- Jessica Berk
Nighttime Potty Training and Sleep
Daytime potty training is hard enough. But toddler night time potty training can have a disastrous effect on your child’s sleep habits from bedtime all the way through until the morning.
Your child might start asking for a million trips to the potty after lights out.
Or maybe they’re wetting the bed often or waking you up overnight to take them to the bathroom.
I’ve seen this happen time and time again.
I don’t want nighttime potty training to screw up sleep at your house.
Just because they’re learning how to use the potty, doesn’t mean they should forget how to sleep!
I’m going to show you the 3 main ways that nighttime potty training can ruin a toddler's sleep. So you can learn what to watch out for and what to do about it.
>>Watch this blog on my Awesome Little Sleepers YouTube channel! 👇
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I want to start by talking about the term “nighttime potty training”.
This might surprise you but there’s actually no such thing as nighttime potty training. Not really.
During the day, you can “train” or teach your child to feel the sensation of needing to go potty. You do this by taking off their diaper and allowing some accidents to happen so they learn what their body feels like before they go to the bathroom. This is the basis of most potty training methods.
But, there’s a big difference at night. At night, they’re asleep so they can’t feel that full bladder sensation before they urinate. If you take the pull up off at night, they will wake up after they wet the bed - the feeling of the wet sheets is what will wake them up. But they aren’t awake before the accident to feel that sensation. It’s different then the daytime when they have more awareness of their body and their bladder. So, allowing them to wet the bed overnight isn’t actually teaching them anything - it’s only disrupting their sleep and making a mess for you to clean up.
So, the idea that you can potty “train” a child overnight is actually not accurate.
The brain wiring that is required to actively wake a child up to feel the sensation of needing to go potty, often takes longer to mature than the brain wiring required for daytime potty training. It’s really nothing that you or the child can control. It’s just a different connection that has to form in the brain to wake the child from a deep sleep.
It can take weeks, months or even years longer for kids to master nighttime potty training. In fact, about 15% of healthy 5 year olds are not dry overnight.
So, doctors recommend that you wait until the child is totally dry overnight for 2 weeks before you try a night without pull ups. Staying dry overnight for 14 continuous days shows that the brain has matured to the point where it can either hold the bladder until the morning or wake the child up in time to go potty.
Night time potty training and sleep
So, this brings us to the first way that nighttime potty training can ruin your toddler’s sleep.
1. Frequent bed wetting
Based on everything I just explained, if your child is experiencing frequent bed wetting - meaning 2 or more times per week - you’ve probably just taken them out of pull ups too soon.
Don’t make a big deal out of it, just put them back in pull ups until they are able to stay dry for 2 weeks. Remember, it can take much longer for your kids to master staying dry overnight. In my experience, I have found this especially true with kids who are very deep sleepers.
It’s also best to avoid offering rewards or imposing punishments for bed wetting. In most cases, it’s totally out of the child’s control. Their brain just hasn’t formed the neural pathways necessary to wake up from sleep in order to make it to the bathroom in time.
So, relinquish control, stop worrying and most importantly stop comparing your child to other kids! Stick with pull ups until your child’s body gives you the signs that its ready to stop using them by staying dry overnight for 2 weeks.
The 2nd thing that causes big time sleep issues when kids are working on using the potty is...
2. Stalling at bedtime with never ending trips to the potty
Watch out for this sleep-related issue as you start working on daytime potty training. Once kids realize that you love for them to go potty and you’re so proud of them when they do it, this can quickly become a major bedtime stall tactic. And kids have the uncanny ability to squeeze out a drop of pee every time they sit on the toilet!
To prevent bedtime from becoming an hour-long production, incorporate potty breaks into the bedtime routine so they have a chance to go - even MULTIPLE potty breaks. Have them use the potty before you get started with the routine and once more before lights out. Heck, maybe even add in a potty break in the middle. Building these potty opportunities intentionally into the bedtime routine takes away some of the need to use the potty as a stall tactic. When you give them 2 or 3 chances to go right before bed, you can feel confident that they have had ample opportunity once it’s lights out time
If your kiddo is really obsessed with the potty, you can have them say goodnight to the potty and wave 'bye bye' at bedtime and even blow it a kiss. This is a good way to help them understand that they are done with the potty for the day.
The 3rd sleep issue that can start is kids...
3. Waking you up overnight asking for help to go potty
Your child may quickly learn that waking you up to help them go potty overnight is acceptable.
If they were already waking up overnight, you’ll start to hear “I have to go potty” as an excuse for the wake up.
And if they weren't waking up before daytime potty training, you may see it begin.
And, of course, you feel like you need to take them - it's the bathroom, right! And you’re working on potty training so this must be what you have to do, right? So, even though being woken up multiple times at night to walk them to the potty is frustrating, you think you have to do it.
During these overnight potty breaks, your child may actually pee... or more likely - nothing comes out. They may just want to sit there for a while and hang out with you. Lucky you! Afterward, they may go back to bed easily... or this may start a major overnight sleep protest. Lots of times these “potty breaks” become more of an excuse to get up overnight and get attention from you. You will have parental intuition over whether there is a real need or if it’s a stall tactic.
Once your child is officially nighttime potty trained - meaning they have been dry for 2 weeks straight, you should work on their potty independence - especially just for urine. You can work on these skills during the day. You can use a little toddler potty or a step stool with the regular potty. Allow them ample opportunities to use the potty without your help while you supervise.
To prevent the overnight sleep disturbances, I recommend giving them access to a potty overnight and encouraging them to go by themselves or even putting a toddler potty in their room.
If you feel the need to get up with them, I encourage quiet supervision only. Don’t get caught sitting on the bathroom floor singing songs with them for half an hour while they wait for pee to come out.
You may find that once they’re not able to wake you up and get attention from you anymore, the wake ups disappear.
I hope this nighttime potty training guidance will preserve sleep for you and your child and save you from doing tons of laundry!!
If you’re struggling to get your child to fall asleep without needing you to stay in the room, it's time for you to take my free Toddler Sleep Masterclass where I teach you the proven method to get your child comfortable falling asleep alone - so they can sleep through the night. You can fix your family’s sleep problems for good!
And even if you are still not 100% sure what is disrupting your child’s sleep, this free class can only help you get more clarity. >>Click Here<<