Toddler Sleep Tips

7 Essential Tips for Getting Toddlers to Sleep Through the Night

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Toddlers are on the go all day!

From the moment they wake up, they’re ready to explore and play.

Many toddlers have a difficult time settling down for bed because they don’t want to miss a thing. Apply these tips for getting toddlers to sleep through the night.

Say goodbye to crying and resistance at bedtime and get your evenings back to yourself.

How Much Sleep Do Toddlers Need?

Adequate sleep is vital for adults and children alike. While we sleep, our cells are restoring, our brains are making new connections, and development occurs.

During the first two years of life, children’s brains are developing rapidly. They are learning how to talk, walk, play, and problem solve. Simultaneously, during the first two years, there is a tremendous amount of physical growth.

By 2 years old, toddlers reach about half of their adult height! All of this rapid growth requires adequate sleep.

Without enough sleep, our body releases more cortisol which is commonly known as the “stress hormone”. This can cause excessive weight gain, irritability, and lead to inattention and hyperactivity in children.

In order to prevent these symptoms, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following sleep guidelines:

  • 12-16 hours per day for babies 4 to 12 months.
  • 11- 14 hours per day for children 1-2 years old.

These totals include sleep during naps and at night time.

If this sounds like a lot more than your toddler is getting, it is time to make some adjustments to your day to try to encourage better sleep.

Apply these toddler sleep tips to improve your toddler’s sleep habits and help your toddler grow and develop!

Sleep Tips for Toddlers

  1. Consistency is Key
  2. Start and End Each Day at the Same Time
  3. Establish a Bedtime Routine
  4. Quiet Play 30 Minutes Prior to Bedtime Routine
  5. Nightlight and Sound Machine
  6. Security Blanket or Toy
  7. Reassurance
Toddler Sleep Tips

1. Consistency is Key

Once you decide to address your toddler’s sleeping habits, try to commit to it every day. If you decide that you want your toddler to sleep in their own room alone, do not let them sleep with you some nights and try to keep them alone other nights.

First of all, this will confuse them. Secondly, it will show them that if they protest loudly enough, they will get their way and be able to sleep with you again.

Always make sure that all of their basic needs are met, they are not ill or hurt, and ideally not teething when you decide to commit to implementing changes to their routine.

There is a whole spectrum of opinions on sleep for babies and toddlers. These range from holding them until they fall asleep, sleeping together, allowing them to cry for a few minutes, or leaving them on their own all night.

You must choose what feels right for you and your family. Just as no two babies are alike, there is not one “right way” to raise children. Adjust along the way, but make sure in the end everybody is well-rested including yourself as a parent!

2. Start and End Each Day at the Same time

When you stick to the same routine and same sleep method each night, your toddler will eventually pick up on the routine and sleep on their own.

Toddlers are creatures of habit and perform well with structure. Try to start and end each day at approximately the same time.

For example, if you have to be out of the house by 8:00 some days, but not until 9:00 other days, pick the earliest time you need to be awake.

Wake your toddler up around the same time every morning in order to keep their routine consistent.

An occasional late night is ok once your toddler is sleeping well, but try to remain on the same a schedule as much as possible.

You do not have to stick to a rigid schedule during the day, but try to at least start naps around the same time as well. If your toddler knows what to expect next, it will make the transition from play to bedtime much easier.

3. Establish a Bedtime Routine

A bedtime routine does not have to be an elaborate ordeal. However, try to create a routine that is anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes long. Once you create your routine, stick with it each night.

In our family, we alternate baths every other day. On bath nights, we begin our routine 15 minutes earlier to allow time for the bath. When she does not take a bath, we skip that and head straight to the next part of bedtime.

After bathing, our toddler always brushes her teeth and puts on her pajamas. Once we go into her room to get ready for bed, we turn on her Owl White Noise Machine.

This is the first cue for her brain that bedtime is coming soon.

Next, we apply lotion and perform a gentle massage with Badger Lavender Night Night Balm. The lavender balm has a calming scent and really sets the tone for bedtime.

After lotion and the gentle massage, we cuddle up and read some books. Our little one loves to read and would read for hours if we let her. In order to keep her on track and let her know how much time is left, we count down after each book.

Depending on how long the books are, we read anywhere from 3 to 5 books each night. After each book I let her know how many more we have left, “two more books”. Again, this helps her anticipate the upcoming bedtime and gives her an idea of how much time she has left.

After we finish our books, we head to the bed, lie down and say our prayer. If your family is not religious, you can use this time to reflect on the day or discuss the day ahead.

Our life differs each day in regards to who watches our little one. I like to let her know what to expect for the following day and tell her where she will be going.

Once we finish this, it’s time to get tucked in and lights out. We get the occasional asking for one more kiss or one more story, but overall, she knows it is bedtime and sticks to it.

We started this schedule from infancy and have stuck to it every day. This is the number one piece of advice I have for all new parents, start a bedtime routine as early as possible.

4. Quiet Play 30 Minutes Before Bed

If you have ever exercised or played a sport right before bed, you can probably easily relate to this tip. When you are on the go and running around, your adrenaline is increased, your heart is pumping, and you feel energized.

Imagine how great and alert you feel after a cardio workout. Now imagine someone telling you to go and lay down in the dark after exercising. You would most likely protest.

This is what toddlers experience when they go from running hard to bedtime without any transition in between.

To avoid this, try to plan some quiet activities in the 15 to 30 minutes leading up to bedtime. This is a good time to get out a coloring book and color together, read some books in a different room of the house (not their bedroom yet), or go for a walk in the stroller.

Try to limit active time in the minutes leading up to bedtime to aid in an easier transition to bed. Also, in the 30 minutes leading up to bedtime, you can diffuse some calming essential oils.

This will help set the tone for upcoming sleep and start calming your child before they even go to put their pajamas on.

We love Simply Earth’s Sleepy blend. This help us feel relaxed and unwind prior to bed each night.

5. Nightlight and White Noise Machine

Children as young as two years old may begin exhibiting fear of darkness. One way to try to prevent this fear is by setting up a nightlight in your child’s room.

When you turn off the light for bedtime, it will not be completely dark, but rather there will be a soft light.

Our favorite nightlight is also the white noise machine that we use. This owl nightlight sound machine projects stars onto the ceiling. Also, it’s stomach can glow as a nightlight and it plays different tunes or white noise.

White noise machines are essential for curious toddlers who don’t want to miss a thing. Unless you plan on going to bed at the same time as your toddler each night, if they hear you up and moving around, they will want to be awake as well.

Turn on the noise machine each night to provide a calming sound and tune out the noises of the house. Additionally, the familiar sound of the white noise will help lull them back to sleep during night time awakenings.

6. Security Blanket or Transitional Object

Around the age of 6-7 months and again after 2 years old, many babies and young children experience separation anxiety. They do not want to be away from their primary caregiver and may protest and cry when you try to leave them.

In order to help during this phase, offer a special toy or blanket.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children usually select a security blanket by the age of 12 months.

Security blankets are helpful in promoting independence and self-soothing. Additionally, the object that your child chooses will be helpful for sleeping as well.

Every night before you tuck your child in, show them that their favorite blanket or toy is with them. This helps them feel less alone and comforted when you leave the room.

7. Reassurance

If your child continue to protest each night when it’s bedtime, do not give up. Always let your child know that you will be there if they need you.

Our toddler knows that the monitor is in her room so we can keep an eye on her and make sure she is safe each night. She now helps turn it on so Mommy and Daddy can hear her if she needs her.

Provide reassurance to your young child that they will never be alone in the home, even if you are not in the room with them. Also, let them know if they truly need you, you are there.

Even if you do not plan on coming back the second they cry, just let them know you can hear them and you are watching. This reassurance can help nervous toddlers feel safer and relaxed in their own rooms.

Toddler Tips

The toddler years are full of growth and development as well as tantrums, teething, and testing limits. Try to stick to these tips and help your toddler sleep better each night.

If you are ever struggling though, please speak with your pediatrician. Sometimes difficulty sleeping can be related to other underlying issues.

For more toddler tips, you may enjoy these posts:

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Simple Hacks to Get Your Toddler to Sleep Without a Fight!
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Latest posts by Jordan F, MSN, FNP-BC (see all)

22 thoughts on “7 Essential Tips for Getting Toddlers to Sleep Through the Night”

  1. Sleeping seems like a foreign animal with toddlers. I have survived it four times and with each one different hacks worked. But, I swear I feel like I’ve been walking around like a zombie for at least 6 years now. These are great ideas. It feels good to know I am not alone in these struggles

    1. Mindful Mama Health

      You are certainly not alone in that! It is exhausting if the family isn’t sleeping! I’m hoping to help people function better and get the much needed sleep

  2. My favorite tip from this post is quiet playtime before bed. I have recently established quiet playtime at the beginning of our bedtime routine and it has helped my soon to be toddler sleep better.

  3. These tips are all very good and in theory, they work with every kid. However, we tried to implement them with our son when he was 2 and he would have none of it! He was too curious about the world around him and too stubborn to understand that bedtime was bedtime! It’s only now that he’s 3-1/2 that he’s pretty good with the routines and getting into bed. It still sometimes takes him a bit of time to get to sleep, but when he does, he sleeps well. And he’s back into having an hour and half nap during the day. All that sleep and he’s as tall as a 5 year old! Growing wayy to fast.

    1. Mindful Mama Health

      I’m glad he’s finally sleeping well! Unfortunately all kids are different and one trick doesn’t work for all. Sounds like he’s developing and growing well now!

  4. Lorena |

    These are some great tips for toddler sleep. Consistency, routine and following wake times is what helps our toddler get a full nights sleep.

    1. Mindful Mama Health

      Those are all great tips to follow! Sleep is so important for your toddler and for the whole family! Nobody wants to deal with an overtired toddler!

  5. I love this post, it was very detailed and thorough. I love the quiet play time, my husband likes to rile the boys up and it drives me nuts lol

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