Study shows “bedtime fading” helps fix toddler sleep issues

Posted in Sleeping.

If your toddler takes a long time to get to sleep, or is prone to bedtime tantrums, then maybe it’s time to try “bedtime fading”. A new study has shown this technique is effective when it comes to helping toddlers sleep better.

Little night owls

One of the most challenging things about toddlers is getting them to sleep. It’s a very common problem for parents, according to Flinders University sleep experts.

Up to 67 percent of children aged 18 months to four years take more than 30 minutes to nod off, with 18 percent of these kiddos taking more than an hour to succumb.

Time consuming and emotionally draining, some fed-up parents resort to medication or punishment, in an effort to get their child to sleep. It turns out there’s a much easier way.

New research led by Flinders University sleep psychologist, Dr Michael Gradisar, has revealed that the technique known as “bedtime fading” has been proven to instantly improve sleeping patterns in toddlers.

Bedtime fading is when a young child is put to bed only when they feel naturally tired and drowsy. Their bedtime is then gradually moved earlier, as they get used to falling asleep more easily and quickly.

Toddler asleep in bed

Long-term effects

The trial, which took place at Flinders University’s Child and Adolescent Sleep Clinic and was published in the journal Sleep Medicine. It involved 21 children aged between 18 months and four years.

Improvements were immediate after bedtime fading treatment commenced, with a significant reduction in the number of tantrums, a reduction in the time it took children to get to sleep and a reduction in the time children spent awake in the night.

Brilliantly, a review of those children two years later showed that improved sleep behaviours had been maintained.

In some cases, where parents did see a lapse in healthy sleeping patterns during these two years, they reintroduced bedtime fading techniques and their child’s sleep issues were resolved.So, how do you do it?

How to introduce bedtime fading

If you think bedtime fading sounds amazing but aren’t sure how it works exactly, here’s how to get started:

  1. Start a log: Over the course of five days, write down when your child was put to bed, when they fell asleep, how many times and when they woke in the night and if/when they napped during the day.
  2. Set a wake time: Make sure your child rises at the same time every day. You are trying to reset their body clock and this is the first step, regardless of what time they go to bed at night.
  3. Push back 30 mins: On the first night of trying the technique, delay their bedtime routine (e.g. bath, books, etc.) by half an hour, so your child gets put to bed 30 minutes later than usual.
  4. Assess: If they take longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep, the next night push their bedtime back again by another half an hour.
  5. Stick for three days: Once you have found a bedtime that enables your child to fall asleep quickly with no tantrums or struggles, stick to that time for three days straight.
  6. Bring it forward: When their body clock is reset and they have learned to drop off quickly, slowly bring their bedtime earlier again, a little bit each day until it’s at a time that’s appropriate for you both.

It’s that simple! Hooray! Finally, a technique to put an end to toddler bedtime struggles for good.

Parent School footer dinkusNeed some more toddler sleep advice? Our Parent School sleep experts can help. Click to find out more or book a one-on-one session.


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