Sleep medicine

Sleep in toddlers (1 to 3 years old)

On average, toddlers sleep between 11-13 hours across the day and night. By 18 months old, most toddlers have given up a morning nap and are taking one long afternoon nap that typically lasts between one to three hours. Some toddlers may continue taking two shorter naps a day until the age of 20 to 21 months. The number of hours a toddler sleeps will be different for each child but expect your toddler to sleep about the same amount each day. Anticipate that sleep may be disrupted by illness, changes in routine and other stressful events.

Many toddlers continue to awaken during the night, usually as a result of poor sleep habits. All children wake briefly throughout the night. However, a toddler who has not learned how to fall asleep on his or her own at bedtime, such as needing to be rocked or have a parent present, will not be able to return to sleep without help when naturally awakening during the night.

How to help your toddler sleep well

  • Develop a daily sleep schedule: Have a regular bedtime, wake time and nap times. In general, avoid late bedtimes for your toddler. Having an early bedtime will help establish a routine that will be compatible with childcare and preschool start times. In addition, napping too late in the afternoon can make it hard for your toddler to fall asleep at bedtime.

  • Encourage use of a security object: Helping your toddler become attached to a security object that they can keep in bed can be beneficial. This often helps a child feel more relaxed at bedtime and throughout the night.

  • Develop a bedtime routine: Establish a consistent bedtime routine that includes calm and enjoyable activities, such as a bath and bedtime stories. Avoid including television viewing as part of the bedtime routine since this interferes with falling asleep. The activities occurring closest to "lights out" should occur in the room where your toddler sleeps.

  • Set up a consistent bedroom environment: Make sure your child's bedroom environment is the same at bedtime as it is throughout the night. Some older toddlers may find a nightlight reassuring. Toddlers sleep best in a room that is cool and quiet.

  • Put your toddler to bed drowsy but awake: Encourage your toddler to fall asleep independently by putting him or her to bed drowsy but awake. This will enable him or her to fall back asleep when naturally awakening during the night.

  • Set limits: If your toddler stalls at bedtime, be sure to set clear limits ahead of time, such as how many books you will read.