Toddlers require plenty of sleep to help them grow. Parents and caregivers may wonder how to establish a nap routine that allows their toddler to recharge during the day and still sleep well at night.
Creating the perfect nap schedule requires understanding how much sleep toddlers need, when they should stop napping, and the signs that a child needs more sleep. Applying this understanding to your toddler’s unique needs can make it easier to find a solution that works for you.
How Much Sleep Does a Toddler Need?
Experts recommend that 2-year-olds sleep for a total of 11 to 14 hours a day, including naps. Nap timing and duration can affect how easy it is for your child to fall asleep at night. Children who nap longer may need less sleep at night, whereas those who have no trouble sleeping through the night may be ready to take shorter naps.
The ideal length for a nap depends on your toddler’s sleep patterns. One study found that 18-month-old toddlers tend to nap for just under two hours a day. Naps in early infancy can be almost four hours long, but they gradually decrease in length. By the age of 2, naps are generally around one hour long.
Setting regular bedtimes that are appropriate for your child’s developmental stage is important to help prevent sleep problems from persisting through childhood.
How Many Naps a Day Do Toddlers Need?
Although every child is different, younger toddlers usually start with two naps and transition to one nap between the ages of 18 months and 2 years old. Napping is usually phased out between the ages of 3 and 5 years old.
Growing out of needing two naps to eventually needing none at all is often a natural process that happens on an individual child’s schedule. Longer naps tend to be compensated by shorter nighttime sleep. Similarly, napping too late in the day can push back bedtime. Consider your child’s sleep schedule and nighttime mood when deciding whether to forgo the second nap.
For many children, the cessation of daytime naps is due to external factors such as family schedule constraints or daycare policies. During the transition to no naps, children may resist bedtime, have problems falling asleep at night, or experience long periods of awake time after initially falling asleep.
How to Tell if Your Toddler Is Well Rested
In order for your toddler to be well rested, their naps and nighttime sleep should add up to at least 11 hours. Certain clues may indicate that your child needs more sleep:
- Acting fussy
- Daytime sleepiness
- Learning and memory problems
- Night terrors
- Difficulty regulating emotions
When Can Your Toddler Stop Napping?
Between the ages of 2 and 5 years old, most children gradually nap less and then stop napping entirely. However, individual children may stop napping on their own time due to a wide range of factors. If your child is restless or does not fall asleep during naptime, they may be ready to phase out naps.
Transitioning from napping to sleeping only at night is considered a cognitive milestone. However, some caregivers understandably worry that their toddler may not get enough sleep if they do not nap. As they transition away from napping, toddlers may need to start sleeping longer at night.
Nap Schedules for 1- and 2-Year-Olds
There is no single schedule that works for all toddlers. Nap schedules are also likely to change over time, with older toddlers napping for shorter periods. For younger toddlers between 12 and 18 months, the ideal schedule might include a morning nap at 11 a.m. and an afternoon nap at 3:30 p.m. On the other hand, 2-year-olds may only need a single nap in the early afternoon.
However you choose to structure your toddler’s sleep schedule, it is important to make sure they get at least 11 hours of sleep a day, including naps. Some families may also find it helpful to continue observing a period of quiet time in place of nap time.
Tips for a Well-Rested Toddler
Balancing your toddler’s nap schedule can feel overwhelming. Thankfully, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure your child gets the sleep they need.
- Schedule Naps Earlier in the Day: Napping too late can make it harder for your toddler to sleep at night.
- Stick to a Schedule: Like adults, toddlers respond well to having a consistent sleep schedule and going to bed at the same time every night.
- Create a Calming Routine: Bedtime routines involving calming activities such as reading your child a story or giving them a bath can help create a soothing atmosphere that prepares them for sleep.
- Limit Screen Time: Using electronic devices with bright screens in the evening may make it difficult for your child to fall asleep early.
- Say Goodnight When They Are Drowsy but Awake: Leaving the room before your child falls asleep has been shown to help children sleep longer overall.
- Adapt When Necessary: If your child is showing signs that they are not sleeping enough, or if you are having trouble getting them to bed at night, it might be time to adjust their routine.
Talk to your pediatrician if you have questions about your child’s nap routine. They can advise you on the best way to proceed for your family.
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