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North West Regional Health

Toddlers and their sleep

Toddlers and Their Sleep – or lack thereof

You finally made it past that first year – through the multiple wake-up calls at night, the feedings and (hopefully) the ongoing crying. As your child reaches that one year mark, the may begin to transition from being up multiple times per night, to sleeping for longer and longer stretches of time. As children age, their sleep needs change, but it may not be as straight forward as it sounds.

As children age, they are able to take in more nutrients during the day, and sleep for longer periods at night. With this – and with their increased activity during the day – toddlers will need more sleep to allow their body to catch up from the activities of the day. During this time you may notice a shift in how many naps they take a day, and how long those naps last as well. Maybe they use to have 3 naps each day, and now they only have one. Or maybe they slept for 3 hours each afternoon, and it has whittled down to only an hour.

As you watch these changes, be mindful that change is good, but we as parents still want to ensure that our kiddos are getting the sleep they need each day to remain healthy and active.

A general guideline for children over the age of one is for roughly 11 hours of sleep at night, and 1-2 naps during the day. Some toddlers may reduce this down to one nap a day, but overall, children at this age need close to 13 hours of sleep per day.

Often times as toddlers begin to assert their independence, they will begin to refuse one or both of their naps. Although this may occur, toddlers will still need this much sleep. If they are not getting enough sleep, you may notice extra crankiness, falling asleep in the car, or on the floor, or falling asleep much earlier than their scheduled bedtime.

If this occurs, it is best to try to establish a bedtime routine and stick to it. Toddlers, although they may fight it, truly do need a lot of sleep to ensure that they can keep up with all of the growing and learning that they do every day. Starting simple, by announcing that it is time to brush teeth, maybe a bath, and the a story or a bedtime song are all things that can be used to establish a routine for bedtime. What is important is consistency and simple. Do not try to create an elaborate process, but one that is simple, quiet and can easy be adapted as they get older.

Toddlers are amazing and we all want what is best for them. As they begin to explore the world around them, ensuring that they have the energy to keep up with their curiosity is important. Making sure there are still naps and quiet time, and creating a bedtime routine that will set them up for a great morning filled with smiles.