It is easier for toddlers to fall asleep if they have a bedtime routine. Routines do not have to be complicated
or even bad-tempered toddlers should go to bed at a specific time each night. A routine can simply involve
brushing teeth followed by reading a book in bed. Some parents may prefer to keep their child awake later at
night. This allows for more freedom to go places with him/her in the evening. Parents may prefer this if they
have been away all day at work. Or parents may rather get their child in bed at a set time every night, giving
the parent more quiet time in the evening. Whichever method parents choose, keep in mind that it is difficult
for a child to switch sleeping patterns frequently. Find out what works best for the entire family.
Getting Enough Rest
Toddlers are full of energy and because of daily activities they need sufficient sleep.
Although sleep patterns vary, a toddler generally needs 11 to 12 hours of sleep each night with a napping
session of 1 to 2 hours a day. Keep in mind that toddlers can easily become exhausted to the point where it
is difficult to settle down for nap. The child may insist that he/she is not tired enough to nap. This may be
true, but toddlers still require a rest. You can help by providing restful activities, such as reading or quiet
Different individuals need different amounts of sleep. The best way to tell if your child is getting enough
sleep is to look at how they act while they are awake. Here are some signs to consider about how much
sleep is enough. If your child’s poor sleep is causing daytime problems, then they are sleep deprived.
The following are signs of sleep deprivation:
• Does your child fall asleep in the car almost every time you drive with them?
• Do you have to wake your child up almost every morning?
• Does your child seem exhausted, grouchy, moody, aggressive, sensitive, hyperactive, or have trouble
• On some nights, does your child “crash” much earlier than their usual bedtime?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, your child may not be getting enough sleep. Sleep deprived
children (and adults) have more trouble controlling their emotions. The part of the brain that helps us to
control our actions and our response to feelings is affected greatly by lack of sleep. Not getting enough
sleep can lead to developmental problems, such as behavior problems and attention problems. Children who
don't get enough sleep are also more likely to hurt themselves.
Problems Settling in at Night or Resisting Sleep
Your child may have problems with independence. They may want to have more control over their body
and their environment. This usually starts to happen after about nine months of age, and is apparent by age
two. Give your child some limited choice and “control” over the type of bedtime activities and the order of
the bedtime routine. If your child has more control over these activities, they may feel less need to get
control over when they fall asleep.
New Nap Schedule
Somewhere around 15 to 18 months old, your toddler will probably need fewer naps. The switch from two
daily naps to one can make your toddler irritable. Be patient. You and your child will find what works best.
Most toddlers nap either late in the morning before a late lunch, or early afternoon after an early lunch. You
may want to wake your toddler from her nap to ensure she can fall asleep earlier at night. Be gentle and
allow your toddler plenty of time to wake up.
Even if you keep your child to a strict bedtime schedule, he/she may occasionally give parents a difficult
time about going to bed. If he/she does:
• Say goodnight and assure him/her that you will return in 10 minutes.
• If he/she is still awake after 10 minutes, say goodnight again and tell your child you will return in 15
minutes. Continue this pattern until he/she falls asleep.
Waking During the Night
It is common for toddlers to wake up and be cold, hungry, or thirsty. They may also simply be frightened
from a bad dream or the dark. It helps to comfort your child, hold him/her and assure that everything is all
right. Bad dreams often are the result of anxiety or stress, such as changes in day care or other routines.
The nighttime waking will pass and you will both be able to sleep better soon. Some toddlers get out of bed
and wander around the house while their parents sleep. This is dangerous. Talk with your child’s doctor,
nurse practitioner, or nurse if this occurs.
Sharing Sleep (Co-sleeping or Family Bed)
Some parents may feel sharing their bedroom and/or bed with their child is more natural than having
separate rooms, that it is important for emotional development. There may be cultural preferences as well.
From the point of view of obtaining uninterrupted sleep and considering various social and psychological
issues, it is generally not a good idea. First, everyone sleeps better alone, parents will have fewer sleep
disturbances and awakenings. Children in the same bed and/or bedroom also may not learn how to fall asleep
themselves and tend to have sleep problems. Smothering is also a concern.
Having a child in the bed with you may also have serious effects on your intimacy and sex life. Leaving your
child with a sitter may become an issue as well. The longer the child sleeps in your bed, the more difficult it
becomes to decide exactly when he or she should stop and eventually move into his/her own room. Sleeping
separately is also important to help a child learn to separate without anxiety and form his or her own identity.
Sleep Patterns Vary
Children’s sleep patterns vary. It is difficult to set specific standards for all children. As a parent, you need
to find out what works best for you and your child. Many of the patterns your child develops early on will
continue and become a part of your child’s personality. Kids will always have that one last thing to do such
as kisses, hugs, a drink of water, using the bathroom. They can be quite inventive. Do your best to
anticipate all this and get it done before getting in bed. And let your child know that once they are in bed,
they have to stay in bed.
|Sleep Problems in Toddlers