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Healthy Sleep Habits: How Much Sleep Should a Toddler Get?

By Henry Flores

Sleep is a fundamental building block in any child’s development. It allows time for a child to grow physically, emotionally, and cognitively. When a child doesn’t get adequate sleep, they tend to be more emotional and have a harder time concentrating on everyday activities. 

Sleep is crucial to helping your child recharge from activities and build connections that create cognitive development. Cognitive development helps your child to be able to think critically and form memories. Sleep can also affect your child’s ability to develop both emotionally and physically. 

Knowing how much sleep your child needs each day can help to ensure that they are growing and developing appropriately for their age. Different age groups require different amounts of sleep. In the case of toddlers, who are classified as being between the ages of 1 and 3, it is recommended that they get between 11 and 14 hours of sleep. 

While it is recommended that toddlers get 11-14 hours of sleep per day, many times they are only achieving 10 hours of sleep. This can be caused by several things but one contributing factor can be because their nap schedules change. As children get older their nap time naturally begins to decrease in length as well as in frequency. 

What does sleep look like for a toddler?

By the time your child is a toddler, they will most likely be taking only one-afternoon nap instead of the multiple that they would take as an infant. Naps are just as important at this stage in your child’s life as they were when your child was a newborn. Napping allows your child’s mind and body a break in the day to rest and replenish. The nap allows the body to complete one (sometimes two) sleep cycles, allowing memories and new skills learned that morning to download. It gives their body time to replenish and restore their energy for the rest of the day.  , 

When determining what nap time should look like for your child, it is best to look at their cues. Notice when your child seems to be getting overly emotional or overwhelmed by tasks, and begin to build a nap schedule around this time. Some days it will be easier for your child to wind down for sleep than on others. The sleep schedule for toddlers may look something like:

  • 6:00-7:00 AM: Your toddler wakes up ready for a new day
  • 11:30 or noon: An afternoon nap can help your child recharge from the morning, while still allowing for enough time to use up energy after the nap so that they will sleep at night. This nap will likely last between one to two hours. It is crucial to look at “awake windows” as well. Don’t let your child get overtired in the morning by keeping them up too long, and similarly make sure you don’t let them sleep too late in the afternoon, stealing from their nighttime sleep. 
  • 7:00-7:30PM: A bedtime around this time will allow for your child to be able to enjoy dinner with the family and then begin bedtime routine activities. An early bedtime helps your child get the proper amount of sleep at night so that they are ready to go the next day. 

Recent research has highlighted the importance of trying to keep your child on a sleep schedule.  

How can you help your toddler get enough sleep?

Many toddlers struggle to get the recommended amount of sleep because of their changing sleep needs and the business of their life. One of the first steps that you can take to help your child get the optimal amount of sleep is to establish a sleep routine and make sure their sleep environment is calming.

 Tips for improving sleep routines and sleep environments include:

  • Creating an environment that is restful: When it is time to sleep, introduce a calming environment. This helps your child wind down from the activities of the day. A restful environment should be peaceful, dark, and comfortable, with a minimal amount of distractions. Distractions can be items such as a TV or other devices, some sound machines, siblings, or household noises. 
  • Create a healthy sleep routine: Having a healthy sleep routine for children may include having a stable sleep schedule and a series of events that become habits. This series of events can include nack, bath, lotion, jammies, books, songs, and bed. This sense of routine will allow your child to know when it is time to start winding down and can help cut down on the amount of time that is spent trying to convince your child to sleep.

Creating a set routine will help you with bedtime battles, which we all know can be dreadful.  It is important that you stick to the sleep routine once you have established it. This will help your child get enough sleep and respect the routine that you have put in place, as well as set clear expectations for bedtimes. 

If you are struggling to set a clear bedtime routine or your child doesn’t seem to be getting enough sleep, then a sleep consultant can help you. Toddler sleep consultants can help your family find a schedule that works for you and help you stick with it through encouragement and help. A sleep consultant, or a sleep coach for a toddler, can also help your toddler if they are struggling with nightmares or with staying asleep. Pediatric sleep consultants are available to help your child receive the rest that they need in order to grow and learn.  

Sleepably offers sleep coaching for toddlers and babies in Denver, CO, across the United States, and internationally. We believe that everyone deserves a good night of sleep. Our experienced coaches will help you establish a schedule that will help not only your little one get enough sleep but will help you rest peacefully as well. We understand the importance of sleep and are dedicated to helping your family enjoy bedtime and become more well-rested. 

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