A Guide to Toddler Sleep

Erica Hargaden
October 31, 2021
7 min read

Your little one has passed the age of 1, and you're not sure how much sleep they now require or which bedtime routine to adopt and you are in need of a guide to toddler sleep.

There's no need to worry because young children will naturally need less sleep as they get older and should have a more consistent bedtime routine. However, there are times that toddler's sleep can be interrupted or affected by their development, so we are here to let you know what you should expect from your child's sleep, and how to help your child get more sleep if they are waking in the middle of the night.

How Much Sleep Does my Toddler Need?

Children over the age of 1 require up to 14-15 hours of sleep every 24 hours, but this may decrease once they reach 18 months. Young toddlers should have two naps per day; a morning nap and an afternoon nap, so they can get a good 10 to 12 hours at night. Many toddlers will need to transition to 1 nap per day once they reach 14-16 months, so ensure your child is getting at least one daytime nap for no longer than 2.5-3 hours in length.

Why is my Toddler Waking Up so Much?

There can be a range of reasons that your toddler is waking up during the night. Although toddlers should encounter fewer sleep issues than babies, your little one's sleep health may be impacted if they do not have a calming bedtime routine, aren't in a relaxing and quiet environment, or are struggling with sleep challenges or illness. The main reasons for toddler sleep problems include:

  • Too much screen time before bed
  • Illness
  • Discomfort/too hot or cold
  • Dreams and nightmares
  • Separation anxiety
  • Parental Dependency/Associations

If you find your toddler is experiencing sleep problems, you should try to understand what is causing the issues, so that you can work to help your child with staying asleep for longer. Below are some effective ways to tackle your child's sleep problems so that the whole family can get a greater quality of sleep.

How Do I Help to Increase my Toddler's Sleep Duration and Quality?

Most toddlers can get better sleep with some simple changes to their bedtime routines. However, remember that every child is different and if you feel that your little one is suffering from sleep apnea or any other disorders, it is important that you seek medical advice.

Decrease Screen Time Before Bed

In the present day, it is quite normal for toddlers to start watching TV, an Ipad, or a phone in the evening, but it is crucial that you do not let this screen time affect your child's bedtime. You should ensure that your children have time away from technology and devices at least an hour before bed so that their sleep schedule does not become disrupted.

Eliminate Chance of Night Terrors

During early childhood, there will be a time when your toddler experiences their first-night terror. Night terrors and dreams can affect nighttime sleep a great deal; toddlers will have developed imagination and may struggle to understand what is real and what isn't. The best way to decrease the chances of bad dreams is to make sure your toddler does not watch or see anything that they could find scary in the evening, which means filtering out what you are watching on TV before you put your little one to bed. A positive and calm bedtime routine will enforce positive feelings within your toddler, and help to prevent nightmares. Night terrors can also be a sign of overtiredness in children so ensuring they are getting enough or an increased sleep opportunity is very important.

Ensure Your Child's Room is a Good Temperature and Quiet

To avoid having your toddler wake up, ensure that their room is out of the way from loud noises that may wake them; keep devices at a quiet level and try to remain silent when passing your toddler's room or crib. It is also worthwhile checking your child's temperature during the night to make sure they aren't too hot or too cold. Checking that your little one is comfortable and in a quiet environment will be sure to improve sleep quality.

Take Your Child to the Doctor if they are Unwell

Illness can be one of the main reasons for disrupted sleep in toddlers, so it is important to keep an eye out for signs of illness if your child is suddenly waking frequently. If you find your child straying from their regular sleep patterns, there may be something brewing. I always advise that parents seek advice from their family doctor and ask for ears to be checked for infection first!

Stick with a Consistent Bedtime Routine

As one of the most common pieces of advice for children's sleep, a consistent evening routine can be a huge help in children getting enough sleep. A warm bath is a popular method to soothe your child before bed, and quiet time after will keep them relaxed, ready to self settle. Your child's bedroom should be dark, and you may read a bedtime story, and/or play lullabies or white noise in the background. Whatever you choose to do to settle your child, stay consistent with the routine and you are sure to see an improvement.

Try a Stuffed Animal or Small Comfort Blanket

Between the age of 1 and 2, most children experience separation anxiety from parents and primary caregivers. This means that they may get upset when you leave them at bedtime, but a small stuffed animal or comfort blanket can be a huge help in settling. It is important that you do not put too big of a teddy in your child's crib due to the risk of suffocation, and look out for any loose strings or material that could be dangerous to your toddler while they are sleeping. Bedtimes should be positive, calm and loving but parents should try not to hang around for too long or give too many cuddles, otherwise, your toddler will expect it each day. A night light is also a great way to reassure your child in the evening, however, avoid lights that are blue or white.

Deal with any Parental Dependencies or Associations

If you are having to lie with your toddler to fall asleep, hold their hand or engage in repetitive parental contact while falling asleep or maintaining sleep then it's possible you have a dependency happening around their sleep. This equally applies to little ones falling asleep on bottles or feeds and or requiring multiple feeds or bottles overnight to maintain their sleep. These are categorised as dependencies or associations with sleep. Very often parents will fully believe that their children cannot sleep without these things happening. During the toddler age range, sleep has matured and they are capable of sleeping through the night. If you wish to create a more independent sleep picture for your family this can be achieved at this age range by fading out the associations slowly.

Where Should my Toddler Sleep?

Toddlers should have their own crib or from 3 years of age, a larger toddler bed. Ensure that there are no dangerous items available for your little one to get hold of in their room, and if you find your child is managing to climb out of their crib frequently, a children's gate in the doorway can prevent them from exploring the house alone.


Sleep Solutions at Babogue

Naps and sleep are vital for young children and their development. We understand the necessity of sleep for parents and the rest of the family too, which is why our Sleep Series is designed to help families get the sleep they need.

Our online course the Toddler Sleep Series is a comprehensive sleep course that, through our 7 Steps to Better Sleep, will allow you to solve your toddler sleep challenges. We have helped thousands of families get the sleep they require, so if you are struggling with your little one's schedule and would like help from a Certified Sleep Consultant, get in touch today! Check out our amazing reviews below.

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Erica Hargaden
Sleep Consultant, Babogue

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