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From the time he was born, my son has never been a good sleeper, but he's never been as bad as he is now and I am really losing my patience with him. I've tried everything and nothing seems to work. At one stage I thought I'd started to crack it: He'd go to bed by himself, watch tv, and fall asleep. He would only wake up in the night couple of times (if that) wanting more juice, which I didn't mind and every now and again he would sleep through.

Then the problems started getting worse: He would wake up 7 times a night for more juice. But now he's just waking up for the sake of waking up and wants me to be there with him. I can be in his room half an hour to an hour at a time sometimes before he even drops back to sleep as he'll fight it. As soon as I go back to bed he wakes up again and gets out of bed.

I'm getting no sleep whatsoever at the minute as I have to keep getting up and put him back into bed and stand at the doorway only for him to not fall back asleep and just whinge and fidget. I've tried getting back in bed, talking to him from the bedroom, telling him I'm there, and that I'm staying in my bed so he needs to stay in his, but he just gets out and opens my door and stands there crying. I'll try ignoring him hoping he would go back in his bed when he eventually realises I'm not getting out of bed, but that's not getting him anywhere and now he's started falling asleep on my bedroom floor. I'm really at my wits end and feel like I'm banging my head against a brick wall. Any help would be much appreciated.

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Do not give him food or drink during the night, offer him water. I know what you're going through, I've had problems getting my children to sleep over the years –  user4784 Nov 19 '13 at 21:20
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2 Answers

Kids go through developmental stage changes and when they do their sleep and eating patterns often change with the child. At two, this is very likely at least a part of what is going on.

Having said that, you did have a couple of things going on that might have been counter-productive to your child's sleep as well so even though they are no longer part of the equation, I'll mention them for future viewers:

Things to Get Rid of

  • The TV is not your friend! Screen time right before sleep actually makes the sleep less deep. As Torben explains in a comment below, the light prevents the production of melatonin which helps in reaching a deeper sleep. Depending on the type of TV show being watched, it also is not necessarily calming either.
  • Sugary Drinks or really anything other than water are generally a bad idea except during waking hours for a lot of reasons including dental health, nutritional health and deepness of sleep.

Things to Do

In addition to just knowing this may be a passing phase due to a developmental leap that either just occured or is about to, it may also be helpful to know that kids have to learn to self-sooth in order to return to sleep. This is easier for some kids than others, but having a regular routine helps kick the reaction in gear. It is very similar to how a basketball player will have a routine for free throws or a tennis star a routine for serves.

  • Try to help your child with developing this by having a regular night time routine at bedtime. The faster they get into that deeper sleep, the less likely you are to have middle of the night wakings that get them fully awake (after a little while of getting that internal clock reset). If you have a routine for bedtime, you can help them figure out a shortened version for falling back asleep. For example, fluffing blankets and petting a stuffed animal at the very end of your routine and just before sleep at bedtime might be repeatable for a two year old in the middle of the night trying to get himself back to sleep. This question on SE is very similar to yours but focuses more on the bedtime aspect of sleep than the middle - of - the night wakings. The answers offer a lot of input about how to go about a bedtime routine that helps "prep" kids for sleepiness and you may find some helpful hints in the answers to it.

There are times when no matter what you did at bedtime, kids will wake up and may have a hard time falling back to sleep on their own (even if they are good self-soothers). My daughter was the same way - sleep has always just been a tough thing for her. She sleeps well when snuggled up with me though. Here is what we did in regard to the developmental stuff and just helping her through it. Some kids just need a lot more reassurances in the night. We made the contrary to most decision to let her come in and just snuggle in our bed for a little while to help her body get rested and back into the habit of sleeping. Then we helped her transition back into staying in her own bed by:

  • Setting her up with a nice big body pillow she could snuggle and hold if she woke up.
  • Providing her with a low-light night-light and glow in the dark stars on her cieling.
  • Setting a rule about when she could come in and giving her a digital clock with a sign on top that showed what the clock would look like when she was allowed to come in. Since she often came in at about 1:00. We told her she had to wait till the clock said 2:00. This way, she wasn't made to feel like she just wasn't wanted all of a sudden - it was really about learning how to fall asleep on her own. When she was doing well and sleeping until close to two, we switched it and said 3:00. Then we moved it to 4:00, then 5:00 (wich is generally about when we start getting up anyway).

It worked really well for us. She felt supported and loved and got the cuddle, sleep and reassurances she needed, while we did too. She still had occasional spurts where we had to go through it all again (like at three, when she would wake up to go to the bathroom and couldn't get herself back to sleep, or when she was sick, or at five when she started schooling and her bedtime had changed) but it never takes very long to get our bed back - and each time she's needed a little sleep "work" how long it took to get back on track has gotten shorter.

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I can give you a little science for the "no TV" concept -- even apart from the noise and tempo and action it delivers: Melatonin makes you sleepy and makes your sleep deeper and better, but the brain is geared to not produce it while it's daylight outside. The thing is that the body can't tell the difference between sunlight and artificial light, and it's particularly sensitive to blue wavelengths that are abundant in TV/computer screens. Software like f.lux can take the "blue" out of the screen but that doesn't work for TV's. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 19 '13 at 15:34
    
thank you for your answers but he doesn't watch tv when he goes to bed no more but when he did he managed to sleep a lot better like I say thought id managed to slowly crack his sleeping but he now wont go to bed wants to go sleep on the settee. he also doesn't wake up for juice any more its just for me to be there but when I am he some times takes a while to drop back off as if hes fighting it. when I do walk out and go back to bed he gets out constant and ill wake up in the morning and find him asleep on my bedroom floor. –  rachael2809 Nov 22 '13 at 10:30
    
I was under the impression that it's better for toddlers to get in to a deeper sleep later in the night rather than early on? Doesn't getting in to deep sleep early mean that they are over tired and they are more likely to wake up during the night or earlier than any sane person would like? Please correct me if I'm wrong, I'm just browsing for some suggestions to aid my little girls sleep issues. –  Tanner Feb 17 at 20:36
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I have no experience in that matter yet, but here's an idea: maybe, instead of juice, which may be sour or too sugary and cause some belly/activity trouble, try Lemon balm herbal tea - it has mild calming properties, it could help your child to sleep through the night, or at least wake up less. I personally like the taste, it's especially good with some honey.

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Is it alright for toddler to drink tea? When I was growing up, tea and coffee were forbidden to us till we reached 12. –  abhi Nov 27 '13 at 18:02
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@abhi consult your pediatrician. Some herbal teas are commonly used, like mint (helps an upset stomach) or camomile (helps with colds). There are commercially available teas (or drinks) for infants with lemon balm, though I am uncertain what is the minimal age to drink it. But it's in months, not in years. Anyway, as I said, consult your pediatrician next time you see him. It'll ease your mind. –  Dariusz Nov 28 '13 at 22:11
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