Baby Sleep! 4 Solutions to Common Bedtime Problems

Every night, the bedtime routine for my child begins really well but somewhere after many stories, some unreasonable requests and a lot of wriggling later, it spirals into insanity. I have to fight monsters who appear only when it's time to close the eyes. I have to oblige to several requests for water until I know I'm being tricked and then have to put on a stern face. There are times when I have to lay still and lifeless for hours, like a mummy, hoping my son will fall asleep only to creep out later to find him wide awake. Then there are nights when he will cry and get clingy simply because he wants no one else but ME to hold on to, to pull my face, pinch my eyelids, basically feel my presence as he falls asleep.
Sleeptime is one of the biggest mysteries that can never be easily solved. After several unpleasant experiences, I've come to understand a few common toddler sleep problems that can cause a lot of anxiety. If like me, you sometimes struggle with your child's sleep problems then these solutions can certainly ease your worries and help both you and your child get a peaceful night's rest.

Problem 1. Excuses and not wanting to sleep
My son is very enthusiastic to get to bed every night but as soon as I announce that it's time to finally sleep, the excuses begin. It’s like he senses the urgency for me to get him to fall asleep quickly so that he can start his tantrums. He'll want to get out of bed to bring some toy, drink water, ask to close the door... the requests become unreasonable sometimes. Although I follow a strict bedtime routine, I occasionally have a difficult time getting him to stay in bed mostly because he wants to be certain of my presence, not just in the room but right next to him.
Solution: At this age, your child does not want to miss out on anything exciting and sleep is most likely the last thing in mind. I have found that verbalising the bedtime routine helps him understand what to expect. Getting him to drink water before he gets into bed, giving him a choice to take an extra toy and allowing him to take charge of the routine (close doors, cover himself, chase away the monsters) has helped not only build a sense of security and expectation but encourage independence- something that might seem trivial but will mean the world to your child. Reassuring him that I'm always going to be beside him has made him a little less clingy. He also takes a stuffed toy (his teddy bear) to sleep and this has had aided in creating a secure feeling.

Problem 2. Taking long to fall asleep
There are some days my son will take hours to fall asleep while I get impatient thinking of all the incomplete and pending chores waiting for me. This usually escalates into a power struggle with me pleading until I quite literally 'yell' for him to go to bed.
Solution: The only solution to this problem is 'Routine'. Afternoon naps should not be too long, with a gap of at least six hours between nap and bedtime. Once I had the time sorted, it took just 15 minutes for him to fall asleep. A huge relief and a happy bedtime for both of us. I follow the 2-hour afternoon nap routine from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm so there's a large gap for him to play and tire himself. Bedtime is strictly set for no later than 9 pm and although there are some unavoidable nights, this schedule has kept both of us happy and well rested.

Problem 3. Monsters and nightmares 
No matter how much you try to limit exposure, monsters and nightmares will become a common occurrence between 2 -3 years. In my case, before the monsters arrived, my son began having nightmares and would often wake up in the night crying and inconsolable. 
Solution: It's important not to dismiss a child's fears about monsters but rather prove to them that what they are scared of actually might not be so fearful after all. Every night my son would hear some noises by the window and close his eyes in fear. It turned out to be pigeons resting on the window and once I showed him the source of the noises, he was content and never worried after that. I can tell that it means a lot to him when I acknowledge and try to conquer his fear of monsters together with him and play games like 'Shoo Monster, Shoo'.

Problem 4. Overstimulation
I always notice that any slight change in bedtime routine always has drastic consequences. If he misses the afternoon nap or wakes too early, he becomes overtired and cranky. Similarly, in cases when we have a late night, he becomes overstimulated and refuses to fall asleep quickly.
Solution: As frustrating as this may seem the only solution is to stay calm during these outbursts and not let the tantrums upset you. Recently we traveled over night and the next couple of days were a nightmare. Missed naps and a lot of running around contributed to overstimulation and my son would start to scream and cry inconsolably just before bed. It took a lot of determination not to lose my cool and focus instead on reassuring him while explaining to him why exactly he was feeling upset.
Your baby’s sleep problems will elude you at times and when you find a solution to one, another one is certain to crop up. As a mom, and knowing how difficult it is to be patient sometimes, I feel that reassurance, hugs, kisses and plenty of cuddles go a long way in giving your child a sense of comfort and ease during bedtime. This is just one of the many phases that won't last long so take time today and promise yourself that you'll do your best to remain calm, composed yet firm as you brace yourself for the sleep battles ahead.
Go chase those Monsters and Happy Parenting!