s bedtime, you’ll probably see some resistance. Whereas a calming bedtime routine bridges the gap between playtime and bedtime and lets your little one know sleep is on the way.

Check out my previous blog on bedtime routines for more info, and consider setting a specific bedtime for your little one each night.

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