How Much Is Enough? Sleep Suggestions for Toddlers
When you have a baby, you know that any amount of sleep is a good thing. As a parent of older children, you have a general idea of how much sleep they need in order to be alert and ready for school the next day. However, when you have a toddler, understanding their sleep needs can be a little bit trickier.
HOW MUCH SLEEP DO TODDLERS NEED?
While every child is different, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that toddlers or children ages 1 to 2 years old should get between 11 and 14 hours of sleep each day. You may find that your child needs more or less, but toddlers who sleep more than 16 hours or less than nine hours could have underlying health or behavior issues affecting their sleep habits.
WHEN AND HOW SHOULD YOU PUT TODDLERS TO BED?
The National Sleep Foundation also recommends that toddlers go to bed sometime between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. The best way to get your toddler in the habit of going to bed at your chosen time is to be consistent. Even staying up as late as 30 minutes past their normal bedtime could disrupt your little one's sleeping habits. In addition to being consistent about the time, make sure their routine is the same each night. For example, if you read a book and drink a glass of water one night, do not listen to music and have a snack the next. Children thrive on routines and schedules, especially toddlers.
If your little one is still having trouble going to bed or falling asleep, try breaking some bad habits and replacing them with some good habits that can help induce sleep. A few tips for a better bedtime routine include:
- No screen-time before bed. At least 30 minutes to an hour before your toddler's bedtime, turn off the TV, tablet, smartphone or computer. Overstimulation can lead to poor sleeping habits in people of all ages. If you keep any of these gadgets in your toddler's nursery, try removing them to avoid temptation.
- Do something calming before bed. Give your toddler a warm bath, read a book or listen to soothing music. Consider using calming lavender essential oils at bath time or as part of a relaxing bedtime massage.
- Limit food and drink before bedtime, especially sugary snacks or any type of beverage other than water or milk. Limit how much fluid your toddler has before bed, especially if they are potty-trained.
- Do not do anything too active just before bed. It may be tempting to go outside and jump around to burn off some excess energy, but heavy activity can just make your toddler more energized and awake.
- Never use your toddler's bed as a playpen or toy box. Teach your child that the bed is just for sleeping.
- Encourage comfort items such as blankets or stuffed animals if they help your toddler sleep.
- Create a calming place for your little one to sleep. Pottery Barn has everything you need to set up a comfortable nursery for your toddler.
WHAT ABOUT NAPS?
The older your toddler becomes, the less nap time they will need. By 18 months, you may find that your toddler only takes one nap a day, and if they have good sleep habits, it may only be for one to three hours. The earlier your toddler naps, the better. Late naps or naps that occur within a few hours of bedtime could affect nighttime sleeping. If your child reaches age two and still wants to nap more than once a day or feels sleepy throughout the day, he may not be getting enough sleep or could have an underlying medical condition.
SIGNS OF A PROBLEM
Toddlers and all children who do not get enough quality, restful sleep each night can have trouble fighting disease, fall behind in physical growth, have trouble learning, develop behavior problems and develop problems with weight over time. However, if you are doing all that you can to ensure your child gets a good night's sleep and they are still struggling, you may need to visit their pediatrician. Potential reasons for poor sleep could include:
- Night terrors
- Separation anxiety
- Food or airborne allergies
- Sleep apnea
- Urinary tract infections
- Discomfort, such as scratchy bedding or pajamas
- Enlarged tonsils and other breathing issues
- Typical childhood pains such as an earache, stomachache or sore throat