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2yo sleep. What are we doing wrong?

(41 Posts)
Washimal Fri 02-Oct-20 16:07:40

Posting in desperation as I'm at the end of my rope. DS has just turned 2. For the past 3-4 months he's been waking up for the day at around 4am and nothing will get him back to sleep. He also wakes up 1-2 times a night more nights than not. He often wakes 6yo DD up which I feel bad about as she really likes her sleep and is already tired now she's back at school after such a long break.
DS is very active and full on from the moment he wakes up so it's not like we can even stick cbeebies on and doze on the sofa...he's ready to play and into everything as soon as he wakes up!
DH and I both work FT in very demanding jobs and the daily 4am starts are really starting to get to us. Although I've always loved my job I'm feeling very overwhelmed by it all at the moment, which I'm sure is due to sleep deprivation. Tiredness is impacting on our relationship too as we're both snappy and irritable.

DS goes to bed at 7pm and is usually asleep by 7.30pm. We have tried putting him down later, it made no difference to his wake up time. He has a solid bedtime routine and always has from a tiny baby. He naps for 1.30-2 hours in the day. He really likes his nap and will often start asking to go to bed as soon as he's had lunch. We have tried shortening the nap and even skipping it altogether. Again, this made no difference to his wake up time. We have tried giving him a substantial snack before bed in case he was waking due to hunger. He enjoyed it, but it made no difference to his wake up time.

What are we doing wrong?? Has anyone had a child who went through a phase of waking this early and if so when did it stop?

Any advice on how to address the early waking or even just how to cope with the tiredness would be gratefully received.

OP’s posts: |
Ohalrightthen Fri 02-Oct-20 16:12:06

How long did you try cutting the nap for? IME it can take a good week or two to make a difference.

He's probably a pretty good age to start a groclock, could you get one and teach him he has to stay in bed til it goes green or whatever? Chances are he'll go back to sleep if it's boring.

Opengateclosegate Fri 02-Oct-20 16:15:52

Honestly it’s the nap

SoUtterlyGroundDown Fri 02-Oct-20 16:19:00

Agreeing with the above. When this happened with DD2 it took dropping the nap to sort, but it took a week or two to have an effect. Then she started sleeping 7-7, and still does 3 years later!

GenevaMaybe Fri 02-Oct-20 16:20:10

What happens when he wakes up at 4am? Where does he sleep?

BlueRaincoat1 Fri 02-Oct-20 16:25:59

When you say nothing will get him back to sleep, what do you mean? My ds wasn't as bad as constant 4am starts, but it was pretty brutal for a long time. I spent so many early mornings by his cot in the dark saying 'its still night time, time to go back to sleep;, leaving the room, going back etc etc. it was awful, but I simply refuse to get up at 4 or 5am. It is not time to get up, so dont get up. I appreciate if you tried that for 2 months and it didn't work, that this isn't helpful advice.

He now (he's recently turned 2) sleeps from 7.45/8pm to around 6.45/7am most nights, with a 1.5 hr nap in the day

wimbler Fri 02-Oct-20 16:32:36

Have you tried putting him to bed 30 mins earlier? At this point you've got nothing to lose so probably worth a try! If that doesn't work, I'd start reducing the nap length to 1.5 hours, then by 15 mins every few days to see if that helps.

Pearsapiece Fri 02-Oct-20 16:40:46

We had exactly this.
Cut the nap down to 1 hr max. At 4am, go in and say "it's still night time" (ds needed a nappy change at this point) then leave the room. When we starts crying or gets up, go back in after a few mins, lie him back down and reiterate that it's night time now. Repeat. When you go in the 4th time, don't say anything, just lie back down and leave. After a few days it works.
Do the reduced nap for at least a week to see a result.
It's all a phase but this worked with ds who has just turned 2.
Also look at what he's wearing to bed. My ds was getting cold at night so we put him in long sleeves and trousers.

Washimal Fri 02-Oct-20 19:24:17

To answer some questions

He sleeps in a cot in his own room.

When he started waking at 4 we tried sitting next to him, shushing him, telling him "it's still night time etc" He refuses to even lie down. If we try to make him lie down that leads to screaming. When we tried this it just resulted in the screaming waking our daughter up. We did the putting him back down, leaving for a few minutes and coming back again thing a pp mentioned for a few days but again it resulted in lots of screaming DD waking up and not being able to get back to sleep. I feel terrible sending her to school when she's been awake since 4am so we didn't feel persevering with that beyond a few days was an option.

We tried a gro-clock but it made no difference, I'm not sure if he's old enough to really understand it although it worked well for DD when she was that age.

We've tried taking him into our bed to see if he'd go back to sleep with us but that didn't work. He won't stay in our bed as he's wide awake. So now we take it in turns to get up with him.

We tried dropping the nap for a week. Before that we tired shortening it to an hour for one week. Neither made a difference but people seem pretty convinced it's the nap that's the problem so maybe we just didn't persevere for long enough? I don't understand it though as I know plenty of toddlers his age who sleep for a couple of hours in the day and still sleep well at night.

OP’s posts: |
Washimal Fri 02-Oct-20 19:26:25

I don't think he's cold. His room is probably the warmest in the house. He still sleeps in a gro-bag as he tries to climb out of the cot without it.

OP’s posts: |
SoUtterlyGroundDown Fri 02-Oct-20 19:26:30

I don't understand it though as I know plenty of toddlers his age who sleep for a couple of hours in the day and still sleep well at night

Having had 2 children who dropped their nap at 20 months and one who at 22 months is looking like he’s heading the same way, it just comes down to them all being different. My best friend’s DC napped until he was 4! I was pretty envious.

Washimal Fri 02-Oct-20 20:08:30

I don't mind him dropping his nap, I'm all for it in fact if it means he will sleep past 5am! But the week we tried it was a nightmare. He's adorable but one of those kids you really can't turn your back on for a second so starting the day at 4am and dealing with that level of crazy toddler energy until 7pm without the respite of a nap is tough. But like I said, worth it if it eventually means he'll sleep in a bit more. I guess my fear is we persevere with dropping the nap, he still wakes at 4am but then he'll be out of the habit of napping anyway so the worst of both worlds!

OP’s posts: |
Oct18mummy Fri 02-Oct-20 20:16:31

Our almost 2 year old only sleeps for an hour during the day now and sleeps through we bought sleeping bag with legs as he kicks all covers off and was getting cold. Does your gro bag have legs? Maybe he doesn’t like being constrained? We also have a white noise machine going all night it cuts out any other noise he might here we bought it off amazon. Sleep deprivation is the worst I feel for you!

Oct18mummy Fri 02-Oct-20 20:17:08


Oct18mummy Fri 02-Oct-20 20:18:52

Also is room fully dark? We bought a blackout blind that sticks to the window and does he have toys in the room- if he does maybe remove them so he knows bedroom isn’t for playing etc

Washimal Fri 02-Oct-20 21:59:59

He already has a blackout blind and white noise. Most of his toys are in the playroom anyway but the ones that stay in his bedroom are generally put away in a toybox or his wardrobe. He doesn't have a sleeping bag with legs though so that's probably worth a try.

OP’s posts: |
FizzingWhizzbee123 Fri 02-Oct-20 22:47:24

As well as cutting down the nap, I’m afraid I’d probably get tough and simply not let him get up, even if there’s screaming. He’s waking your other child up anyway. My DS is not allowed out of his room before 7am, no matter when he’s woken up, and he knows it. He knows to wait until we go and get him. If we go to him in the night, we sort his problem out and then are very clear that he needs to go back to bed (if he chooses to sleep or not is his problem).

I’m not suggesting leaving him to cry for hours or anything, just being consistent that it’s night time and he needs to stay in bed. I wouldn’t bother shushing and patting. Will he sit quietly in his cot with a few books and quiet toys? You can go back to bed and he’ll probably be so bored that he’ll eventually fall back to sleep for a bit. Either way, I would not be letting him out of his room while it’s still dark.

FizzingWhizzbee123 Fri 02-Oct-20 22:48:04

Don’t forget clocks change in a few weeks too, which means this will become a 3am wake up if you don’t manage to change something soon!

Washimal Sat 03-Oct-20 06:38:26

Fizzing there's no way he will sit quietly in his cot no matter how many books and toys are in there. DD would have at that age but DS is completely different.

We are going to drop the nap. The week we tried cutting it down to an hour was horrendous, he hated being woken up after an hour and was then very tired, whingey and emotional until tea time. The week we experimented with no nap at all wasn't as bad, he just seemed to power through, although he still woke just as early. So we'll persevere with it for longer and see how it goes.

OP’s posts: |
Gulpingcoffee Sat 03-Oct-20 06:54:15

What time in the day does he nap? I’d me tempted to try moving it earlier before abandoning it completely. Also there is a theory that early waking is caused by too late a bedtime. I know it sounds bonkers but worth looking into and trying an earlier bedtime for a week? Finally does he have a stair gate on his door so he can’t get out? If you don’t go in for a while when he first wakes does he ever settle back down for a bit?

Oct18mummy Sat 03-Oct-20 07:02:20

Here is where we got the sleeping bag with legs

FourPlasticRings Sat 03-Oct-20 07:02:56

Our two year old has her own bed she can get in and out of and a gro clock. She's not allowed up before the gro clock goes to sun. Maybe one of those?

There is a two year sleep regression though, which mine did take a while to clear. She still naps for 1.5 to 2 hours a day but we've pushed bedtime back until 8 and that's made a difference.

icelollies Sat 03-Oct-20 07:55:47

I also think it’s the nap, sorry!

We went through exactly the same with ds, and it took about 4 weeks when we shortened his nap to no nap (some days he just desperately needed a nap, so we weren’t too strict). Eventually he was back to a good sleep routine, asleep by 7 waking at 7.

I also dreaded losing the respite that nap gives, but I did get my evenings/ mornings back so it was actually really good for everyone!

Doveyouknow Sat 03-Oct-20 08:09:10

We had this. We tried dropping naps, changing bedtimes, gro clocks, trying to keep him in bed (same issue about waking up elder child), changing bedding etc etc. Nothing made much difference. He just grew out of it. I know it’s really hard flowers

littlestrawby Sat 03-Oct-20 08:18:16

I know everyone is saying drop the nap but could it actually be overtiredness?! If he's up that early he's bound to be exhausted by the end of the day. Being overtired is linked to early wake ups. Perhaps an earlier nap if he's asking for it late morning, and have it a bit longer? Otherwise, it could definitely just be a terrible phase that has no reason to it, it's awful but hopefully you'll come out the other side of it soon.

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