Sleep for Toddlers
Our body clock controls our sleep, keeping us awake during the day and making us sleepy at night. Sleep is important for all, but especially for children, who grow so fast. When a child is rested, they are less likely to get upset easily.
Most children start sleeping better from the age of 12 months. Some toddlers resist going to bed, preferring to stay up with their parents. This improves with age. You can trial different methods, such as being in the room but not interacting with your child while they fall asleep. You can gradually move further away until your child can fall asleep by themselves. You will need to work out what is best for you and your child. Consistency is the key. Forming good sleep habits early in life can help you maintain routines as your child grows.
How much sleep?
The amount of sleep your child needs will depend on their age. For children aged 1-2 years, 11 to 14 hours of good quality sleep is recommended, often including naps. Keep daytime naps to 1-2 hours to avoid delaying evening bedtimes.
For children aged 3-5 years, 10 to 13 hours of good quality sleep is recommended, which may include naps. Most children stop napping once they reach this age.
Be alert for signs of tiredness, such as being clingy, crying, demanding constant attention, bored with usual toys and fussier with food. When you see these signs, it is time to put away toys, dim the light, play soft music, or talk quietly and softly. The amount of quiet time needed may vary, but most children will fall asleep within 20 minutes.
Tips for promoting good sleep
Create an evening routine such as bathing, cleaning teeth, and bedtime story
Set meal times so your child isn’t going to bed either hungry or too full
Physical activity and play during the day will help your child use up energy and fall asleep quicker. An active child is a well-rested child.
Outside play with exposure to the sun will help their body clock regulate sleep
Create a quiet time to help children wind down before bedtime, allowing the transition from playtime to sleep time
Make sure the bedroom is a safe and comfortable place
The bedroom should be quiet and dark, but some children night light or leaving the door open can help your child feel safe
Aim for consistent sleep and wake times
Getting out of bed or calling out
Does your child call out or get out of bed? This could be for many reasons.
Sometimes it could be because they genuinely need attention, such as needing to go to the toilet. It could be because of separation anxiety and your child wants you to stay with them at bedtime. If your child has recently been sick, they might have trouble settling back into their sleep routines.
If your child calling out or getting out of bed is something you’d like to change, you could try some behaviour strategies. For example, if they get up try saying something like ‘It’s time to sleep now. Please stay in your bed’, then return them to bed without talking or scolding. It may take a while, but they will soon learn to stay in bed.
For more information on different strategies, visit Raising Children Network.
For more information
If you are having parenting challenges, including sleeping, there are services offering support. See the links below for information on services near you.