From bouncing off the walls to out like a light and everything in between

Quick notes

  • Toddlers between the ages of one and three need between 12 and 14 hours of sleep each day

  • The more predictable your bedtime routine is the easier your child will settle down and fall asleep

When it comes to getting your adorable little toddler to sleep, there are probably many nights you wish they had an on/off switch. Just as you seem to get your baby in a good sleep routine, they turn into a toddler and throw everything off schedule.

Here’s a round-up of a few things to know about toddler sleeping habits and how to help set up your toddler for success.

How many hours of sleep do toddlers need?

Toddlers between the ages of one and three need between 12 and 14 hours of sleep each day. This can be split between nighttime sleep and naps. Younger children may still take two naps after the age of one, while older toddlers will likely consolidate their sleep to one midday nap.

As your toddler gets further from their first birthday, if they haven’t done so already, they may start fighting one of their two naps. Try experimenting with an earlier midday nap to see if they can make it through the day with one.

“You may need to do a few nights and days of trial and error to see what works best.”

A preschooler between the ages of three and five needs between 11 and 13 hours of sleep per day. This may still include a nap but it is also completely normal for an older child to stop napping. If your child stops taking a nap, you can still offer some midday quiet or rest time. This can include resting in a comfortable spot or reading.

You can use this rest period as an opportunity to settle them down with a story and then give them a couple of books to look through on their own. Just a little rest without screens or big distractions can help power them through the rest of the day.

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How to help your toddler sleep

Toddlers thrive on predictability and routine. The more predictable your bedtime routine is, the easier your child will settle down and fall asleep. There are a number of things you can do to help your toddler fall asleep faster, without a battle. Some tricks should also help them stay asleep longer.

Let’s say your 18-month old naps for two hours. That means they should be sleeping roughly 12 hours a night. If you get them up by 7 am for work and childcare needs, they should be asleep around 7 in the evening. To give yourself enough time to get them ready for sleep, try starting bedtime by 6:30.

Establish a bedtime routine

A calming bedtime routine may start with taking a bath. After the bath, you can brush teeth, go to the bathroom if they are toilet trained, and get into pajamas. From here, you should go straight to their room instead of a living room with the television and other siblings if possible.

“If you use a white noise machine or night light, have these on before the bath.”

From here you two can cozy up with a book or two, talk, or you can sing them songs. Do whatever predictable, calming practice works for you both.

Keep in mind that if a bath is actually the opposite of calming, you can start that earlier in the night, move it to the morning, or only do it every other day. You know what works for your kiddo and your schedule.

By repeating this pattern every day, your toddler will always know what is coming next. A toddler’s world is full of chaos and new things. If their bedtime routine is also new and chaotic every night, they will take a while to settle down. They will also find the unknown, chaotic environment unnerving.

Your child’s bedtime environment

If your toddler is having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, take a look at their sleep space. If their room is full of toys, distracting objects, lights, or screens, your toddler may be overstimulated.

Keep your toddler’s room as clean as you can. Less is more when it comes to toys as well. Stuffed animals, in particular, can be a suffocation hazard so keep those out of your baby’s crib until they are closer to age two. The same goes for blankets and pillows. Use a sleep sack instead of a blanket to prevent suffocation or strangulation.

“When our bodies get tired and are in a dark room, this triggers the body to start releasing the sleep hormone melatonin. If your toddler or preschooler is exposed to too much light, screen time, or stimulation, this may be messing with their melatonin levels.”

Make sleeping easier

Keep your child’s room dark and quiet. While a nightlight or dim light is fine, if it’s too bright or something is shining in from the outside, consider room-darkening shades. These are especially handy in the summertime, when it may not get dark until after nine.

Use a sound machine or white noise machine if you aren’t already. This can help block out any noises from inside your house or outside.  If your toddler can hear their nine-year-old sibling is still up running around, they may fight sleep.

Sound machines are also like sleep signals for their bodies. When they hear the sound machine in their dark bedroom, it will signal their body that it is time to sleep.

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