How Does Potty Training Affect Sleep?

If you have a 2- or 3-year old, then you’ve probably started to think about the inevitable day when you’ll have to yank away your kid’s diapers and introduce him to the cold, hard reality that is the grown-up potty.

With my son, I was terrified of this process. It seemed like a terrible idea. I didn’t mind changing a few diapers each day–NBD! What I did mind was constantly having to prompt him to pee, dealing with accidents, and–most of all–the idea that his sleep might be disrupted.

What I learned during the potty training process is that it’s quite similar to going through sleep training. Your initial reaction: “This will never work. Never, ever. It’s impossible. I think he’ll wear diapers until college”. Your secondary reaction: “Nope, still don’t think it’s going to work”. And then, a few days in, BAM! Your precocious child pees in the potty unprompted for the first time. “OMG, it’s working!!!!”

So how does the potty training process affect you and your child’s sleep?

Well, it depends on how you go about it. There are two schools of thought: some parents start by potty training during awake hours but leave the diaper on for naps and overnight. Others think this is cheating and instead go cold turkey. There’s no right answer–it depends on how brave you are and your child’s age/readiness.

If you’re worried about sleep, then Option A is certainly a safer route because naps and overnights remain undisturbed. In fact, many kids sleep more during the potty training process because their little brains are so busy trying to make the connection between feeling the urge to pee/poop and walking over to the potty to do so. During our son’s first week of training, he took monster naps and was ready for bed super early. (This worked out well for us because, after a long day of shadowing his every move with a toddler potty in hand, we were ready to binge-watch Netflix with giant glasses of wine in hand).

If you do choose Option B, then you’ll need to accept the fact that your little one may take super short naps and you’ll definitely have to commit to waking up a few times per night to remind him to pee. There’s nothing wrong with that — the upside is that within a few weeks you’ll be done, while the rest of us scaredy-cats still have to one day face nap/night training.

For those of you who are about to embark on this process, you probably know that there are a LOT of methods out there. Some are parent-led and some are child-led. You do you! What worked quite well for us was the Oh Crap! Potty Training Method, which outlines every step of the process in an idiot-proof way so you can’t really screw it up. She offers options for either going cold turkey or waiting to nap/night train. (There’s also now an online course, which I totally would have done if it has existed a few years ago!).

If you are about to start this process, good luck! And if you’re a new mom who is still figuring out how to properly fasten a diaper, then I advise blocking this all out until a much later date.