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My Toddler Stays Up Until 3 In the Morning

Photograph by Twenty20

Dear Heather,

My 2-year-old goes bed at 7 p.m., then wakes up between 9 and 10 p.m. and won't go back to sleep until 3 to 4 a.m. It's a nightmare! He's gone through periods of this happening before and, most recently, after his preschool program closed abruptly.

It happens even if I have him running around all day.

Zombie Mom

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Dear Zombie,

Wow! You must be exhausted. It sounds like you're linking this night-waking to a big life change (ending his preschool program without much warning), and I think that's a smart observation. I wonder what he thinks about this sudden change and if he has feelings about it? Can you ask him to draw, write or talk about what happened and see if he has questions or thoughts about his friends and teachers? I would also tell him the story about it in simple terms to help him make sense of it. You could create a book with simple pictures about the people, the school, his new routine and so forth.

No doubt, life changes and stress can cause little ones to have sleep troubles. It's certainly true for big people. I wonder if he needs a little more down time in his bedtime routine, like reading or child-led play (check out "The Happy Sleeper" for more explanation of this technique, which is really helpful before bed). It's amazing how 10 minutes extra time with Mom or Dad before bed can help fill the tank.

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If you're helping him make sense of the change, and if he's got a regular bedtime routine that has nice connection time with you, and ends with him falling asleep independently and confidently, then I bet this period of night waking will soon pass.

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Do you have a sleep question you want Heather to answer for Sleep Fix? Email her at heatherturgeonmft@gmail.com. Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her Los Angeles-based sleep consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

No situation is too challenging. Leave your sleep problem in the comments. Let's all get a good night's sleep, finally.

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