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  • Danielle Elwell

Potty Training + Sleep

Most children begin to show signs of potty training readiness between the ages of 18 – 24 months and as with any new skill your child is learning (you guessed it!), sleep is very likely to be temporarily disrupted. This is completely normal as you are teaching your child how to be aware of new sensations and develop the connection between mind and body. Once your child begins to master potty training skills, their sleep will improve.


If your child already has independent sleep skills you may need to go back to modified sleep training for a short time during the potty training process, and that’s okay! This will help you to avoid creating new, unsustainable habits during the learning process. Please keep in mind, Reminding your child of their sleep boundaries and expectations does not mean they lost everything they know. They have a good sleep foundation, you are simply refreshing those sleep rules while they learn to master this new (and very big) milestone.


If your child does not have independent sleep skills, I would recommend working on one skill first before tackling the other. Your child will be more successful in both skills when they are able to master each one individually. If you are in need of sleep help, I would love to chat!


Why does potty training disrupt sleep?

Potty training is a huge developmental milestone and just as with any new skill, like crawling and walking, your child’s day and nighttime sleep will take a hit. They are learning how to connect the feeling of having to pee or poop with the action of going on the potty. This new awareness is likely to wake your child from a nap or even through the night. Additionally, as your little one becomes more aware of the wetness in their diaper, they may begin to feel uncomfortable. This could also be a cause of their wakings.


What can you do to encourage sleep during this time?


Focus on daytime potty training first!

It is much more difficult for your child to recognize the sensation to “go” during sleep. Focus on tackling daytime skills first when it is much easier for your child to make those connections. Continue using a diaper or pull-up at night until your child is consistently waking up with a dry diaper in the morning.


Bonus tip: if your child is exclusively wearing underwear throughout the day, they may be confused about wearing a diaper at night. Explain to your child that their body is still learning how to wake up to go potty, so diapers are just for nighttime.


Limit drinks 1 -2 hours before bedtime.

Set your child up for success by limiting the amount of liquid consumed before heading off to bed.


Add potty into your bedtime routine.

Always offer potty right before bed for an empty bladder at bedtime. You could even encourage a double void by making potty the first and final steps of their bedtime routine.


Set limits to avoid bedtime stalling.

It is not uncommon for children to quickly realize that asking for potty can delay bedtime. If your child went potty right before hopping in bed, you know it is unlikely they need go again immediately after you’ve left the room. Set a limit – allow 1 more trip after lights out and most importantly stick to your limit. Any other stalling attempts would be treated as you would a normal night waking.


Use the potty first thing in the morning.

Many children empty their bladders upon waking in the morning. Start the day with a successful tinkle by offering the opportunity to potty as soon as they wake up!


Celebrate when your child wakes up dry in the morning!

This will likely not be very consistent when starting out but celebrating each time will help your child learn and make the connection.


Just as with sleep training, potty training is a process! Set realistic expectations that nighttime potty training may not come together for a while and that is okay. This is a huge developmental skill! Focus on ways you can encourage sleep, remember to always celebrate the small wins, and take it one day at time. You’ve got this!


If you are currently struggling with sleep, but not sure where to start, I would love to chat! During my free 15-minute Introductory call, I set aside 15 minutes to talk 1:1 with you to understand your current sleep situation and identify the right consultation package for you. Let’s get started!