Toddler Screaming at Bedtime? Here’s Why

“Why is my toddler screaming at bedtime?” you ask while throwing your hands in the air. Exasperated, you start to negotiate. The more you plead, the more your kiddo refuses to sleep. Before you know it, your youngster’s turned into a bedtime banshee.

There is hope. There’s a myriad of reasons your toddler is fighting to stay up. Let’s unpack them all so you can finally get your kid to catch some much-needed zzzs with the help of Snorble® - more on that later.

Why sleep is essential for kids

Before we explore why your toddler becomes a sniffling sniper when it’s time to hit the hay, let’s look into why kids need sleep - adults do too but for children, sleep is key for their development.

Because slumbertime plays a critical role in learning, emotional regulation, memory, and brain structure development, establishing a healthy sleep pattern early in life is crucial to your child’s well-being. As your child grows from infant to toddler, they’ll experience dramatic developmental changes. This is a good thing. As their brains develop, their cognitive and psychological skills do as well.

How much sleep does a toddler need?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), toddlers should get 11-14 hours over a 24-hour period. This includes naps. A toddler who doesn’t get the required amount of sleep over 24 hours will probably turn into a wailing wonder when you try and get them ready for bed.

Now that we know how much sleep youngsters need and why they need it, let’s delve into why your toddler yelps their little lungs off at bedtime and how Snorble can help.

Why do toddlers scream at bedtime?

The way most toddlers scream when it’s time for bed, you’d think there’s something in the air that turns them into yelping yowlers. However, there are numerous reasons why your kiddo tests their lung capacity every night.

They’re not feeling well

Toddlers may not be able to express themselves fully when it comes to illness. An itchy throat could feel like the end of the world to them. The same goes for colds, ear infections, congestion, teething, or anything else that will make your youngster feel pain or discomfort.

Ask your child how they’re feeling before bed. Be specific about what could be hurting them. You can even make a game out of it. Ask them something like, “Does your ear hurt?” and ask them to point to their ear. This also helps them learn about their bodies and what each part does.

They’re afraid of the dark

According to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, 73% of kids ages 4-12 have nighttime fears. Whether it’s being scared of the dark or being alone in a pitch-black room, kids can’t help it if they’re terrified at night. Even if your toddler is younger than four-years-old, these fears can start early because they’ve seen something on TV about a monster or have an older sibling that is giving them misleading info about the dark.

A nightlight may aid with this issue but remember that fear of the dark is normal in children and they generally grow out of it sooner or later.

Snorble’s ambient light can provide an alternative to a nightlight. Plus, having Snorble in your child’s bedroom can reassure them that the dark isn’t a threat.

They’re too hot or too cold

The temperature in your child’s bedroom can turn them into a screeching soul if it’s too hot or too cold. Moreover, your toddler may be screaming at bedtime because they don’t feel as snug as a bug in a rug.

Ask your kiddo if their pajamas are too tight or too loose or if their blankets are too cumbersome. In terms of temperature, cooler temperatures are better for sleeping. Our core body temperature must drop so we can fall asleep, so setting their bedroom’s temp to 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.

They’re itchy

When we’re itchy, our bodies will stop at nothing to make sure we scratch. For an adult, being itchy is easy to fix. For a child, it sucks. Some children experience sensory issues from certain materials. Your toddler could have an aversion to cotton or an allergy to the materials their sheets and pajamas are made of.

If you’ve tried swapping out their pajamas and sheets with hypoallergenic fabrics and your toddler is still screaming at bedtime, this could be a case of touch sensitivity and you should contact your pediatrician for more information.

They want to be independent

As your toddler becomes more aware of the world around them, they’ll be eager to explore it without you. This can lead to them being more assertive in what they want. Some toddlers are more reactive to challenges than others and may be more insistent on having some kind of independence when it comes to going to bed.

To meet your child in the middle, let them choose the book for storytime and pick out their own PJs to give them a sense of autonomy. In the end, you’re still in charge but they’ll feel independent knowing that you trust them to make decisions on their own when necessary.

They have FOMO

This FOMO (fear of missing out) is all about you, the parent/caregiver. When your toddler is upset at bedtime, it could be because they’ve developed separation anxiety. This generally occurs from around 8-12 months but can sometimes last throughout toddlerhood. Separation anxiety is normal and eventually, your kiddo will understand that when you leave the room, you’re not leaving them forever.

To turn your toddler from the tantrum tiger into a peacefully slumbering kitty cat, allow them to have a security object with them. This could be a blanket, stuffed animal - anything that makes them feel connected to you even when you’re not there.

They don’t have a bedtime routine

A bedtime routine helps kids fall asleep and wake up at the same time. By creating a consistent set of repetitive nighttime activities you’re giving your child a sense of security, an easier time to fall asleep, and they’ll be more likely to stay asleep. Another NIH study shows us that the benefits of bedtime routines can carry on throughout childhood and even into adulthood.

Besides improving sleep quality, bedtime routines equip your kiddo with self-care activities like teeth brushing, foster parent/child bonding, improve mood, and lay the groundwork for positive cognitive development. Furthermore, children who did not follow a bedtime routine are more likely to develop long-term sleep problems (insomnia, apnea) and experience weight issues throughout their adolescence (obesity, disordered eating).

Not to toot our own horn but this is where Snorble really shines. Our Bedtime Features allow you to create a custom bedtime routine for your child that will not only help them enter dreamland peacefully but set them up with healthy habits they can carry with them as they age.

They’re not tired

An overstimulated kid is a kid who may not be able to fall asleep. If your kiddo has done physical activity right before bed or has slept too much during nap time, they probably won’t feel tired. Additionally, as your child gains more independence they may not want their nap. Do not eliminate naps until you’re certain your toddler doesn’t need one.

They’ve spent too much time in front of screens

We’re not talking about screen doors here, we’re talking about phones, tablets, laptops, and other blue-light emitting devices. Blue light disrupts melatonin production which is the hormone that tells our body what to do with darkness. We should be sleepy when it’s dark yet if we spend 1-2 hours before bed playing games on our phones, our brain will be seriously confused. Is it night? Is it day? Should I be producing melatonin or not?

Due to our custom screen technology, Snorble uses little to no blue light and can live in your child’s bedroom without messing with their melatonin production.

Silencing your little lamb so they can sleep

Now that you have a better understanding of why your toddler is screaming at bedtime, you can hopefully get them to stop yelling and catch the train to sleepland and have pleasant dreams. Soon enough your little lamb will be counting sheep instead of shouting until the cows come home.

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Photo by Zahra Amiri on Unsplash