Many parents worry about how to coordinate potty training and sleep. When toddlers start potty training they begin to have a newfound awareness of parts of their bodies that can lead to disruptions in sleep, not only at night time but also for naps as well. This is because the new sensation of needing to pee or poop can wake them up, whereas previously this didn’t bother them. For toddlers who are still using diapers while they sleep, they are also more aware of the feel of wet or dirty diapers.
The difference between day and night potty training.
One thing parents need to be aware of is that daytime potty training and nighttime potty training are entirely different. Toddlers first need to learn to use the potty, control their bladder and recognize when they need to go during the day. It often takes longer for a toddler to control their bladder when they are asleep. Some toddlers do it all at once, but most don’t. Parents shouldn’t be afraid to use diapers for longer at night. You actually can’t physically teach a toddler to hold their pee and poop at night. They’ll do it when they are developmentally ready (my 2 boys weren’t night trained until after 4 years old). Wait until they show you a week or two of dry diapers overnight and then give them the chance to test out underwear when sleeping – just make sure to have mattress protectors because occasional accidents are not uncommon.
How to make nighttime training more successful.
In order to maximize the chance of a potty training toddler sleeping well overnight limit the amount of food and drinks, they have at night. Drinks especially should be capped around 1.5 to 2 hours before bedtime. Parents should ensure toddlers go to the toilet (and actually pee) right before bedtime and naptime. I also always made sure my toddlers had pooped sometime during the day or inevitably overnight accidents would occur. When parents are sure their toddler has emptied their bladder prior to bedtime and naptime they can institute a rule that curtain calls for potty trips are limited to 1 (or 2 at most!). If a toddler wakes up to pee during the night, it is recommended to keep the lights low, limit interaction and have them go straight back to sleep. Parents could consider a potty by the bed if their toddler has transitioned. Two-piece pajamas will also help for nighttime toilet trips.
What about missed sleep?
If a toddler is missing some sleep (either naps or night time) during the potty training process, compensate with early bedtimes. It is incredibly important to keep toddlers as well-rested as possible. If parents don’t compensate with early bedtimes, toddlers might start night waking for entirely different reasons. It is also incredibly important for parents to ensure toddlers are well-rested, even before potty training, to provide the best opportunity for success and prevent more overtiredness.
Are “dream” pees a good idea?
Some parents wonder whether ‘dream pees’ are a good way to go, to assist with night dryness. A dream pee is where a parent wakes their toddler closer to their own bedtime and takes them to pee while they are still mostly asleep. While this can assist with dryness for some toddlers, it is not something I generally recommend. Dream pees do not help a child develop the brain to bladder connection needed to stay dry overnight. It may also cause more wake-ups later in the night. We want toddlers to have consolidated sleep during the first half of the night as this feeds into their ability to have consolidated sleep in the second half of the night.
Now that I’ve provided my best advice for potty training and sleep, I’d like to wish you good luck during the sleep training process. If you find that your toddler’s sleep goes haywire during your potty training, please feel free to reach out and I’ll be more than happy to help you through it. Good luck!