• Dr Andy Raffles

Toddlers - To Sleep or Not To Sleep

Updated: Feb 11

Do Toddlers Sleep?

The good news is that once asleep, most toddlers sleep through most but not all nights, without waking mum, dad or brothers and sisters, especially if sharing a room. Getting them to bed in the first place may be a challenge as toddlers love to test their independence!


  • It is generally recommended that toddlers need about 12-13 hours of sleep in 24 hours, usually 10-12 hours at night and often – but not always, a total of 1-2 hour’s nap in the day – which can be split up into 2 short naps. However if your toddler has difficulty getting off to sleep at night it is worth omitting the naps and see if this allows him to fall asleep quicker and sleep more solidly at night

  • Common problems facing parents include settling down to sleep and not wanting to stay in bed - i.e. getting to sleep and staying asleep

  • A consistent bedtime routine will help toddlers get ready for a good night sleep


Toddlers do get overtired easily and then are harder to get to sleep. Clumsiness, clinginess, whinging, crying and demands for attention, are some of the common signs of over tiredness and spotting them early, will often avoid everyone becoming grumpy! A firm and consistent bedtime routine will be a great help here.


Example schedule:

7am wake up, 1pm nap (no more than 2 hours), 3pm wake up & 7pm bedtime


Too long a nap, or too late a nap, may result in your toddler not being ready for bed until late at night! Putting your toddler to bed later, in the hope they might stay asleep longer in the morning, is unfortunately not likely to be successful – generally an early riser is an early riser, no matter what time they are put to bed, the only difference being a happy or grumpy mood at wakening.


Most toddlers are ready for bed between 6.30pm and 7.30pm. This is a good time, as they tend to sleep deepest between 8pm and midnight. Keeping routines consistent throughout the week, including the weekend, will make for a happy toddler when awake!


Avoiding boisterous play, turning off TV, computers and tablets an hour before bedtime and instead brushing teeth, potty use or nappy change, quiet time, telling a story and a cuddle and kiss good night, will also help settle down for the night. Before leaving your toddler’s bedroom, check that he/she has everything he needs and remind to stay quietly in bed.


If your child calls out or gets up after bedtime – check whether they actually need something, perhaps he or she has done a poo and the nappy needs changing. Change the nappy with the lights dimmed and with minimal talking. If there is a ‘monster under the bed or in the wardrobe’, check and confirm all safe and if scared of the dark, consider a night-light.


For more information on sleep issues in children see:


https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/sleep-problems-in-children/

http://www.sleepforkids.org/pdf/SleepDiary.pdf



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