Sleep in Toddlers
(1 -3 years)
What can I expect from my toddler?
ξ On average, toddlers sleep between 11 and 13 hours out of the 24 hour day.
ξ By 18 months, most toddlers give up their morning nap and sleep for 1 ½ to 3
hours in the afternoon.
ξ Some toddlers take 2 shorter naps per day until they are about 21 months old.
ξ Most toddlers settle into a routine that is normal for them. Your child may sleep
more or less each day than his friend of the same age.
What are some causes of sleep problems in toddlers?
ξ Sickness, changes in routines and household stress can disrupt a child’s sleep.
ξ Separation anxiety may cause trouble at bed time.
ξ Changing from a crib to a bed before your child is ready may also cause sleep
trouble. It is usually best to wait until your child is close to 3 years old to switch
to a bed.
ξ All children naturally wake during the night. A toddler who has not learned to
fall asleep on his own will have trouble going back to sleep.
How can I help my toddler learn to sleep well?
ξ Set up a daily sleep plan: Include a set bedtime, wake time and naptime. It is
usually best to set an early bedtime (before 9 p.m.) to help your child prepare for
preschool and kindergarten.
ξ Avoid cutting back on naps: This rarely leads to longer night time sleep and may
leave you with an overtired, fussy toddler.
ξ Help your toddler attach to a “security object”: A blanket or stuffed animal may
help her relax at bedtime and during the night.
ξ Follow a bedtime routine: Include calm activities like a bath and bedtime story.
Avoid TV and computers as watching video can make it harder to fall asleep. If
the last activity like the bedtime story takes place where your child sleeps, “lights
out” time will happen naturally.
ξ Plan your child’s bedroom surroundings: Keep the room lighting and temperature
the same at bedtime as it will be during the night. Toddlers sleep best in a cool,
quiet room. Some toddlers like to have a night-light. Leave electronics like TV
and gaming systems out of your child’s bedroom.
ξ Put your toddler to bed sleepy, but awake: This helps him learn to fall back to
sleep on his own when he wakes at night.
ξ Set limits: It is natural for toddlers to test and stall at bedtime. Be sure to set
clear limits ahead of time. For example, decide on a routine number of books to
read each night.
When should I call the doctor?
ξ Your child seems to have trouble breathing, is snoring or is a noisy breather.
ξ You are concerned about your child’s nighttime waking or nighttime fears.
ξ You are worried that your child’s sleep problems are affecting her behavior
during the day.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call
if you have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with
your doctor. This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical
condition. Because each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on
your health care team when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911.
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