First let me say that toddlers in general do not have sleep problems; it is the parents who have sleep problems with their toddlers.
There are two kinds of parents: those who love being with their children and those who have children but would prefer that those children not interfere with their lives.
The first kind lets their toddlers sleep with them in the same bed, allows toddlers to nap whenever they want, and hardly ever hears them screaming and yelling.
The second kind cannot stand to have children in bed with them, or in a bed near them and are perfectly happy letting their children cry all night long, or keep them from napping during the day for fear they might wake up in the middle of the night and inconvenience the parents.
The first kind will tell you that their kids do not have a sleep problem.
The second kind will tell you that they are going crazy with their child's sleep problems.
The first kind love having their kids around.
The second kind will put their kids in daycare even if the mom is a stay-at-home mom; anything to get the kid out of the house. They feel children should not only not be heard but not be seen.
So if you say your child has a sleep problem, you need to face reality: you are the problem.
The following is addressed to mothers who do not know how to get their kids to go to sleep.
Try this: make bedtime into a pleasant routine. cuddle with your child, give him a bottle and read a story. The lights can be dimmed and perhaps put a disc in with soft New Age music (I like nature sounds). A warm bubble bath followed by a soft massage on the arms and legs can soothe a wound-up child.
This requires that you actually spend mommy-time with your child. Stop making motherhood all about you when it should be all about your child.
I would like to mention at this time that waking your child from his afternoon nap in the mistaken belief that he'll be more tired at night and therefore go to sleep earlier will actually make him over-tired and less likely to sleep properly. Keeping a child from napping during the day is no different than Chinese torture - some mothers may not realize that sleep deprivation is a torture technique used to break the will of prisoners.
Also, there have been epidemiologic studies (1) showing that sleep deprivation has a causative role in the increased risk of diabetes and obesity.
In addition to making your kids fat, I believe that the rise in the past few decades in the incidents of autistic children is directly related to sleep deprivation (2). The irony here is that parents who sleep-deprive their toddlers will in turn be tortured with sleep deprivation themselves when their now autistic children are up 18 hours a day.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Associations between Sleep Loss and Increased Risk of Obesity and Diabetes
During the past few decades, sleep curtailment has become a very common in industrialized countries. This trend for shorter sleep duration has developed over the same time period as the dramatic increase in the prevalence of obesity and diabetes. Evidence is rapidly accumulating to indicate that chronic partial sleep loss may increase the risk of obesity and diabetes.
European Journal of Paediatric Neurology, Volume 14, Issue 5, Long-term sleep disturbances in children: A cause of neuronal loss
Short-term sleep loss is known to cause temporary difficulties in cognition, behaviour and health but the effects of persistent sleep deprivation on brain development have received little or no attention. Yet, severe sleep disorders that last for years are common in children especially when they have neurodevelopmental disabilities. There is increasing evidence that chronic sleep loss can lead to neuronal and cognitive loss in children although this is generally unrecognized by the medical profession and the public. Without the restorative functions of sleep due to total sleep deprivation, death is inevitable within a few weeks. Chronic sleep disturbances at any age deprive children of healthy environmental exposure which is a prerequisite for cognitive growth more so during critical developmental periods. Sleep loss adversely effects pineal melatonin production which causes disturbance of circadian physiology of cells, organs, neurochemicals, neuroprotective and other metabolic functions. Through various mechanisms sleep loss causes widespread deterioration of neuronal functions, memory and learning, gene expression, neurogenesis and numerous other changes which cause decline in cognition, behaviour and health. When these changes are long-standing, excessive cellular stress develops which may result in widespread neuronal loss. In this review, for the first time, recent research advances obtained from various fields of sleep medicine are integrated in order to show that untreated chronic sleep disorders may lead to impaired brain development, neuronal damage and permanent loss of developmental potentials.