Sleeping Through The Night: How Counseling Can Help With Toddler Sleep Issues

If you have a toddler, then chances are that you have experienced some sort of sleep issue. The definition of when sleep issues become a problem for toddlers differs depending on who you ask, but most experts agree that it is significant when it takes your toddler more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at least three nights a week for at least three months or if sleep issues cause significant issues in your or your child's waking life. If you find yourself frustrated with your toddler's sleep schedule, keep reading to determine if counseling can help your toddler get better sleep.

Understanding the Causes of Sleep Issues 

Sleep issues in toddlers can manifest in a multitude of ways. For example, your child may not want to stay in bed, or they may take a long time to fall asleep, cry for you when they wake up at night, have nightmares, or wake up too early in the morning. For each of these issues, there are a multiple physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral causes that can contribute to the sleep issue.

Counseling for sleep issues in toddlers usually begins with a thorough assessment of the child's current routine, including their activities and diet in addition to routines related directly to falling and staying asleep. This can help you and your counselor define exactly what issues your toddler is having and determine what may be causing these sleep issues in your toddler.  

Understanding the Effects of Prolonged Sleep Issues 

Prolonged sleep issues can have negative affects for the child and parents. It can also negatively affect other children in the home if your toddler's sleep issues disrupt their sleep.

Some effects of sleep deprivation in toddlers include being overly emotional, having difficulty concentrating or focusing during play, being hyperactive, displaying defiant behavior and having increased difficulty falling asleep.

Parents of children with sleep issues may not be getting enough sleep and can get frustrated with their child's sleep issues. This can lead to negative emotions. For example, in a 2003 study, it was found that sleep issues in toddlers are linked to a higher frequency of maternal depression. 

Counseling for Sleep Issues 

While sleep issues in toddlers can be common, if they are prolonged and you start to see negative effects in yourself or your child, you might consider counseling for you or your child. In many cases, cognitive-behavioral therapy is suggested. After your counselor helps explore your family dynamics, they will usually suggest one or more techniques for you to implement at home to help your child fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. 

For example, a counselor may suggest the extinction technique, which involves putting your child to bed at a certain time and then ignoring your child's protests until a designated time in the morning. Alternatively, they may suggest establishing a positive nighttime routine for your child. 

Your counselor may also suggest dietary changes, including changing the time of your child's last meal before bed and the amount of liquids they drink throughout the day. 

Counseling for the Parents vs. Counseling for the Child 

Counseling for toddlers with sleep issues is usually directed at the parents. Counselors help teach you how to assess and meet your child's particular sleep needs. They may also help you learn how to set limits and create new routines in your own life that support positive sleep habits in your child. 

However, if your child is having nightmares or night terrors or is afraid to fall asleep, and you think that there might be issues your child is having difficulty processing, such as moving, you and your partner divorcing, or the loss of a loved one, then you might look into play therapy for your child. Play therapy can be effective in children as young as two years old, and can help young children express and process their emotions. 

If you have tried some techniques for better toddler sleep on your own but your toddler is still having problems sleeping, talk to a counseling center like Comprehensive Behavioral Health Associates Inc about your options for adult or child counseling to help with your sleep issues.