Toddler Sleep: All you need to know

Your toddler is changing ever day, and being a parent is all about meeting challenges! You have to be ready to roll with it and welcome the changes. Having a plan of action for their sleep needs is really important. Here, Toddlebox sleep expert Lucy Wolfe lets you (and your new toddler!) in on the secret of a good night’s rest.

How many hours?

From the age of 18 months to two-and-a-half, most toddlers require somewhere between ten-and-a- half to 12 hours sleep at night, with a one-to-two hour nap in the middle of the day. By the time your toddler’s third birthday is in sight, they may not need the daytime nap, but will need between ten and 13 hours sleep at night.

Moving from two naps to one

Toddlers usually drop from two naps down to one somewhere around 15-18 months.

Don’t rush them to drop a nap. If they’re not ready, they may start to wake up during the night as a result. Signs your toddler is ready to drop from two one naps are:

  • It takes them longer and longer to fall asleep for their morning nap.
  • They refuse to have a morning nap.
  • They will nap in the morning, but not in the afternoon.

Make a note of their napping habits over a week or ten days, and you’ll get a clear picture. When you are ready to drop to a single daily nap, it should last about one-to-two hours. Start the nap as close to 12.30-1pm as possible. As your toddler moves from two naps to one, you might need to start their nap at 11.30am and slowly move it to the right starting time. Give them lunch before the nap. This stops them waking up early because of hunger, and they will be ready to enjoy a good evening meal!

Getting to bed

Don’t be in a hurry to exchange your toddler’s cot for a first bed. Toddlers are better off using a cot until about age two-and-a-half or three. At that age your toddler can understand when you say, “stay in bed and don’t get out”. It’s better to make one big change at a time in a toddler’s life, so don’t get a new bed at the same time as starting to potty train.

When it’s time to move on from the cot, make sure they feel included in what you’re doing. Talk to them about it. Why not take them with you to choose the bed and bed linen? It can help if you let them make some small choices about their sleep. Ask them to give you a hand in organising their bedroom and be sure to praise them for helping. This will make the move from cot to bed relaxed and stress-free. You may need to adjust your existing bedtime routine. If this happens, be firm about boundaries and don’t fall for stalling techniques like “just one more story”!

If you’re finding bedtime a struggle, Winning the Bedtime Battles has all the tips you need!

Keep one eye open for…

Your toddler’s sleep can be affected by a number of factors. What happens when you’ve done the move from cot to bed smoothly, and sorted out the naps, but your toddler still isn’t sleeping well at night?

Developmental changes during the toddler years can affect sleep. Your toddler has learned how to walk – and at bedtime they may not want to stop! Lots of toddlers want to feel they are in control by refusing to go to sleep, even when they are really tired. This can be a big challenge because they are also getting better at talking. Setting limits and always responding in a consistent way will help you through these challenges. Nightmares and sleep talking often begin around age two. Make sure your toddler gets enough sleep, which can often help.

Is there a new baby in the house? Getting used to having a new brother or sister is a big change for a toddler, and can cause emotional conflict as well as excitement. The worry a toddler feels can turn into bedtime battles and night waking. It’s important that you keep their routine as regular as much as possible during this time. Make sure you have some special time with your toddler, so that they continue to feel safe, secure and loved.


A good night’s sleep starts during the day

During the day, make sure your child has enough food (three balanced meals and required healthy snacks – see Nutrition & Your Toddler for suggestions) and liquids. The right nutrition, along with enough fresh air and outdoor activity, makes for good sleeping habits.

Share this article