Bedtime fading: The toddler sleep tip stopping bedtime tantrums

It’s the gentle sleep trick Australian experts say helps improve toddler sleep and reduces bedtime tantrums.

Bedtime fading is a sleep technique that involves putting tots to bed at varying times until parents find a sleep ‘sweet spot’ for their toddler. Flinders University sleep experts say their trial found bedtime fading helps improve sleep patterns and curb toddler tantrums.

What is bedtime fading?

The bedtime fading technique means parents put their little one to bed when they’re drowsy, with an aim of gradually needing mum and dad’s help less, over time.

Parents choose a time they’d like their toddler to wake up in the morning – say 7am. If the child usually goes to bed at 7pm, for a few nights parents will delay that bedtime by 15 minutes – so from 7 pm to 7.15pm. If you find your kiddo is still taking a while to get to sleep after a few nights, try delaying the time by another 15 minutes – so make bedtime 7.30pm instead. Continue this way until your toddler falls asleep more easily.

What did the study find?

The research led by Flinders University sleep psychologist Dr Michael Gradisar discovered that parents who use bedtime fading reported immediate improvements to their toddler’s sleep patterns and fewer bedtime tantrums.

The trial, involving 21 children aged between one-and-a-half and four, showed immediate improvements. The toddlers took less time to fall asleep, they spent less time awake at night and the number of tantrums before bed was reduced.

The researchers then followed up with the same children two years later, and they found that the benefits lasted as the toddlers grew up. The simple sleep technique is being praised for its success in gently helping solve sleep issues in toddlers. “Parents admit they are often at the end of their tether by the time they seek professional help – but behavioural solutions tend to be the best answer to sleep solutions,” said Dr Gradisar.

Take a look at our handy guide to how much sleep each family member needs.