Toddler Sleep and Bedtime Hours

How much sleep does a toddler need? Can a toddler sleep too much? How do you set up a bedtime routine? These are common questions from many parents, and we’ll take you through everything you need to know, including toddler bedtimes, how to help your toddler sleep better, tips for managing nightmares and night terrors, and how to transition your little one from a crib to a toddler bed.

How Much Sleep Does a Toddler Need?

Experts recommend toddlers get about 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night, plus one or two naps during the day. However, each child is unique, so your toddler may need a little more or a little less in her sleep schedule.

How much sleep your little one needs—especially in the first two years of life—can be influenced by many things, including genetics and temperament.

Instead of going by the clock, it might be more beneficial to pay attention to your toddler’s behaviour. If your toddler is tired or irritable during the day, you may want to adjust his sleep schedule with an earlier bedtime or additional nap. And although sleep regression, is more common in babies, it can also happen in the toddler years and throw a wrench into your routine, which makes it even more important to pay attention to your child’s unique needs.

In Summary

Toddlers typically need around 10 to 12 hours of sleep at night, plus naps. But, for example, you may need to increase the amount of time your toddler sleeps if you notice he is cranky or sleepy during the day. So how much sleep does a toddler truly need? The answer depends on each child’s individual and unique sleep requirements, so it’s best to watch out for your toddler’s specific needs and adjust his sleep schedule accordingly.

 

How to Create a Bedtime Routine for Your Toddler

When it comes to your toddler getting a good night’s sleep, a bedtime routine can really help. You can incorporate a bedtime routine and sleep training as early as 4 to 6 months, but if you haven’t yet, now is a good time to start.

The key with creating a simple routine is to keep things calm and consistent before your child’s bedtime, so that your toddler learns to recognize that sleep is coming. A bedtime routine helps your child wind down so that she’s relaxed enough to fall asleep.

Here are some ideas for what you can include in your toddler’s bedtime routine to help keep your sleep schedule on track:

  • A warm bath

  • A bedtime story

  • Singing a lullaby together

  • Quiet play like saying goodnight to her favourite toys and putting teddy to bed.

It’s also a good idea to

  • avoid screen time in the hour before bed

  • stop any active play and running around

  • dim the lights in your toddler’s bedroom, or turn on a night-light (an important addition to any nursery)

  • close the curtains

  • play soothing music or white noise

  • check that the room temperature is comfortable for your toddler

  • check to see if anything is bothering your toddler—if so, moving objects that cause scary shadows, shutting the closet doors, or closing the curtains can all be ways to help your toddler feel safe.

In Summary

A consistent bedtime routine can help mark the end of the day for your toddler and encourage relaxation so that he sleeps more easily when bedtime rolls around. Reading a story together, giving your toddler a soothing warm bath, or dimming the lights and enjoying quiet play can all be part of a bedtime routine.

Toddler Naps

So, how much sleep does a toddler need when it comes to naps? Most toddlers need about one to two naps a day, each lasting around one to two hours. Keep in mind that, as your toddler grows, her sleep schedule may change. Around half of all toddlers only need about one nap by the age of 15 months.

Creating a nap schedule can help your toddler sleep better. You can start by tracking your toddler's sleep times and watching for any signs of sleepiness; soon you’ll notice exactly when your tot tuckers out during the day. Once you’ve recognized the pattern, try to schedule naps when your little one is most likely to be tired and stay consistent each day.

In Summary

Naps are important for toddlers, and many toddlers need one or two naps a day, each about one or two hours long. Although consistency is important, pay attention to your toddler’s needs as he grows. For example, in time, he may need fewer daytime naps, and the afternoon nap may need to be shorter so that he can fall asleep more easily at night.

How to Help Your Toddler Sleep Better

One of the best ways to help your toddler sleep better is to establish a consistent sleep routine. Think of going to sleep like a ritual. Maybe your little one’s routine can look something like this:

  • Bath time

  • Changing into pyjamas

  • Brushing teeth

  • Reading a story with Mom or Dad

  • Taking a favourite soft toy or security blanket to bed

  • Dimming the lights and a quick kiss and a hug from Mom and Dad.

Sometimes, though, your usual bedtime ritual simply won’t work, and your determined toddler may refuse to go to sleep. There are a few reasons why that could happen.

  • Interrupted routine. If you already have a routine, you might notice your toddler complains or gets irritable when you don’t or can’t follow your routine, such as when you travel.

  • Fears or anxiety. Perhaps your toddler has a fear of the dark or separation anxiety, in which case you may find that a night-light or transitional object like a security blanket could help.

  • Sense of control. Sometimes your little night owl wants to have a sense of control over her routine. Try giving her a few choices: let her pick out her pyjamas, select the story you’ll read, or choose the soft bedtime music.

A consistent toddler sleep schedule and bedtime routine can help your little one learn how to fall asleep on his own and sleep through the night without crying out for comfort.

In Summary

There are many strategies you can apply to help your toddler fall asleep more easily, and to help her sleep through the night. A calming and consistent bedtime routine can help, as can giving your toddler a few choices about some elements of her nighttime ritual.

How to Get a Toddler to Sleep

Every parent out there struggles with how to get a toddler to sleep from time to time. With all the exciting things going on during toddlerhood, sleep may be the last thing on your child’s mind. Perhaps your little one has a new skill, like walking, that he’s eager to practice. If you have guests or your toddler has a new sibling, he may not want to miss out on all the fun!

So, if you want to know how to get your toddler to sleep, you may need to adopt a few strategies.

  • Maintaining a consistent bedtime routine is a big step toward encouraging your toddler to follow her sleep schedule. Do your best to set bedtime as bedtime, and if your toddler pushes back, remind her that it’s time to sleep and that she needs to sleep in her own bed.

  • Sticking to a sleep schedule will help your toddler feel tired before bedtime. Sometimes, a long afternoon nap or one that occurred too late in the day results in lots of energy before bedtime!

  • Helping your little one understand that bedtime is bedtime can give him a better sense of time and discipline over the routine. Your 3-year-old may want “just one more” story, but if you stray too far from your normal routine, one story could turn into seven the following week. Kids are cleverer than we think, but they are healthiest when routines are consistent and predictable.

In Summary

How to get a toddler to sleep is a challenge many parents face! Your toddler may not be tired yet, he may be too excited to sleep, or he may be afraid of the dark. Things like helping your toddler stick to a sleep schedule and normal bedtime routine and reassuring him if he’s scared of something in his room, can help.

Moving From the Crib to the Bed

You may be wondering when your growing toddler will be ready to move from a crib to a bed. There is no hard and fast rule, but if your child is around 35 inches tall or seems close to being able to crawl over the crib rails, it’s probably time to make the transition. If you’re in any doubt, ask your child’s healthcare provider for personalized advice.

When you do make the switch, your toddler may be unsettled for the first few nights. You may need to try sleep training techniques like “camping out” in your toddler’s room while she gets used to her new sleeping quarters.

Sleep Training Techniques to Help With Crib-to-Bed Transition

  1. The “campout” technique. This technique involves you sleeping in a sleeping bag or on a mattress in your toddler’s room. Over a few nights, sleep further and further away from your child’s bed until your toddler can fall asleep without you there.

  2. Strategic mattress placement. Placing a mattress on the floor right next to the bed or adding guardrails to the bed can help prevent your child from accidentally rolling out and hitting the floor. After all, this is your child’s first try at sleeping in a bed without rails all the way around, so it might take some getting used to!

  3. The “big kid” encouragement. Overall, try to make it fun. Many toddlers love the idea of doing something that “big kids” get to do, so the transition to a toddler bed may be easier than you think.

In Summary

Once your little one is around 35 inches tall, it's time to transition from the crib to a bed. You may need to do it even sooner if your toddler is showing signs of being able to crawl over the crib rails, even with the mattress at the lowest setting. Use guardrails to stop your toddler from falling out of the bed or place a mattress on the floor next to the bed to ensure he has a safe landing in case he falls.

Sleep Safety for Toddlers

Keep your toddler safe at night by taking a few safety precautions:

  • Check the crib manufacturer’s instructions about lowering the mattress height as your child grows. You may need to lower it before your child is able to crawl over the rail

  • Remember to keep extra stuffed toys or pillows out of the crib, as your toddler can use these to scale the railing

  • Move your toddler to a toddler bed if she will soon be able to crawl over the crib rails, especially when the mattress is at the lowest setting

  • Place a mattress next to your toddler’s bed or add bed rails to prevent him from accidentally rolling out of the bed and hitting the floor

  • Keep your toddler’s crib or bed away from windows, drapery, and electrical or other cords.

  • Remove any objects with strings, like mobiles, that could get caught around your toddler’s neck once able to reach them from the crib.

In Summary

Sleep safety is very important. Move your toddler to a bed before she can crawl out over the crib rails. Keep her sleeping area free from cords, toys, and pillows, as she could choke or use these to boost herself up and crawl out of the crib. If she has just transitioned to a toddler bed, consider adding guardrails or placing a mattress next to the bed.

Nightmares and Night Terrors

Everyone has bad dreams from time to time, but for a toddler who doesn’t yet understand what a dream is, vivid dreams can be very disturbing. Your child may wake in the middle of the night crying and afraid.

To soothe your toddler from a nightmare, you can hold him and talk to him softly. Tell him that everything is OK and that it was just a dream. Stay with him until he’s calm and relaxed, then put him back to sleep.

Night terrors, on the other hand, are a little different. You may notice your toddler thrashing in bed with open and terrified eyes. She may not respond when you talk to her. When she’s having a night terror, she’s neither awake nor having a nightmare.

Understanding Night Terrors

A night terror is a form of sleep behaviour that takes place during deep sleep. While it looks scary, your child won’t even remember it when she wakes up. It can be upsetting to watch your child during a night terror, knowing that you can’t comfort him in the moment. What you can do is to watch over him patiently until he returns to sleep. There are a few other things to keep in mind about night terrors:

  • Watch your toddler until she has calmed down. Although you may want to wake your child if she’s having a night terror, try to hold back—waking her will just leave her disoriented and confused. The best thing you can do is to make sure she doesn’t hurt herself as she thrashes around. Make sure she won’t fall off the bed and keep an eye on her until she calms down.

  • Look for a pattern. If you notice your little one has a night terror at the same time each night, you can try to wake him up around 15 to 30 minutes before, to see if this helps prevent it.

  • Remember that it’s only temporary. Usually, a night terror lasts about 5 to 15 minutes; soon after that, your toddler will settle back to normal sleep, although it can take up to 30 minutes for things to completely calm down. Most children grow out of night terrors in time, and they aren’t typically a cause for concern.

  • Consult your healthcare provider. Speak to your child’s healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about night terrors.

Check out the table below to learn the difference between nightmares and night terrors:

 NightmareNight Terror
What does it look like?Your child may wake up crying and afraid after a frightening dream.Your toddler may scream, cry, and thrash during sleep. He may look anxious, agitated, or alert.
What age does it typically occur?It frequently starts during toddlerhood or sometimes later.May begin at age 4 or 5, or even later.
When does it happen?A nightmare usually happens in the second part of the night.Most episodes start within two hours of going to sleep and last about 5 to 15 minutes. An episode is more likely to occur if your toddler has a fever or her sleep schedule is disrupted.
Will my child fall back asleep quickly?Your child may have some difficulty falling back asleep.Your toddler will fall back to sleep quickly after a night terror.
Does my child remember the experience?Your child may remember the dream and may even talk about it.Your child won’t have any memory of the episode.
What can you do about it?You can comfort your child if a nightmare happens. You can also try to ease any stressors in your child’s life, limit screen time before bed, and keep bedtime stories positive.You can try to put your child to bed a little earlier to avoid overtiredness.
Are there any long-term issues?Talk to your child’s healthcare provider if your toddler has nightly nightmares over a long period.Most children grow out of night terrors, but speak to your child’s provider if you’re concerned.

 

In Summary

Many children have nightmares or night terrors from time to time. A nightmare is a bad dream your child wakes up from. If your toddler calls out for you, comfort him until he is calm enough to fall back asleep. A night terror can look scary to you, but your toddler won’t remember it once he wakes up! Your child will likely grow out of night terrors in time.

Toddler Teeth Grinding During Sleep

You may notice your child grinds or clenches his teeth or jaw in his sleep. Teeth grinding—known also by its medical name, bruxism—is quite common in kids. Experts say that as many as two to three out of every 10 children will either grind or clench their teeth. The good news is most children outgrow this problem.

Teeth grinding typically happens during deep sleep or when your toddler is under stress. You can try to avoid it by having a relaxing evening routine before bed, so your little one is nice and calm for sleep.

If you have any questions or concerns, contact your child’s healthcare provider or dentist for expert advice.

In Summary

About 20 to 30 percent of children grind their teeth at some point. It can happen during deep sleep or when your toddler is under stress. Although your child will probably grow out of it, speak to your her dentist if you’re concerned about how it may affect her teeth.

FAQS AT A GLANCE

  • Because every child is different, there’s no standard bedtime for a 2-year-old. You can experiment with a bedtime that works for your toddler and develop a consistent bedtime and sleep schedule. You may need to adjust naptimes if your child isn’t tired enough by bedtime.

  • Experts suggest that toddlers need around 10 to 12 hours of sleep, plus one to two naps a day. Every child is different, though, so your toddler may need a little bit more or less. Speak with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

  • A bedtime routine and consistent sleep schedule may help your toddler sleep through the night. Sleep training can also help your child learn how to fall back to sleep on his own without calling out for you or crawling out of bed to find you.

The Bottom Line

How much sleep does a toddler need? Toddlers need a lot of sleep and benefit in many ways from getting a good night’s rest. But as you no doubt know, how to get a toddler to sleep is more challenging than just turning off the lights and saying, “good night!” A consistent bedtime routine, ensuring that your toddler has a comfortable sleep environment, and being firm when it comes to sleep times can all help your toddler learn that when it’s bedtime she needs to be tucked up in bed ready to rest! It's a great feeling when your toddler can go to sleep and stay asleep independently. And when that happens, you and your toddler will both benefit from being well rested the next day. Hang in there—those sleepless nights associated with babyhood and toddlerhood will eventually be a thing of the past!

How we wrote this article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

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