What Are Typical Sleep Patterns For Toddlers?

ColleenRD, CD, CBS

Read time: 3 minutes

What should I know about how toddlers sleep?

  • What is a typical healthy sleep schedule for a toddler

  • When to transition your toddler from two to one daytime naps

  • Normal sleep behaviors for toddlers

You’ve made it past the constantly changing infant sleep phase, phew! What type of sleep changes are in store for you as your baby makes their way into toddlerhood?

One of the biggest changes is that your little one will slowly be sleeping more at night and less during the day. In fact, many toddlers slowly wean down to one nap. But as your toddler begins to assert their independence, getting your little one to sleep may sometimes seem more challenging.

Read on to learn about what sleep changes you can expect during the toddler years.

How much sleep does my toddler need?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports sleep recommendations made by the American Academy of= Sleep Medicine (AASM) that children 1 to 2 years old need about 11 to 14 hours of sleep per day (including naps).1,2Little ones ages 3 to 5 years old need approximately 10 to 13 hours per 24 hour period.3,4,5

A healthy sleep pattern is essential for optimal growth and development.6 Getting enough sleep can help your little one have better:

  • Behavior

  • Attention

  • Memory

  • Emotional regulation

  • Immune system health

  • Learning

  • Mental health

  • Physical health

  • Quality of life1,3,6,7,8

Even while our toddlers may be giving us a run for our money, making sure we maintain as regular a sleep schedule as possible will help them not only now but also in the future. In fact, healthy sleep habits are built during these formative years and can help your little one have good sleep health as they age.6

Read more: How to help your toddler sleep through the night

What is normal for toddler naps?

Each child has their own unique sleep needs that are often shaped by their culture, genetics, biology, and environment.9,10,11

Often by 18 months old, most (but not all) children have switched from two naps to one.10,12 You may find that your toddler’s first nap is getting longer while their second one may slowly fade away.

Both the timing as well as how long the nap lasts may impact nighttime sleep.13,14 Some studies have shown that napping too late in the day and napping for too long may cause your little one to sleep more poorly at night.13,14

Wondering if your toddler is getting enough sleep? Reach out to our team of registered dietitians and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday – Friday 8am - 6pm (ET), and Saturday – Sunday 8am - 2pm (ET). Chat Now!

Here is an example of a typical 18-month-old toddler sleep schedule:

  • Wake: Between 5:30 and 7 am

  • Daytime nap: Usually between 12:30 and 2:00 pm

  • Bedtime: Between 5:30 and 8:00 pm

  • Total sleep in 24 hours = 11 to 14 hours

Remember that every toddler is unique, and it’s absolutely okay if your little one falls into a different schedule! The goal is to keep the schedule as consistent as possible and for your toddler to be getting enough total sleep.

Learn more here: Transitioning to a new nap pattern

Read about: When should your child stop taking naps?

What are common sleep issues for toddlers?

While frustrating for parents, about 20-30% of toddlers struggle with falling asleep and staying asleep.9,11 Your little one may fight falling asleep, wake up at night, and even get out of bed.15,

Some causes of toddler sleep issues include:

  • Being overtired or stressed

  • Daycare or preschool schedule

  • Parenting practices

  • Nightmares or night terrors

  • Separation anxiety

  • Sleep regressions

  • Temperament

  • Sleep environment like room temperature, room sharing, noise level, and lighting

  • Exposure to blue lights from screens (cell phone, TV, tablets) too close to bedtime

  • Sleep walking or talking

  • Sleep conditions like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome15,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,

Other factors that regulate sleep in our bodies are circadian rhythm and homeostatic sleep pressure.10,24,25 Circadian rhythm is our natural sleep cycle that is regulated by dark and light.10,23,24,25 Homeostatic pressure is the sleep pressure that builds up the longer we are awake.10,24,25

Sleep challenges can also be a combination of several of the above factors.11

Learn more here: What are Sleep Regressions?

Tips to help your toddler sleep better at night and during nap times

Keep bedtime and nap time routine

Follow a quiet and calm bedtime and nap time routine and put your little one down to nap and bed at the same time every night.15,

Learn more here: Establishing a bedtime routine

Make your toddler’s sleep environment comfortable

Keep their sleeping space cool, quiet, and dark.20,23, Also make sure their sleep space is safe.

Read about: Setting up a Safe Sleep Environment

Have a plan for when your toddler gets out of bed

If your child gets out of bed:

  • Calmly walk them back to bed (this can take up to 20 times for a few days)

  • Praise them for staying in bed26

When you hear your toddler call for you, don’t go in their room every single time:

  • Wait to see if they will fall asleep on
    their own

  • Try gradually increasing the time before you respond

  • Reassure them you are nearby15,

Position yourself further from their bed each time you go in their room. Eventually you should be able to provide reassurance without being in the same room.15,

  • The more boring you are when your toddler wakes at night, the less exciting it will be for them to get up26

Call your little one’s health care provider if you are concerned

If you are worried that your little one isn’t getting enough sleep, call their pediatrician.

It may be helpful to keep a sleep log and include details like where your toddler sleeps, time they actually fall asleep, what helps them get back to sleep when they wake up at night, morning wake up time and number and length of daytime naps.16,26

One of the most important things is to try to be patient and calm. While it is natural for tired parents to feel frustrated, any attention, even negative attention may encourage this behavior.15,26

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Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET), and Saturday - Sunday 8am-2pm (ET). Chat Now!

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For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

How to manage your toddler's early morning wake-ups

Setting up a safe sleep environment

Sleep challenges: Traveling, seasonal and holidays

Sharing night-time feedings and duties