A child who has previously been a good sleeper can often start experiencing sleep issues in their second year. This is extremely common and hardly surprising when you look at all the developmental changes that go on at this age.
Between 1 and 2 most children will begin to walk or be on the move and some will be able to talk or say a few words. With these new found skills also comes a growing sense of independence. New skills learnt by your toddler will often cause night wakings as they want to practice their new skills in the middle of the night. For instance if your child has just learnt to pull themselves up to standing they may well wake frequently at night to pull themselves up in their cot. Often though they do not know how to put themselves back down again so you may find yourself having to go in and lie your child back down. This normally only lasts a few nights so be patient and keep night time interaction to a minimum.
At this age you are most likely doing more social activities with your toddler ie playgroups, music classes etc. Your child is now able to understand more and more conversation (even if they’re not talking yet) and all these social interactions in the day mean lots of processing at night. So much of what they learn is consolidated at night when they are sleeping and all the processing of the day happens. Getting a good night sleep after all this activity is key to positive learning.
Another big change at this age that effects sleep is the transition from 2 naps to 1 which happens in most children between 1 and 2 years. For most this is not a smooth overnight transition but one that goes on for several months and can effect daily routines and night sleep. Some days your child will still need 2 naps but then may not go to sleep at night till late and other days they will only have 1 nap but then are ready to crash out by early evening. Initially whilst they get used to only having 1 nap they may get very tired in the late afternoon so I recommend an earlier bedtime than normal to prevent over tiredness and therefore more night wake ups.
The most important development at this age is the understanding of cause and effect, meaning that your child begins to understand the effect of particular actions. They can begin to predict what might happen if they do a particular thing. This can effect sleep as your child can very quickly begin to expect certain things when they wake. For example – if they always wake at 1 am and you go straight to them and cuddle them back to sleep they are now old enough to understand and expect this to happen every time they wake so you can see how habits can be formed very quickly at this age. If your child is still waking in the night and always expects either a cuddle/rock/stroke/feed/bottle/water etc then it is a good time to look at alternative techniques to settle your child back to sleep. At this age I would often recommend a gradual retreat technique. This is a gentle and gradual approach to teach your child to sleep independently.
For more information or advice on baby and child sleep related issues please go to www.savvysleepcoach.co.uk or call Savita on 07833 762321 for a free 15 minute consultation.