Toddler Sleep Routines

Toddlers and Sleep Routines

Establishing a sleep routine for your toddler doesn’t mean you have to rigidly keep the exact same bedtime every night, whether or not your child is tired.  But working in a level of consistency and predictability into their schedule will only benefit your child, as they function better when they have a sense of what to expect next.

And since your toddler can’t tell the time yet, their routine should not be governed by the clock.  It should be governed by a series of activities instead.  And since every family and household is unique, your toddler’s sleep routine should be equally unique.  One of the biggest advantages of establishing such a routine is that it not only helps your baby settle down and go to sleep when they’re in their own home, if you follow the same routine when you’re away to the extent that you can, there’s a good chance that your child will still be able to go to sleep when they normally would.

What Are the Normal Sleep Patterns for a Toddler?

A group of parents were asked to fill in a questionnaire so as to provide answers to this question.  Here’s a breakdown of the results:

  • Approximately 47 percent of parents that responded reported that at 14 months of age, their children were still waking up during the night. Approximately 53 percent said that their toddlers were sleeping through the night at this age.

Here are some more interesting facts with regards to the sleep patterns of toddlers:

  • By 17 months of age, we know that they feel more secure with a routine, and know what to expect to happen during the day. So it’s no surprise that several experts believe that by the time they reach this stage, it’s also important that they have a familiar bedtime routine, as this should translate into a better night sleep.
  • By the time they reach 24 months toddlers should be getting about 12 to 13 hours of sleep every day, and this includes their naps. However, even at this age, more than half of all toddlers are still waking up during the night.
  • At 30 months of age, 40 percent of all toddlers are taking about half an hour to fall asleep at night.

How to Establish a Sleep Routine for Your Child

As mentioned earlier, each household is different, so each sleep routine will be different as well.  But let’s provide a typical example here.  However, one thing to keep in mind before we proceed is that last bullet point above.  It takes about half of an hour for a significant amount of toddlers to fall asleep.  So factor that amount of time into your routine.

Example of a Sleep Routine

  • Bath Time — As an adult, I know that having a bath can be relaxing, and in a lot of cases it might help your child wind down at the end of the day as well. You can even aid relaxation by adding a few drops of essential oils like lavender, bergamot, or Jasmine to the bath water.  If you don’t give your child a complete bath every night, and perhaps alternate with a thorough wipe down, you can still establish this is part of your routine.
  • Brushing Their Teeth — I don’t think further clarification is necessary here.
  • Getting Into Their Pajamas — if your child hasn’t already figured out at this point what’s going on, helping them into their pajamas will communicate to them that bedtime is close. Let them take control of the situation to the point acceptable, perhaps choosing which pajamas.  They want to wear, and then dressing themselves if possible.  This little bit of independence and control is beneficial to them.
  • Read them a Story — By now, you have likely recognized the natural progression here, and your child will as well. Most children love to get a story read to them before bedtime, and working this into your bedtime routine or ritual is advantageous in a variety of ways.  Reading to or with your child teaches them a love of books as well as helps them to develop their language skills.  It’s also a marvelous opportunity for one on one time with your toddler.  And just like you let them choose what pajamas to wear, let them choose what they’d like to have read to them as well.
  • Hugs, Kisses, & Nightie Nite, Sleep Tight — Once the books are put away, a few moments of cuddles and hugs, and then its lights out and time to sleep.

Trying out a sleep routine with your child is well worth the effort.  Understand that it doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s been proven that with any of us, child or adult, it takes a minimum of three weeks for us to establish a routine, or something we do habitually.  So give yourself at least that amount of time to try out a unique sleep routine with your toddler.

It’s also worth pointing out that the sleep routine doesn’t come with a guarantee that your child will be asleep by a set time every night.  There are a lot of factors that can impede your child from going to sleep, both medical and emotional.  If you’ve gone through your established routine and your toddler is still wide awake and full of energy, try reading another story to them, or spending a little bit more time cuddling with them in the hopes that they will eventually fall asleep, and allow you to fall asleep as well.