About Toddler Sleeping Patterns

Updated March 23, 2017

Sleep is a rare commodity for new parents, but as a child transitions from infancy to toddler-hood, his sleeping patterns should become more consistent. How much sleep is enough for your toddler? What can you do to help create the right toddler sleeping patterns? These are excellent questions that all parents of toddlers should address.

Time Frame

By the time they reach four months of age, most babies are taking two naps: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Toddlers usually have dropped the morning nap by about 18 months of age. At this time, most toddlers will sleep for 2 to 3 hours in the afternoon, and then close to 12 hours at night. The total amount of sleep that most toddlers need is around 14 hours. Every child is different, however, and these are just estimates about the amount of sleep a toddler will need. Some toddlers will drop their afternoon nap around the age of 3.


Good sleeping patterns are very important for toddlers, just as they are for adults and older children. Toddlers who are in a predictable sleep pattern will sleep better than those who are not in a good routine. Most toddlers are physically capable of sleeping through the night and putting themselves back to sleep when they do wake. Do not keep your toddler from taking a nap in order to help him sleep at night, as an overtired child has a difficult time falling asleep.


Establishing a good sleep pattern for a toddler can be challenging, because toddlers are very aware of the world and have realised that they might "miss out" on something while they are sleeping. Creating a bedtime routine that lasts about 15 to 30 minutes will help your child sleep better. However, toddlers are experts at stalling bedtime, so make sure that you keep the routine the same every night and work to avoid stalling tactics.


Young children exhibit very different signs of being over tired than adults. A toddler who is over tired will often get a sudden burst of energy and become easily excitable. In order to avoid your child becoming over tired, you must recognise signs of tiredness before they escalate. A child who is becoming drowsy will yawn, become clingy, rub her eyes, and become grumpy and whiny. This is the best time to start steering your child toward bed.


While toddlers can sleep through the night, there are times when they will awake and need to be comforted. These toddler years are when children become aware of their dreams, and they can be frightening. Teething and growing pains can also cause a child to wake during the night. If your child wakes up scared or sad, comfort him and help him go back to sleep, but do not ignore him thinking that he needs to learn to fall asleep on his own. These are times when a child needs Mommy or Daddy.


If a good bedtime routine is the key to helping your child sleep well, how can you establish one? Choose activities that your toddler enjoys and help him to relax. Many parents do a bath, book, and special song before bedtime. Let your child make some of the decisions about the routine, such as which book to read or which toy to sleep with, and keep the routine consistent. Veering from the routine will disrupt your child's world, making it difficult for him to fall asleep. Avoid rocking your child to sleep, but instead lay him in the bed while he is drowsy, but awake. This will teach him how to put himself to sleep, which will help him when he wakes during the night.

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About the Author

Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006, specializing in real estate, finance and travel. When she's not writing, she enjoys traveling and has visited several countries, including Israel, Spain, France and Guam. Harms received a Bachelor of Science in Education from Maranatha Baptist Bible College.