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6 Common Reasons for a Toddler Waking Up in the Night

nighttime awakenings

It can be challenging to parent toddlers who wake up in the middle of the night. Parents sometimes grow groggy-eyed and annoyed when their children wake up repeatedly during the night. While every child is different, there are a few universal causes that help to explain why kids frequently wake up. We will delve deeper into six typical causes of sudden awakening at night in toddlers and offer some practical solutions to help your little one sleep soundly through the night.

Also Read: 10 Sleep hacks for students to fall asleep faster

1. Disrupted Sleep Patterns:

One of the primary reasons for frequent awakening at night awakening in toddlers is disrupted sleep patterns. Toddlers have a variety of sleep phases at night, including light sleep and profound sleep. They might have more frequent awakening at night if their sleep patterns are not well-established. Maintain a consistent sleeping schedule, even on the weekends, to synchronise your toddler’s body clock. By practising a calming bedtime routine, such as reading a bedtime story or humming a song, your kid can learn that it is time to relax and get ready for bed. Their likelihood of sleeping through the night can be increased by making their sleeping environment relaxing and pleasant.  Ensure their room is not too warm or too cold and consider using white noise machines to mask any external disturbances.

2. Nightmares and Night Terrors:

Vivid nightmares and night terrors can also lead to sudden awakenings during the night. Nightmares occur during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, and they can leave your child feeling frightened and anxious. Night terrors, on the other hand, happen during non-REM sleep and may involve your little one screaming or thrashing. Comforting your toddler after a nightmare and creating a calm sleep environment can ease their fear and reduce the likelihood of night awakenings. Make sure their sleeping area is cosy and secure, and consider using a nightlight to alleviate their fear of the dark. Talking about happy and positive things before bedtime may also help reduce nightmares. Keep in mind that dreams are often eliminated as part of regular emotional growth. Give your child the assurance that you are there to look out for and soothe them.

3. Teething Troubles:

Teething is a natural developmental stage that toddlers go through, and it can cause discomfort and pain. The discomfort from teething may lead to your child causes sudden awakening at night seeking comfort and reassurance. Providing your toddler with a chilled teething ring or offering a gentle massage on their gums before bedtime may alleviate their discomfort and promote better sleep. Additionally, consult with your paediatrician to determine if over-the-counter pain relief options are suitable for your child. A teething-safe crib toy can offer some distraction and relief during sleep. Remember to maintain good oral hygiene during this period to prevent any additional discomfort from dental issues. Gentle care and understanding during this time can go a long way in easing your toddler’s discomfort.

4. Sleep Association:

Toddlers often develop sleep associations, which are certain cues or rituals they rely on to fall asleep, such as rocking, nursing, or using a pacifier. If they wake up during the night and don’t find the same associations, they may struggle to fall back asleep independently. Encouraging your toddler to self-soothe and teaching them to fall asleep without external aids can reduce nighttime awakenings. Gradually wean them off sleep associations by introducing a lovey or comfort item that they can associate with sleep. Be kind and patient as this procedure may take some time and may encounter some hiccups. To teach children to fall asleep on their own, consistency is essential. Offer praise and encouragement when they successfully put themselves back to sleep.

Also Read: Importance of Enough Sleep in Middle and High School Students

5. Overtiredness:

Ironically, an overtired toddler may struggle to stay asleep throughout the night. Overly sleepy toddlers emit stress hormones that might disrupt their sleep pattern and cause more frequent awakenings. Making sure your child sleeps often during the day and following age-appropriate sleep routines will help avoid overtiredness and improve their quality of nighttime sleep. Keep an eye on their sleepy cues and ensure they have a consistent sleep routine, even during weekends. Creating a relaxing pre-bedtime routine can signal to their body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Avoid over stimulating activities close to bedtime and keep the sleep environment calm and peaceful. Dim the lights an hour before bedtime to signal to your toddler’s body that it’s time to start winding down.

6. Developmental Milestones:

As toddlers grow and develop, they experience significant milestones, such as learning to walk or talk. These newfound skills can sometimes lead to night awakening as they practise their new abilities or feel excited about their achievements. Reassurance and patience during these developmental leaps can help ease any anxieties and improve their overall sleep quality. Create a safe sleep environment that encourages exploration during the day, so your toddler feels confident and secure when trying out their new skills. During the night, offer comfort and reassurance without making the waking time too stimulating, so they can quickly return to sleep. As your child acclimates to these new skills, their sleep patterns should stabilise once again.

Also Read: How TV Can Affect Your Sleep


Nighttime awakenings in toddlers are a common part of their developmental journey. By understanding the possible causes of sudden awakening at night, parents can take proactive steps to help their little ones sleep more soundly. Establishing a consistent bedtime routine, addressing teething discomfort, and promoting independent sleep can significantly reduce night awakenings. A suitable sleep environment for your kid may also be created by providing comfort and assurance during night terrors or nightmares and making sure your toddler gets enough sleep. The best remedies for your toddler’s sleep habits may require some trial and error because every child is different. You can assist your child in getting a good night’s sleep and a cheerful, rested awakening each morning with some time, patience, and consistency. As you go on this path with your growing kid, keep in mind that learning to accommodate their changing sleep requirements is a normal part of their growth. With your love and care, they will also learn to sleep more soundly as they become older.  Being attentive to their individual needs and offering a nurturing and secure environment will foster healthy sleep habits that will benefit them for years to come.

At EuroSchool, we understand the importance of a good night’s sleep for toddlers and the challenges that nighttime awakenings can bring to parents. There are six common reasons for a toddler waking up in the night that we frequently encounter. Disrupted sleep patterns, often caused by inconsistent bedtimes, can lead to frequent awakenings. Nightmares and night terrors may cause fear and anxiety, interrupting their sleep. Teething troubles can result in discomfort and seeking comfort from parents. Sleep associations, such as pacifiers or rocking, can make it difficult for toddlers to self-soothe when they wake up at night. Overtiredness can lead to restless sleep and frequent awakenings. Lastly, developmental milestones can cause excitement or anxiety, making it challenging for toddlers to settle back to sleep. We offer support and practical tips to help parents create a conducive sleep environment and establish healthy sleep habits for their little ones.

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