How Much Sleep Do Toddlers Need?
The first year of your child’s life is an exciting and tiring time. But you made it. You have recently celebrated your little one’s first birthday. Now, you have entered the toddler years, so you may be wondering, how much sleep do toddlers need?
From one year to four years of age, your child is undergoing significant cognitive, motor and emotional development and growth. It’s another exciting yet turbulent time. You might notice even more of a battle come bedtime. It’s relatively common. Let’s take a look at how much sleep toddlers need, if naps are needed and what to do if your toddler is not getting enough sleep.
The Importance of Sleep
At any age, sleep is undeniably important. During the toddler years, it leads to proper growth and development. As your child falls into a deep sleep, their body secretes the growth hormone. It’s no surprise why babies and toddlers spend about 50% of their time in deep sleep. They are busy growing. Proper sleep also protects the heart via decreased stress hormones throughout the body. This ensures that your children’s circulatory system stays in tip-top shape.
Interestingly, research also shows that proper sleep from a young age reduces one’s risk of obesity, improves immunity and sets a child up for success academically. During sleep, children produce major immune cells, cytokines, which help fight off foreign invaders. Not enough sleep leads to increased sickness and decreased cytokines. Studies also show increased attention span, memory and learning abilities in children who get enough sleep. With that in mind, how can you enhance your child’s sleep?
The Amount of Sleep Your Toddler Needs
The best thing you can do to improve your toddler’s sleep is to understand it and become familiar with the changes involved as they age.
The amount of sleep your toddler needs depends on their exact age. At one and two years old, a typical toddler requires 10 to 12 hours of sleep per 24 hours. By age four, your child may require 10 to 13 hours of sleep.
Before the age of two, your child may sleep at night, as well as require a short morning nap and a longer afternoon nap. The general rule is that a toddler should not sleep less than nine hours and no more than 16 hours within a 24-hour period. Around the age of three, your child may no longer need the morning nap. At this time and to many parents’ relief, they may also sleep longer through the night.
Encouraging Healthy Sleeping Patterns
Healthy sleep patterns keep your child in a routine. It helps avoid chaos and difficulty when it comes to getting your toddler to bed. The sections below outline healthy sleep patterns you and your family should follow, especially during those toddler years.
Allow Stuffed Animals or Blankets
If your child needs it, a blanket or stuffed animal may help them fall asleep faster and stay asleep. It comforts them when as they fall asleep and may help them avoid yelling out for mom and dad if they happen to wake up in the middle of the night.
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Stick to Your Bedtime Rules
If you have rules surrounding bedtime, stick to them. For example, a common rule right before bed is no TV one hour beforehand. Get in the habit of reading them a bedtime story or putting on an audiobook. These activities are much more relaxing and can help your child ease into bed and sleep.
Create a Regular Sleep Schedule
Routine is important at this age. It keeps your child on a set rhythm and gives you time to plan your days. Ideally, your child should wake up at the same time each day. This often falls between 6am and 7am. Experts suggest that if your child is up at this time, then their morning nap should fall around 9:30pm. Once your child has outgrown their morning nap time, start to use this time for quiet activities, such as reading or quiet play. This can help refresh your child so that they have energy for afternoon activities.
Plan to schedule your toddler’s afternoon nap after their lunchtime. Make sure this nap does not last longer than two hours or they may have difficulty falling asleep at night. Usually, an average toddler bedtime falls between 6pm and 8pm, which allows them to get the recommended 12 hours of sleep.
Have Them Nap in the Same Place They Sleep
As per any adult or child, a toddler should have a designated sleeping area. Naps should, ideally, take place in their bed or where they rest at night. This creates a better association between the place they sleep and actually falling asleep.
As they get closer to the age of four, they may require less and less of a nap. This often depends on how long your child is sleeping at night. Most often, around the age of four and five years, naps disappear from the sleep schedule altogether.
What to Do if Your Toddler Refuses to Sleep
You’ve tried numerous ways to get your toddler to lay down and sleep. You’re frustrated. Often, toddlers may stay awake to not miss out on other activities. They might just want to hang out with mom and dad. Or if friends are visiting, they may not want to miss out on seeing them. Typically, having a routine helps squash these problems.
Occasionally, these issues may arise from a fear of the dark. Allow a nightlight or a light to be left on. Don’t bother fighting with it. As they age, this fear may fade.
Other times it may be due to their current routine. If you do not include activities to help them wind down before bed, it will prove more difficult to get them to sleep. Again, try having a story time before bed or a relaxing activity. Further, ensure they are getting enough exercise and fresh air throughout their day. Napping during the day may also help avoid your toddler from becoming overly tired or cranky.
If you have tried all these things, consider booking an appointment with your doctor. Conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea or snoring, may create sleep issues. Allergies, asthma and other breathing issues could also create problems sleeping. Your doctor will narrow down the cause and help you and your child form a solution to your sleep problem.