Toddler Sleep

Toddler Sleep

Help your toddler get a good night's sleep and naps for proper growth and development.

From setting bedtime routines to common sleep problems, learn everything you need to know about toddler sleep.

The continuous growth and development of toddlers affect toddler sleep, which goes through changes, including the development of toddler sleep regression. Usually, toddlers need 12-14 hours of sleep, including daytime naps, every 24 hours. This duration is important to ensure their healthy cognitive development and overall growth (1). However, you may experience sudden disturbances in your toddler's sleep training schedule, who was sleeping well until yesterday.

From being sick to teething and going through transitions in their lives, such as moving to beds from cots and welcoming younger siblings at home, there are several causes that can affect your toddler's sleep (2). You may observe that your toddler won't sleep or refuses to sleep alone. They may also develop nighttime separation anxiety, preferring to sleep with parents or a caregiver. They may develop a fear of being left alone as they drift to sleep, leading to toddlers refusing to sleep even if tired. Some toddlers may wake up at night too frequently and then have trouble going back to sleep (3). Additionally, too many naps during the day and overtiredness could also make your toddler refuse to go to their bed. Therefore, in such times, knowing how to put a toddler to sleep or how to get a toddler to sleep again are important skills that parents and caregivers should know.

If you're thinking about how to make a toddler sleep, maintaining short and persistent bedtime routines and creating the right sleep environment will do wonders. These may include a shower before bedtime, restriction of screen time at least an hour before bedtime, dimming down the lights, and quieting the room. You may also consider singing a lullaby and reading a story right before sleep. These methods are also effective in reducing the nighttime awakenings of your little one (4). Additionally, teaching them some self-soothing methods, like giving them their favorite blanket or keeping their favorite toys nearby, can help them to go back to sleep without assistance (2).

If sleep disturbances in your toddler still persist, there is a chance that your toddler might have sleep disorders. Sleep regression in toddlers is a temporary condition that resolves on its own or with some effort from parents. However, if you observe your toddler crying in sleep or sweating, these could be signs of night terrors. These may cause your toddler to have restless sleep. Other sleep disorders that can occur in toddlers include sleep apnea, parasomnias, behavioral insomnia of childhood, delayed sleep phase disorder, snoring, and restless leg syndrome (5). These conditions not only hamper toddlers' good night's sleep but also affect their daytime sleep, learning, playtime, and overall quality of life. Therefore, you must take your toddler to a pediatrician for evaluation and assessment. Depending on the symptoms and their severity and persistence, the doctor will either observe your toddler's sleep cycle or use behavioral treatments. Generally, medicines are reserved as the last option to treat your toddler's sleep disturbances (6).

In our comprehensive posts on toddler sleep, we've included information to help you understand your toddler's sleeping pattern, how to sleep train your toddler, and even offer tips and solutions to deal with sleep-related issues in them. From dealing with your toddler sleep regression to finding the perfect toddler sleep sack, our category page could be your go-to resource for learning everything about your toddler sleep.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What time should a toddler go to bed, and how much sleep should they have?

    Toddlers need at least 12-14 hours of sleep in a day, including one to two hours of daytime naps. While the bedtime of the toddler varies from one family to the other, you should try to put your toddler to sleep by 7:30 PM - 8 PM (1) (7).

  • What to do when the toddler is tired but won't sleep?

    As your toddler grows fast, their sleep behavior also changes. Even if the toddler is looking tired and grumpy, they might refuse to sleep. However, in such cases, it is not right to force the toddler to sleep. Instead, setting up a sleep environment and a positive and consistent bedtime routine can help (1). This can create positive associations with sleep, encouraging the toddler to sleep by themselves.

  • What foods help toddlers sleep?

    Some foods, such as warm milk and high-protein bedtime snacks, including nuts, peanut butter, Greek yogurt, hummus, and eggs, may help your toddler to sleep (8).

  • Why do toddlers fight sleep so hard? When should I seek help from a sleep specialist for my toddler?

    Toddlers resisting going to sleep is a part of their development and increased brain activity. They may also develop nighttime fears and may want to stay up close with the family. Screen time may also affect their sleep, especially games and energetic cartoons, and other content can influence them to continue watching and stay awake. If this has become your toddler’s persistent behavior during bedtime and your child seems anxious, it is best to seek a pediatrician’s help as the toddler might have sleep-related issues (1) (4).

  • What are some tips for creating a good sleep environment for toddlers?

    Consistent bedtime schedules, giving foods like warm milk, avoiding or restricting screen time at least an hour before bedtime, not giving caffeinated drinks, and creating a perfect sleep environment can help toddlers to sleep better (1) (4). A perfect sleep environment generally includes a darkened and quiet room, taking a bath before bedtime, having self-soothing objects nearby like their favorite toys, and parents singing or reading to their toddlers (9).

  • Why does a toddler wake up so many times at night?

    Too many naps, overtiredness, night terrors, anxiety, and transitioning from infancy to childhood, are some common causes of night awakening in toddlers. However, sometimes, this may also occur if your toddler has sleep apnea, digestive issues, teething (appearance of molar teeth), and other sleep-related problems (2).

  • What is sleep anxiety in toddlers?

    Nighttime separation anxiety is a part of typical mental development in toddlers. In such cases, they refuse to sleep alone, demand the presence of specific ones, and wake up frequently at night, as they fear being left alone (3).

  • What are some common toddler sleep problems?

    Night terrors, nighttime separation anxiety, behavioral insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, restless leg syndrome, and excessive daytime sleepiness are some common sleep disorders in toddlers (5).

  • How to differentiate between typical toddler sleep regression and other sleep-related issues?

    If your toddler has been sleeping well and following a sleep schedule properly, suddenly shows difficulty in sleeping, wakes up at night, and has trouble going back to sleep on their own, these are the signs of sleep regression. These are temporary, but if it persists for a longer duration, it might be an indication of sleep-related issues (5) (10).

  • What are some sleep aids that are safe for toddlers?

    It is recommended to avoid giving sleep medicines to children and rather use behavioral treatments such as regular bedtime routines. However, if the toddler has persistent sleep-related issues, doctors may recommend some toddler-safe medications (11). In most cases, identifying the root cause and a consistent sleep schedule helps the toddler sleep better.