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5 Reasons for Baby & Toddler Bedtime Battles!

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Anyone else have that feeling during the sleep routine? The realisation that comes as soon as little one begins their fight and you just know the daily battle has commenced?

If you have ruled out discomforts, hunger and any medical reasons.. then here are the 5 Most Common Reasons for fighting Bedtime.

  1. Overtiredness

If wake windows are too lengthy, then this could be the initial cause for overtiredness. When there is too much of a gap between sleep, they pass the tired stage and the cortisol kicks in giving them a "second wind". So this can be one of the biggest reasons for bedtime battles.

2. Toddler Boundaries

This could either be lack of boundaries - or pushing them! Boundaries are great at bedtime, not to be in a strict sense but also helps in their expectations of what bedtime looks like. Rewards charts/routine charts are great for this too! We've all been there with our toddlers of "one more story" being asked and we say no 100 times to then eventually do the story - this is intermittent reinforcement and their loophole out of the boundaries! And it is ok to stick with these. You can find out more in the Toddler Sleep Challenges Course here.

3. Too Much Stimulation

Is there too much stimulation before bedtime? Screens, devices, stimulating programmes can make a difference for some kids and makes it harder for them to wind down. Is there play time embedded into your routine? You could shift this to before the routine to help! See point 4 for times!

4. Too Many Changes During Routine/Settle

The ideal maximum length of a bedtime routine sits at around 30/40 minutes. So not to overstimulate with an extensive routine. This also helps keep the routine very rhythmic and it acts as a cue for sleep. If there a lot of changes during the routine, this could bring on a bedtime battle!

5. Unable to Self Settle

This follows on from point no.3! The settle to sleep in itself could also likely be the start of a sleep fight. It could be they resist the transition to their sleep space, or looking for something specific to help them sleep and when changes happen they start to fight this. If this is your biggest bedtime battle then a gentle transition plan may be needed. Starting from where you are now and gentle encouragement to help build on that transition to the cot.

6. Undertiredness

If naps are too close together, or too close to bedtime or there is too much day sleep - this will directly impact bedtime and the battles! Are they nearing a nap transition? Or do they need wake windows extended to help? Keep track of their day sleep and look at age appropriate wake windows on the e-Book to see where they may need adjusted.

mother and toddler sleeping on bed with window light showing
Mum & Toddler Sleeping

There can be many reasons why our little one's fight bedtime - and hand on heart - consistent, predictable routines and settle approaches do make a big difference.

When there is consistency, our little ones know we are true to our word in our rhythms and boundaries. By keeping the way in which we help and encourage sleep consistent, means little ones know what happens every single time and builds a secure attachment.

Some babies are more time-sensitive than others, so work their ideal times that suit them. Pushing bedtime later may actually make things worse or bring in overtiredness. An earlier, calm and consistent bedtime is usually key - but once you nail the routines and settles then you can also work in what their ideal time is.

How to know what their ideal time is? I recommend keeping a diary. If they are self settling in around 10 minutes - this is your perfect settle time. If nearer 20 minutes, it could be undertiredness. If settling in minutes, chances are they are crashing with tiredness! Like adults, we need a little bit of time for our minds and bodies to get into a good sleep.

Final tip - staying calm is also so important. Little ones feel our stresses, and if we need to escape for 10 seconds for some deep breaths and start again - that's ok! We are human too, and a little one who is fighting the sleep you know they need can be really tough.

Analyse where you can make tweaks and take the steps with confidence, it will come together!

If you want to chat through your battles - you can book your free Discovery Call here.

Jade x

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