Toddler chronic insomnia (desperate parents)

Our 17 month old has had insomnia for the last five months. It began with just 1.5h a night but now is up for 2-3 hours sometimes multiple times a night. She is solidly on one nap, usually 1.5h, no large life changes. Sleep Study shows mild sleep apnea but ENT found no anatomical abnormalities. We tried melantonin and it kept her UP the entire night. She is sleep trained and goes to sleep independently and peacefully. It isnt teething because issue is persistant and medicine doesnt make a difference. She is night weaned and we don't actively do anything to help her fall back alseep (nor will she let us. She no longer likes to be bounced or picked up). Mostly she is just tossing and turning until she finally sleeps again. 

We paid for two sleep consultants both of whom said we are doing all the right things. We are distraught and tired and just want to help her. It is concerning that it is getting worse as we run out of medical paths. 

Has anyone experienced this with their child? What else can we do to help her???

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This happened multiple times with one of my children, and each time it happened it was because she was just getting older and generally needed less sleep. She was used to her bedtime and would fall asleep at bedtime but then would be up and wide awake in the middle of the night, sometimes for hours. The solution was to gradually push her bedtime later until she was able to sleep solidly through the night. I found this solution in Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, by Ferber (which has an undeserved reputation as a cry-it-out book, IMO). What I also discovered by reading that book is that there is a really wide range of a "normal" number of hours for a child to need to sleep, and our kid was at the low end of the range. We definitely had misconceptions about how much sleep she needed. And I got a lot of intellectual relief from understanding the science behind her crazy-making behavior. Highly recommend that book for this and all other sleep issues! The later bedtime was a bummer in some ways, but it was well worth it when she went back to sleeping through the night again. Good luck!

Have you tried iron supplementation? Low iron is known to cause insomnia. 


We had to do an overnight study to determine the level of our daughter's sleep apnea.  ENT showed nothing they were concerned about. They then did a turbinate reduction which was barely helpful. Once they did surgery the difference was dramatic in her sleeping.  It took years to convince them.

Does your toddler have allergies?  This can impact breathing and cause wakings as well.  Inflamed adenoids can also cause blockage.

I hope this helps.

My second child was a terrible sleeper so I feel for you. Based on what you wrote, you gotta drop the nap. It'll be rough for a few days but obviously you are used to rough! It should get better after that. She might still wake up early (5-6) but it will be awesome to have her sleeping solidly from 9-10 PM until then.

I’m completely shocked no one has advised you to drop the nap, or cap it very very early. 1.5 hours is long. My daughter who is currently three has always had extremely low sleep needs. My research showed that it’s important to build up enough sleep pressure during the day to achieve solid nights. That’s the glaringly obvious lever you can pull, in my opinion. My daughter dropped naps before anybody her age that we knew, and stopped napping all together well before others in her age group. At 17 months I want to say she was napping occasionally for 20 to 30 minutes max. We went through a spell when she wasn’t 100% done with naps but if she napped even just 5 to 10 minutes it would keep her up for hours at night. It sucks, and you aren’t alone. Hang in there! 

My daughter had similar sleep issues when she was that age and we did end up dropping her nap very early, but that only helped mask her sleep apnea, which we discovered much later. We were glad we could finally get her to sleep easily, but it she was also falling asleep during dinner in her high chair because she was beyond exhausted. She had large tonsils, but until we had the sleep study they were not a reason for concern.  At the time of her diagnosis, her ENT told me that even mild sleep apnea in children could lead to developmental and behavioral problems and were a reason for intervention. She had a tonsil and adenoidectomy and things have been so much better for her ever since!

Agree with others, our 1st child was not a long napper, and our 2nd child dropped their nap at 19 months - some kids just need less day sleep. Anecdotally I could never nap during the day, even when they were newborns, no matter how tired, so maybe they took after me? Anyway, I'm sure it must be tough on you, and I wish you good luck!

She is sleeping in her own crib with a sleep sack? From a sleep training group that I'm part of, here's a recommended 18 month old schedule (she may be moving toward that):

Wake Times: 6/4.5

Ideal Nap Length: 2-2.5 hours

Example Schedule:


Nap 1-3

Bed 7:30

Consistent wake time every morning and consistently starting 6 hours after wake time (even if she wakes earlier in the morning, you leave her and still start nap at the same time). Put down for nap 10-15 minutes before nap time. Then set a timer for 2 hours from when she falls asleep for nap. If she wakes sooner, she hangs out. Once she wakes from nap (actually wakes, not the end of the timer), then set a 4.5 hour timer for bedtime. Repeat exactly every day for at least a week to see if that helps. So your kiddo's schedule might be:

7am - Get Up (leave her until this time/wake her if still sleeping)

1pm - Nap (down 15 minutes prior)

3pm - Up from Nap (even if she woke sooner)

7pm - Bedtime if she only napped 1.5 hours (down 15 minutes prior); bedtime is 7:30pm if she slept until 3

I had no idea about how "wake times" actually worked until I joined this group. It was a game changer for me, along with "napping" a specific amount of time. Of course you can't make her sleep but you are providing her with rest time. And continue to not help with the night wakings. According to the group, kids don't drop naps until after age 3 but being consistent and having a balanced amount of wake time before/after the nap is key. Feel free to DM me if you want to discuss this more - sleep fascinates me!