How much does your toddler sleep? Is he getting all the sleep he needs? Toddlers need lots of downtime, and a chronic sleep deficit can bring on all kinds of health problems—and turn your happy, bouncy sunbeam into the crankiest of two legged creatures.
The amount of daytime sleep your toddler needs changes as she grows, and depends partly on your individual child. Every night, though, she should get at least eleven and a half hours of sleep. What that means is that if she goes to sleep at seven she can wake up at six thirty; but if she goes to sleep at nine you should keep the house quiet for her till at least eight thirty.
Daytime toddler sleep requirements:
18 months—2 hours
24 months—1 ½ hour
36 months—1 hour
During growth spurts your toddler will need a bit more sleep, so keep alert to signs of tiredness and make sure you give your toddler as much rest as she needs. These include general irritability and fussiness, falling asleep whenever she’s in her carseat in a moving car, or needing to be woken up in the morning.
In general you shouldn’t have to wake up your child in the morning. If she is consistently not up by the time you need her to be up, make her bedtime earlier.
Do you have trouble making your toddler sleep at all? If you are, you’re not alone. Many parents struggle with helping their toddler sleep at the proper times. Toddlers like to be always on the go—and it’s hard to fall asleep if you’re running about doing things!
There’s a lot you can do, though, to help your child get the sleep he needs. Here are some good places to start:
Schedules: Toddlers sleep much better if they sleep on schedule; at the same time each day. Even if you don’t plan your own day by the clock, it can help your toddler if you plan his that way. If you never realize it’s naptime till it’s way past, you can even put alarms on your phone to remind you when to
Wind-Down Routines: A consistent, peaceful wind-down routine can work wonders in getting stubborn little ones to sleep. Do the same things the same way every time, and your child’s body will get the message and he’ll start getting sleepy before you are halfway done. For some children, cleaning up the toys and lining up the stuffed animals nicely on the bed is a good way to get themselves ready for rest. Reading stories also makes for a nice wind-down routine – especially if you have sleepy story-books like Goodnight Moon.
A Quiet Sleep Place: Don’t expect your child to fall asleep—or stay asleep—in the middle of commotion unless he’s completely exhausted. Toddlers need quiet, peaceful places to sleep; away from the activity of the rest of the house. If your toddler has trouble sleeping and the house is not well sound proofed and just always noisy, get some white noise mp3s and play them near his bed, on repeat so they don’t turn themselves off. Peaceful music is also fine for toddler sleep, and also should be on repeat.
Special Space: If your child fights going to bed at all you may want to think of ways to make his bed special. Toddler beds come in all shapes and sizes these days; or you could go sheet shopping and let him choose a special sheet set. Keep his bed neat, clean, and inviting.
Warm Milk: Your toddler shouldn’t be using a bottle anymore, but a cup of hot milk just before bed or naptime makes for a very drowsy little one and some deep toddler sleep. Sprinkle a little cinnamon or nutmeg on the top for something very special. Chocolate milk is not a good idea, as the caffeine in it will have the opposite effect and make your child more sprightly than ever.
Try not to force your child into his bed for nap and bedtime. It’s much nicer to make bedtime and naptime a special time for both of you, and have your child excited when he hears the “n” word. And you can make it happen, with a bit of creativity and a bit of planning.