Toddler Fighting Sleep

Updated on June 18, 2009
J.A. asks from Newton, KS
6 answers

Ok Mamas, I am at my wits end. My 18 month old daughter has done a complete 180 on her sleep schedule. I am a school teacher, and recently started my summer vacation. We did have a well established night routine that went like clock work. 7:30 bath, brush teeth, milk, and a story. She was usually asleep before I would finish the first story and would not wake up until 7:30 the next morning. My husband works second shift so he did have her during the day when I was in school. Since he was in charge of nap time he resorted to daily car rides at 10:30 then laying her in bed. I did not agree, but he was the one home with her, not me. A few weeks before school was out we had to transition her into a toddler bed, because she was crawling out of her crib. It was an adjustment at first, but after a few weeks things we going good. Then summer started, and I was determined to break her of the car ride and was having some success. I just switched her sippy cup back to a bottle at nap time, assuming that I could easily transition her back to the sippy after a few weeks. Ok fast forward to today.. And everything has gone completely CRAZY. This girl is fighting me tooth and nail at bedtime, naptime and sometimes during the night too! She will not go to sleep when the sun is up or if anyone in the house is up. The routine that use to work wonders is now doing the exact opposite. The second we sit in the chair to rock she takes that as her cue to be as squirmy and silly as can be. I think she wants to get in her last bit of fun before she calls it a day. I can NOT hold her or get her to sit still at ALL. She is up out of the chair, in her bed, playing with my hair, playing with her toes ETC ETC ETC. It is literally taking hours to get her to sleep each and every day. I also know that she is not getting enough sleep. She is never asleep before 9:30 and is up by 6:00 the next morning. I feel that I have rocked and chased and rocked some more …with very little success. I greatly appreciate any and all suggestions!

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answers from St. Louis on

OK, here's my concern: usually children do not drop down to just one nap until 18-24 months. The fact that your daughter has been taking a 10:30 nap, car-enforced, says a lot. Typically that one nap should be early afternoon- to break up the day. I realize this schedule has worked for you in the past....but it has set the stage for your current issues.

Her battles with you are actually nothing new. She's been battling her daddy all this time, & he has addressed the issue by soothing her to sleep in the car. This is your opportunity to set the limits, the schedule, & work on behavior modification...rules & consequences, & to teach her how to self-soothe. If you do it now, then you all will be much happier in the long run. If she's physically battling you now, imagine how much harder it's going to be when she's bigger & older & much louder!

When you look at the #s, sleeping from 9:30pm - 6am is really not that bad. She's getting 8 1/2 hours sleep. Typically, children her age sleep 10-12 hours...but my oldest child (from 18 months to 27 months) slept only 9 hours with a 45 minute nap. His pediatrician said that "bright" children require less sleep & told me to relax! Easy for him to say...hard for me to deal with!!

So, here's some ?s: how much physical activity is she getting? Does she spend time with other children to help wear out that energy? Do you have a structured day - breakfast, playtime, activity time, lunch, story time, naptime, snack time, playtime before dinner, etc.??? My daycare kids all know our routine & repeat it singsong style to the younger children. My fav part is when they say, "first comes lunchtime, then naptime, then snack time, then Mommy time"!!

To aid in the getting the energy out, check with your local library, gym, church, or Parents as Teachers. In fact, Parents as Teachers is an excellent resource for solving issues. They will have media resources to assist you- like the Love & Logic series or the 1-2-3 Method for Discipline. & that's pretty much what your child needs to learn: that her parents are the boss & she is the child who has to obey her parents. Do it now & you'll find Peace!

Ooops, one more thought: on a daily basis, without fail, I use dim rooms & soft music for naptime. I use the same routine day in/day out. A fav blankie, a quiet tuck-in, & I'm out of the room.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on


First of all, I want to tell you that you are not alone. My 22 month old daughter's sleep schedule is not the best!! Her naps are sporadic during the day (becuase some days she's at home with daddy and others she's at daycare) but she still naps fairly well most of the time. Night time is different. She goes to bed easily, but is up A LOT during the night!! From 12-17 months, she would want to go right into her bed and fall fast asleep and usually not wake up. Then it turned around and she wanted to be rocked again. Here's what I've tried and did and didn't work....

1. She has a binky (only at bed and naptime) so I tried telling her she can only have it in her bed. So she would want to go right into her bed, but then she would want me to rock her and could not fall asleep or calm down in my lap without it. Result: I rock her occasionally although she prefers her bed and she has a binky.

2. She wakes up 1-4 times a night (usually when she loses the darn binky) and I pop it back in, rub her back for a minute and she's asleep. Sometimes, I'm too tired to fight her so she comes in bed with us. Result: She sleeps wonderfully with us!!! However, I think she knows if she fights us long enough, we'll give in and let her sleep with us!

3. I read that maybe it was too dark in her room and she's getting scared when she wakes up so I tried a night light. But she would not fall asleep because she's never had one! Result: No night light and she falls asleep better.

4. She's been in a toddler bed for about 2 months now and just realizing she can get out. I think that's part of what's happening when she gets up. Result: She's wakes up more because I think she knows she can get out of bed.

5. She doesn't like to go to bed when it's light (even though she'll nap when it's light). Result: I put her to bed later!!

For your daughter, I think her naptime is being thrown off because she's alwyas had it a set way. This may be the root cause. Maybe try lying down with her (I just lay halfway on her bed) or put her in your bed for a nap (for the time being since you are off this summer). For bedtime, instead of rocking her, tell her she is a big girl and only gets books read to her in bed. Then turn out the light and sit in her room and rub her back. See if that works!! If it's dark in her room, she won't be able to see or play with her toes or your hair. Also, get a fan to lull her to sleep (if you don't have one!).

Good luck and remember "This too shall pass!"



answers from St. Louis on


Are you a Super Nanny fan? I was lucky enough to never have any of these kinds of issues back when my children were little. (just wait in a few years you'll be asking why they sleep so much!)

On Super Nanny, Jo instructs the parents to keep putting them back into bed. After the first time, there is no talking, just putting into bed. I was skeptical the first time I saw her do this, but it seems it is a common problem with little ones, and after watching her do this many times over, I would recommend this. It always makes the parent exhausted but it does always work.

Good Luck and hang in there!




answers from St. Louis on

My daughter went through this phase too. Here's what worked for us - I start off by warning her that it's bedtime in 10 minutes, then 5 minutes and so on. When it's time for bed I take some books in her room (ones that she picks out) and sit in her bed and read a couple to her. I read to her only if she stays in her bed. If she starts getting antsy I remind her that we're reading a story and if she can't be still we can't finish it. Once I'm done reading I leave the books with her in her bed and turn on a small light, just bright enough that she can see the books. I tell her that she can look at her books as long as she stays in bed. In no time, she sleeping - no arguments, no tears. There have only been a few nights where she hasn't stayed in bed. On these nights we would just carry her back to her bed as suggested by the other post. On other nights we can hear her get out of bed to get a toy, but she always takes it right back to her bed and plays very quietly with it until she falls asleep.

I also used to worry that she wasn't getting enough sleep but I've seen that she is perfectly fine with the amount she is getting. She does very well at daycare and home. She has no learning or behavior issues so I can only assume she doesn't need as much sleep as the 'experts' say she does.

Good luck!



answers from Kansas City on

put a gate up at her bedroom door and just put her in her room for naptime. She may not sleep but she will realize that this is quiet time away from mommy and daddy and that she will either get bored and fall asleep or she can play quietly and give you a break. Just make sure her room is baby proofed and safe. My son quit taking naps at 18 months and he usually sat on his toddler bed looking at books or playing with a few toys quietly. Occasionally he would get tired and take a nap but if he didn't he was in his room for what used to be his naptime and I did my normal routine of chores while he had his quiet time. He didn't seem to mind and it gave him some independent time without always having to be at our feet. I did this with all 3 of our kids and none of them were clingy. We had a baby monitor and was fun to listen to them play and use their imaginations. He did sleep 11-12 hours at night though so he got plenty of sleep. He always was one that couldn't fall asleep fast and is a reader so when he started reading on his own he always had to read a while before he fell asleep and he still does at age 16.
Just figure out what works for your family, there is no rule that toddlers have to take a nap and every child is different. My daughter took naps until she was 4 and youngest son took naps until he was 2.



answers from St. Louis on

We ended up putting our daughter back in the crib with one of those crib tents, and we had to let her cry it out all over again. It was miserable for a few days, but it ended up working very well for us. We transitioned her back into a toddler bed about 4 months after she turned two, when she was potty trained. We left the crib in her room until we were sure, and whenever we had any problems with her getting out of bed or fighting us to go to sleep we would just ask her if she would rather sleep in the crib again. She did NOT want to do that, so it worked for us.