How to put a two year old to sleep

How to put a two year old to sleep

As many people know, it is important to have a consistent bedtime for your baby or toddler. That, plus a good bedtime routine, is generally the first step in working towards sleeping through the night, and towards creating a predictable daily sleep and feeding schedule.

But what are the best bedtimes by age, exactly? A bedtime that’s too early may result in early-morning waking and short naps, but a too-late bedtime may make your baby overtired, which can lead to a whole host of sleep problems at night. Therefore, the best bedtimes by age depend on your unique baby’s sleep needs and development.

Not to worry, parents – as usual, we have the information you need! We’ve even organized it for you and everything – and we’ve made it printable! Stick this on your baby’s bedroom wall, put a copy in your diaper bag to reference when you’re traveling, hand it out to friends at your morning moms’ group – you get the idea! Scroll down to find out how you can get a printable PDF version of this chart.

Average Baby and Toddler Bedtimes By Age

Age Total Sleep Avg. Wake Time* Bedtime Notes
Newborn 15-18 hours Varies N/A Newborns need to eat frequently and will wake round the clock to feed, so a fixed bedtime is obsolete at this age. Watch your baby’s sleep cues closely, and put down for sleep at the first signs of tiredness.
1-4 Months 14-15 hours Varies for 1-2 month olds; 3-4 month olds average 1-2 hours between naps 8-11 p.m. User the later bedtime for younger babies. By 3 or 4 months, you can gradually shift to using the earlier bedtime, as your baby (hopefully!) starts to sleep for one longer stretch at night.
4-8 Months 14-15 hours Average wake time is 2-3 hours 6-7:30 p.m. Most babies are ready for a predictable schedule by about 6 months. Regular naps emerge at this time (4 naps at first, and then gradually moves to 3 naps). Use the earlier bedtime during the transition from 4 naps to 3, to ward off over tiredness.
8-10 Months 12-15 hours Average awake time is about 3 hours 6-7 p.m. Most babies are taking 2 naps at this age. This is also prime time for the 8/9/10 month sleep regression! Use the earlier betimes if the regression has your baby napping less or waking more at night, and becoming overtired.
10-15 Months 12-14 hours Average awake time is 3-4 hours 6-8 p.m. Stick with 2 naps, if possible; most babies aren’t ready to transition to one nap until 15-18 months. If your baby goes through the 12 month nap regression, use the earlier bedtime to make up for lost nap sleep.
15 Months-3 Years 12-14 hours Average awake time is about 5 hours 6-8 p.m. Your toddler will transition to needing just one afternoon nap by about 18 months. That nap should be about 2-2.5 hours in length. Use the earlier bedtime during the transition from 2 naps to 1, and during the 18 month and 2 year sleep regressions, to make up for any lost sleep. By 2 years of age, you should start using 7:00 as your earliest bedtime; the 6:00 bedtime is more appropriate for younger toddlers.
3-5 Years 11-13 hours Average awake time is about 12 hours, if toddler/preschooler is no longer napping 7-8:30 p.m. Most children give up the afternoon nap at this stage. Substitute an afternoon rest time in for the nap time. Try to time bedtime so that you allow for roughly 12 hours of night sleep, for children who are no longer napping. Use the later bedtime for children who are still transitioning away from the afternoon nap.

*Average Wake Time refers to the amount of time your baby or toddler is able to comfortably stay awake during the day, between naps.

Want to save and print this chart? CLICK HERE for a print-friendly PDF copy!

How to put a two year old to sleepWant FREE sleep help that you can put to use right away? Download a copy of our free guide, 5 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night! The guide is available to download instantly, which means you can start using the techniques in it as early as tonight. So download now, and learn why your baby is waking at night – and what you can do about it.

A better night’s sleep could be just a few clicks away. So don’t wait – download now, and start your journey to better sleep tonight!

How to put a two year old to sleep

As many people know, it is important to have a consistent bedtime for your baby or toddler. That, plus a good bedtime routine, is generally the first step in working towards sleeping through the night, and towards creating a predictable daily sleep and feeding schedule.

But what are the best bedtimes by age, exactly? A bedtime that’s too early may result in early-morning waking and short naps, but a too-late bedtime may make your baby overtired, which can lead to a whole host of sleep problems at night. Therefore, the best bedtimes by age depend on your unique baby’s sleep needs and development.

Not to worry, parents – as usual, we have the information you need! We’ve even organized it for you and everything – and we’ve made it printable! Stick this on your baby’s bedroom wall, put a copy in your diaper bag to reference when you’re traveling, hand it out to friends at your morning moms’ group – you get the idea! Scroll down to find out how you can get a printable PDF version of this chart.

Average Baby and Toddler Bedtimes By Age

Age Total Sleep Avg. Wake Time* Bedtime Notes
Newborn 15-18 hours Varies N/A Newborns need to eat frequently and will wake round the clock to feed, so a fixed bedtime is obsolete at this age. Watch your baby’s sleep cues closely, and put down for sleep at the first signs of tiredness.
1-4 Months 14-15 hours Varies for 1-2 month olds; 3-4 month olds average 1-2 hours between naps 8-11 p.m. User the later bedtime for younger babies. By 3 or 4 months, you can gradually shift to using the earlier bedtime, as your baby (hopefully!) starts to sleep for one longer stretch at night.
4-8 Months 14-15 hours Average wake time is 2-3 hours 6-7:30 p.m. Most babies are ready for a predictable schedule by about 6 months. Regular naps emerge at this time (4 naps at first, and then gradually moves to 3 naps). Use the earlier bedtime during the transition from 4 naps to 3, to ward off over tiredness.
8-10 Months 12-15 hours Average awake time is about 3 hours 6-7 p.m. Most babies are taking 2 naps at this age. This is also prime time for the 8/9/10 month sleep regression! Use the earlier betimes if the regression has your baby napping less or waking more at night, and becoming overtired.
10-15 Months 12-14 hours Average awake time is 3-4 hours 6-8 p.m. Stick with 2 naps, if possible; most babies aren’t ready to transition to one nap until 15-18 months. If your baby goes through the 12 month nap regression, use the earlier bedtime to make up for lost nap sleep.
15 Months-3 Years 12-14 hours Average awake time is about 5 hours 6-8 p.m. Your toddler will transition to needing just one afternoon nap by about 18 months. That nap should be about 2-2.5 hours in length. Use the earlier bedtime during the transition from 2 naps to 1, and during the 18 month and 2 year sleep regressions, to make up for any lost sleep. By 2 years of age, you should start using 7:00 as your earliest bedtime; the 6:00 bedtime is more appropriate for younger toddlers.
3-5 Years 11-13 hours Average awake time is about 12 hours, if toddler/preschooler is no longer napping 7-8:30 p.m. Most children give up the afternoon nap at this stage. Substitute an afternoon rest time in for the nap time. Try to time bedtime so that you allow for roughly 12 hours of night sleep, for children who are no longer napping. Use the later bedtime for children who are still transitioning away from the afternoon nap.

*Average Wake Time refers to the amount of time your baby or toddler is able to comfortably stay awake during the day, between naps.

Want to save and print this chart? CLICK HERE for a print-friendly PDF copy!

How to put a two year old to sleepWant FREE sleep help that you can put to use right away? Download a copy of our free guide, 5 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night! The guide is available to download instantly, which means you can start using the techniques in it as early as tonight. So download now, and learn why your baby is waking at night – and what you can do about it.

A better night’s sleep could be just a few clicks away. So don’t wait – download now, and start your journey to better sleep tonight!

I’m inquiring for my 2 ½ year old son. He has been sleeping about 16 hours a night and a long nap during the day as well. While most parents would be jumping for joy (and we are) I am starting to get a little concerned. I figure it’s just a growth spurt, but wanted to check with someone who has a medical degree! 😉 He hasn’t had a fever or anything; he just seems so sleepy.

Cause for concern or continue jumping for joy?? I appreciate your help!

According to Nelson’s Textbook of Pediatrics the average two year old sleeps 11 hours at night with a 2 hour nap. This is consistent with the typical Gordon two year old.

Your son is sleeping more than average. This may represent the higher end of the “bell curve”. Meaning more than average, but still normal. Unfortunately, normal sleep ranges are not readily available.

How long has he been sleeping more? If it is a couple weeks or less it could be a viral illness or a growth spurt. Grandmothers have talked about “growth spurts” for centuries. It was only recently that medical researchers confirmed that children to indeed grow in spurts.

Is he eating and acting well? Is he continuing to grow well? Are there any other symptoms? In my practice, I have diagnosed tired two year olds with both Mono (usually with a history of sore throat and fever) and with hypothyroidism (usually with constipation, weight gain and dry skin as well). While rare, your son may have a medical reason for his fatigue. If the fatigue has been present for more than a couple weeks or if their are other symptoms it is best to discuss it with his doctor.

Return to sleep information – sleep for children

1 year old sleeping too much

How to put a two year old to sleep

My daughter has just turned 1 and she sleeps 15-16 hours at night and anything up to a 4 hour nap during the day too! So she could sleep up to 20hours per day! (Average is 18) She has gained alot of weight, was( . more on 1 year old sleeping too much )

Screaming while Sleeping

My 6 month old son has started a screaming cry when he awakens from sleeping. It’s a different cry than I’ve heard before. more desperate than anything. We have begun feeding him solids (. more on Screaming while Sleeping)

Sleeping in Swing

Out of pure desperation for more sleep, I placed my 4 month old in the swing to sleep at night. He went from sleeping 2-3 hour stretches to 6 – 8 hours. It is 4 weeks later. With a few unsuccessful attempts to have him (. more on sleeping in swing)

6 month old waking at night

My son is turning 6 months in a few days. He is not sleeping through the night. Right now he sleeps from 7pm to about 7am. He has had a consistent bedtime routine since 3 months. Going to bed isn’t the issue, (. more on 6 month old waking at night)

Sleep problems in a 7 month old

We have a delightful 7 month old who is a terrible night time sleeper, much unlike his big brother. We do everything the experts suggest: plenty of day time stimulation, he is eating nutritious solids and (. more on Sleep problems in a 7 month old)

Waking in the middle of the night

Our 7 month old goes to bed around 7pm and sleeps pretty consistently until 2 or 3 am. She usually wakes up and I nurse her back to sleep. The rest of the night isn’t quite as predictable but most nights (. more on Waking in the middle of the night)

Rolling over and SIDS

Our son was down to only waking up once a night and now has reverted to waking up every 2 to 3 hours. Randomly, he was put down for a nap on his tummy and slept better than he had in two weeks. (. more on Rolling Over and SIDS)

A parent emailed me with this story, “Over the past week and a half, we have been having serious issues getting our 2-year-old to go to bed, both for naps and for nighttime. We go through her usual routine of brushing teeth, prayers and reading a story, then put her in her bed with her doll/blanket. As soon as we put her in her bed, she starts screaming, jumps up and runs for the door (we have a baby gate on it so we can keep the door open). We leave the room and she keeps screaming bloodcurdling screams wanting to go downstairs and snuggle with us. At a minimum this lasts for half an hour, usually an hour and a half to two hours. For naps we have given in sometimes and she doesn’t take a nap, and for night we take her downstairs until she conks out.”

I get this question all the time, but I’m a bit afraid to answer it. There is no right answer, no one way, no trick that works for every child. And someone somewhere will accuse you of being a bad parent, no matter how you handle your sleep-avoiding toddler.

How to put a two year old to sleep

There are many, many philosophies about what to do with 2-year-olds who don’t want to go to bed. I have 5 children under age 10, and I often work the night shift as a pediatric hospitalist. I’m tired. I think I’ve tried every toddler sleep philosophy out there. I’ve read mountains of pediatric sleep research. Here are my honest conclusions.

Sleep is a need, not a want. You need to do what works for you and your family, so that everyone gets a good rest.

Some parents, especially those who follow attachment parenting philosophies , say just let your toddler sleep with you until she wants to sleep alone. Personally, I need my kids to sleep in their own beds so that I can sleep. It’s especially hard to sleep with a toddler when I have an infant in a bedside co-sleeper . The toddler generally wakes up the infant and no one gets enough sleep. Yet I still have at least 1-2 children in bed with me each morning when I wake up. Usually they come down in the night and I just let them stay. It is rare that I let them start a night of sleep in my bed.

There are many methods to get toddlers to stay in bed, including variations on the Ferber method and the camping-out method. Although usually used for infants, you can use variations on these methods with toddlers, too. Read more on these methods of sleep training, and my response to the criticism that these methods may psychologically harm infants and toddlers here .

When teaching a toddler to stay in bed, I usually start with what I call the “100 walks” method. In this method you let the toddler come out of his or her room and then walk them back to bed a zillion times, as many times as it takes. When they get out of bed you don’t get angry or show emotion. Simply say, “It’s time for bed,” take their hand or pick them up, and walk them back to bed. After several nights of 30+ immediate trips back to bed, the toddlers get the point and quit. Many people combine this with a positive reward system, such as a sticker chart for every night that a child stays in bed. Another good reward is a special breakfast for kids who stayed in bed all night.

When I’m just too tired for the “100 walks” method, I use what I call the “open door reward” method. I tell my toddlers that if they stay in their bed they can have the door open. If they get out of bed I will have to close the door so they will stay in their room. If they play in their room (which is lit with a nightlight) I don’t do anything about it—they will fall asleep on the floor quickly. If they cry I go back in every few minutes and briefly say that I love them, and it’s time for bed, and that the door can stay open if they get back in bed. Then I close the door again (unless they get in bed). I stretch out the intervals of these reassuring check-ins, similar to the Ferber method mentioned above. After a few nights of this they generally stay in bed. This method allows the child to have some control over the situation, so it’s not just a battle of the wills.

Then there’s the Bedtime with the iPad method—or what I call my “Total Mom Fail.” It doesn’t work. (Sadly, I tried it). The blue light from the touch-screen inhibits melatonin release and can keep toddlers up for hours. Even if your child does fall asleep with a touch screen, you are establishing bad sleep habits that can last for life. Resist the temptation and keep touch screens out of your child’s bed.

I don’t recommend the cry-it-out method. I do feel it is just too stressful for toddlers and may interfere with attachment.

Pick a toddler sleep method for your family, and stick to it for a while. Don’t be afraid to make exceptions for unique circumstances. For example, I usually don’t lay down with children until they fall asleep (although they ask all the time). I have 5 children and it’s simply impossible to do this for multiple children each night. But there are times when I make exceptions. For example, if a child is overtired and very upset, it is often best to just lie beside them for less than 10 minutes, not talk, and let the child calm down and go to sleep. Overtired children often lack the self-control to calm themselves down for sleep, especially if they are off-schedule, missed a nap, or had an unusually hard day.

Occasionally, when a child is really off schedule, I use melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that our bodies make that triggers sleep. You can buy it over-the-counter at any drug store, but there is very little research on melatonin use in children, and the side effects can be significant . I think it is fine to use low-dose melatonin supplements for children on a short-term basis (1-5 days) to help re-program their body’s clock if they’ve gotten off their regular sleep schedule. I would only do this in consultation with your own pediatrician, and after trying these suggestions to get a child’s sleep schedule back on track.

I always make sure children know that they can come to us if they are sick or very scared, no matter what. (Nightmares and night terrors are a different issue, which my colleague has written about here .) Rarely, children can have medical conditions that impair sleep, such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy. Our sleep center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital can help you determine if your child is suffering from these conditions.

If your child is sick, gets off schedule, or goes through a life transition, you may have to go through a sleep-training period all-over again. You’ve done it before, you can do it again. Teaching kids to get to sleep is a life skill, something they will have to re-visit many times, even though teen and adult years. The benefits of a good night sleep are incredible! Kids who sleep well do better academically and socially, and are less likely to be obese or sick. ( Read more about the benefits of sleep for kids here .)

So you are thinking about room sharing kids under 2 years old. You may be the parent of multiples, or just need the space. Either way you’ve come to the right place! Let’s discuss how to best accomplish this task…

Photo Credit: Pixabay

1.Get a feel for your older child’s sleep temperament

When deciding how to tackle room sharing kids under 2 years old, knowing their sleep needs is key. Is your older kiddo a sensitive sleeper? Or can he sleep through fire engine lights and sirens going past his window? Get a feel for how easily your older child wakes, and especially how easily he falls back to sleep when woken up. This should give you an idea of when to have the younger baby sibling join in the same room.

If your older child is a light sleeper, it’s best to wait until he or she is sleeping as solidly through the night as possible. However, if the older sibling seems to sleep through just about anything, having a few-months-old infant in the room who is still waking through the night should be no big deal.

2. White Noise

White noise is this sleep consultant’s secret weapon! Even if your older child is not a sensitive sleeper, it’s an extremely wise idea to use very loud white noise in the room both children are sharing. This is a critical key in successfully room sharing kids under 2 years old! As this will serve to block out any cries, coughs, or other sounds from disturbing either child.

3. Put the older child to sleep first, if possible

This tip can really go either way. Usually whichever child seems to be the deeper sleeper should go to sleep first, followed by the lighter-sleeping sibling going down about 20-30 minutes later. This can be tricky in cases where infants are the ones that fall asleep earlier but are also light sleepers (this seems to be most often the case). In this scenario, the younger sibling can be put down first, but Mom and Dad should work very, very hard to try to teach the older sibling to go to sleep quietly instead of being loud and rambunctious and waking up their baby sibling.

4. Cribs

One of the most common mistakes parents make is transitioning their older child out of a crib too soon, in order to give it to a new sibling. I favor keeping children in cribs as long as it is safe to do so. Many kids can stay in cribs until they reach the age of four! Unless an older child is crawling out of the crib, it’s wise to keep crib-aged siblings sharing a room in individual cribs instead of having the older sibling able to get up and walk around, disrupting the sleep of their younger sibling.

5. Consider a room within a room

In some cases it might be a good idea to create a “room within a room” for the younger of the two babies. Ikea’s Dignitet curtain wire makes it possible to create a curtained off space anywhere walls and a ceiling are present. Curtaining off an infant’s crib (while leaving a video monitor and white noise within the curtains) can allow the older child more freedom to move around, read a book, or otherwise just co-exist more comfortably while sharing a room with a baby brother or sister.

Room sharing kids under 2 years old is possible!

With a little forethought and preparation, you can be successful in having your kids share a sleeping space together!

If you’d like more tips on setting up the perfect bedroom environment or getting your baby to sleep, sign up for my newsletter!

Putting a two-year-old to sleep at night doesn’t have to be a stressful time. It’s actually pretty easy once you’ve established a routine.

How to put a two-year-old to sleep:

  • Establish a daily routine: Have a specific time to wake up in the morning and a specific time to go to bed at night.
  • Be consistent: Consistency is key to success. Be consistent in sticking to a daily routine.
  • Outdoor time to release energy: Schedule some daily outdoor play time.
  • Don’t let them take a nap too close to bedtime: Don’t let naptime interfere with bedtime.
  • Limit food and any sugary intake before bed: No caffeinated or sugary food & drinks.
  • Set up a cozy sleeping area / environment: It should be a calming and relaxing area.

The tips below on how to put a two-year-old to sleep is intended to help create a more pleasant daily and nightly sleep routine for your toddler.

Bedtime should not be a stressful time. But a time of relaxation for both parent and child.

Establish A Daily Routine

I can’t even express it enough about how important it is to establish a daily routine!

It is extremely important to create a daily routine and stick with it because:

  • You set clear intentions for what you want to establish for the day.
  • It creates order and structure in the home.
  • Your child knows what to expect on a day-to-day basis.
  • It’s a way for your child to feel secure.
  • It helps establish trust between you and your child.

Establish a specific time your child wakes up in the morning and a specific time they go to bed at night.

You can do this by using a daily routine.

If you have a set time on when your child wakes up in the morning and a set time of when they go to bed, then putting your child to sleep at night won’t be that hard.

Establish a daily routine for your child and put that routine into place every single day as soon as they awake in the morning.

Having your child wake up at the same time every morning helps regulate their sleep pattern.

And it helps with having them fall asleep around the same time nightly.

Morning Routine Example:

Have a morning routine for them where after they wake up, they make their bed, brush their teeth and get ready for the day before they are even allowed to play with their toys.

Spend some time together in the morning after they have eaten breakfast and teach them age appropriate things.

Like their ABCs, numbers Etc.

Most importantly, try to get them to wake up at the same time every morning.

By sticking to a daily routine, this can be achieved.

Night Time Routine

I feel that the night time routine is super important.

And it should be a routine that is reasonable, enforceable, calm as well as relaxing.

For example, they should have dinner around the same time, shower time, bedtime story, etc, and then bed by a specific time.

In other words, stick to a specific bedtime.

Be Consistent

The more consistent you are with sticking to a daily routine the more easier it will be at night to put your two year old to sleep.

It’s like a constant cycle.

Like putting your child to bed at a certain time at night affects the time that they will wake up in the morning.

And the time that they wake up in the morning influences what time they may go to bed at night.

If they wake up late in the morning then it may be because they’re going to bed late at night.

And so it’s a cycle you have to break.

Be consistent and stick to a daily routine.

Outdoor Time To Release Energy

Incorporate some regular outdoor time each day for you and your child as a part of your regular daily routine.

It could be some time at the park or at the beach.

Or even water play outside!

Letting your child play outdoors is a great way to let them release any built-up energy.

How to put a two year old to sleep

You could take some bubbles to the park and blow some bubbles.

Or even bring a ball and have them kick the ball around.

Make it a regular routine to take your child outdoors for some amount of time each day.

That way they can release any built-up energy they may have.

And they’ll be able to fall asleep a lot easier when it comes to bedtime.

Don’t Let Them Take A Nap Too Close To Bedtime

Okay this one might be kind of tricky for new parents.

But try not to let your child take a nap too close to their bedtime.

Because if you do, they may have a difficult time going to bed at night.

However, every child is different.

But what I found to be helpful is that I don’t let my child’s nap time cut into seven hours before her bedtime.

In other words, I allow a 7-hour gap from the time that her nap ended to the time that she goes to bed.

Lets say, for example, her bedtime is at 8:30 pm, her nap time would be from 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm.

With that long of a gap, she still has a lot of time to release any energy she might have.

And not have that nap time interfere with her bedtime.

In short, try to prevent your child from taking a nap too close to their bedtime.

Limit Food And Any Sugary Intake Before Bed

Try to eat dinner at a regular time nightly.

And a light healthy snack to accommodate any hungry pains slightly before bed is reasonable.

But, be sure it’s not any sugary or caffeinated food or drinks.

Or else you may have a hard time putting your child to sleep.

Set Up A Cozy Sleeping Area / Environment

The sleeping environment should be just right.

It sould be a comfortable, calm and relaxing area.

Use a night-light if necessary.

And include one of your child’s favorite stuffed animals if they prefer to sleep with a stuffed animal.

Related Questions

What To Do If My Child Still Has Trouble Falling Asleep?

Make sure your child is getting enough exercise during the day.

Avoid screen time before bed and be sure your child has not consumed any sugary or caffeinated food or beverages before bed.

Have your child stick to a daily routine of going to bed at a specific time and waking up in the morning at a specific time.

Toddlers: Children 1-2 years of age should have 11-14 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period. This may be split up between nighttime sleeping and a nap or two during the daytime. It may take several weeks of experimenting before you discover what works best for your toddler.

Preschoolers: Sleep helps your kids grow strong and healthy during their preschool years (ages 3 to 5). Most children during this age need between 10 and 13 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period and usually one daytime nap. Older children may not need any naps at all.

How do sleep needs change during the toddler and preschool years?

Toddlers: By the end of the second year, naps typically decrease to once a day lasting up to three hours. Most toddlers move from cribs to beds between the ages of 2 and 3. Toddlers often do not look forward to bedtime. They do not want to be separated from the parent/guardian or miss out on any of the fun activities they feel might be going on. Common sleep problems at this age include bedtime resistance, night awakening(s) and difficulty returning to sleep. Other problems can include nighttime fears and nightmares.

Preschoolers: Napping begins to trail off, although most preschoolers can still benefit from taking a nap. The best way to do this is to establish a set routine time for napping or simply quiet or relaxing time in the child’s bedroom. Even if your child can't sleep, try to set aside some "quiet time" in the early afternoon for your child to relax. Around an hour a day is a sufficient amount of time. Sleep problems are common during these preschool years. These problems can include resisting going to sleep and waking frequently at night. Also common during the preschool years are nighttime fears, nightmares, sleepwalking and sleep terrors.

How can I help my toddler or preschooler sleep well?

You can do a number of things to establish an excellent bedtime routine to ensure that your toddler gets enough sleep. When setting up a bedtime routine, keep these things in mind:

  • Stick to the same set bed times and wake up times each day. Don't short change nap time either – make sure that it does not occur too late in the day or that it is too brief – either of these will result in lack of a good night's sleep.
  • Maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Turn off overhead lights and use dim table lamps starting 30-60 minutes before bedtime to minimize light exposure. Establish calm and enjoyable activities in the 30 minutes right before bedtime, such as taking a bath or reading bedtime stories to help your child wind down. It is helpful to set clear limits as to how many books you will read or songs you will sing. Allow your child to pick out which pajamas he or she wishes to wear and which stuffed animal to take to bed, etc. This choice of security object (stuffed animal or blanket) helps your child feel more relaxed at bedtime and all through the night.
  • Make sure the bedroom environment is quiet, cool, dark and comfortable for sleeping. A nightlight or area light on the very lowest dimmer setting is fine. Playing soft, soothing music or sound machine is fine. Remember to reserve the bed for sleeping only – it should not be used as a platform for playing. Television watching in the bedroom should not be allowed. Any other form of screen time (iPad, smart phones, etc.) should not be part of the bedroom environment. These can over-stimulate the child and make it harder for them to fall asleep.
  • Limit food and drink (especially any drinks containing caffeine) before bedtime. Remember, many clear beverages contain caffeine, so check the label. A light snack before bedtime is OK.
  • Tuck your child into bed in a sleepy but awake state, then leave the room. This will help your child learn to fall asleep on his or her own and help your child return to sleep independently if he or she wakes up in the middle of the night.
  • Preschoolers: If a preschooler has a bothersome night waking or nightmare, it is okay for him or her to call out or seek out Mom or Dad for comfort. However, once calmed down, Mom or Dad should return the child to his or her own bed. Surround the child with items of comfort, such as a favorite stuffed animal or soft blanket or other object that will allow the child to fall asleep again independently without the need to leave the bed and seek you out again.

Safety issues with toddlers

Toddlers are at an age where they are becoming increasingly aware and curious about their surroundings. Therefore, as the parents or guardians, you will need to be more cautious about your child's crib, what is placed in it and its surroundings. For instance:

  • Don’t leave extra-large stuffed toys in the crib or leave on the bumper pads – your toddler can use these objects as a step to climb over the crib rail.
  • Look for and remove objects with strings or ties that could accidentally end up wound around your child's neck, such as cords on blinds or curtains.
  • Look at any objects that might be too close to your child's crib and that your child might be able to reach from a standing position – such as wall hangings, curtains, window blinds and dresser doilies.
  • If you have such an active toddler, for safety reasons it might be time to move him or her from a crib to a toddler bed.
  • Consider anchoring large furniture to the walls to prevent them from falling over if your child tries to climb on them.

When should I seek a doctor's help regarding sleep issues with my toddler or preschooler?

Contact a doctor if:

  • Your child seems to have trouble breathing, snores or makes noise when breathing, or you have seen your child stop breathing while sleeping.
  • Your child has unusual nighttime behaviors, unexpected number of awakenings or has significant nighttime fears that you are concerned about.
  • Your feel your child's sleep problems are affecting daytime behavior.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/28/2020.

References

  • Sleep Foundation. Children and Sleep. (https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/children-and-sleep) Accessed 8/31/2020.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Healthy Sleep Habits: How Many Hours Does Your Child Need? (https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/sleep/Pages/Healthy-Sleep-Habits-How-Many-Hours-Does-Your-Child-Need.aspx) Accessed 8/31/2020.
  • Mindell JA, Williamson AA. Benefits of a bedtime routine in young children: Sleep, development, and beyond. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6587181/) Sleep Med Rev. 2018;40:93-108. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2017.10.007

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For their first few years of life, babies and toddlers spend approximately half of their day asleep (1). Choosing sleepwear that ensures they are comfortable and safe can be confusing. Learn what factors to consider when deciding how to dress your baby for sleep.

What Should a Newborn Wear to Sleep?

The American Association of Pediatricians recommends infants be dressed in no more than one additional layer (2) of clothing than an adult would wear to feel comfortable in the same environment. A diaper or underwear is not considered a layer.

In warm weather over 75 degrees (3), a single layer, such as a cotton onesie and diaper, is enough for a baby to sleep in. In temperatures under 75 degrees, additional layers are necessary. Breathable newborn baby pajamas made from materials such as cotton or muslin can be used along with a sleep sack.

Receiving blankets can be folded, wrapped, and tucked around the baby to create a swaddle (4). A swaddle keeps the arms close to the body but should remain roomy around the hips and legs, since too-tight swaddling can cause hip problems.

Pajamas or swaddles with snaps or two-way zippers are convenient for diaper changes after late night feedings. It’s important to make sure the fit allows for movement without excess material gathering around the face. Embellishments and fasteners that can come loose, such as buttons or pacifier clips, should not be used.

What Should an Infant Wear to Sleep?

Infants are more mobile than newborns and by 6 months often roll over both directions (5). Once they start attempting to roll — sometimes as early as 2 months old — swaddling should stop. While swaddling may help a newborn sleep on their back, should they roll over, the combination of swaddling and stomach sleeping increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (6).

Wearable blankets can be used in place of swaddles once a baby begins attempting to roll over. Wearable blankets are also called sleep sacks and sleep bags. They are unique in that they leave the baby’s arms free while still covering their torso and legs. Because sleep sacks are worn and not loose like blankets, there is little risk of the baby’s face becoming covered during sleep.

Wearable blankets come in a variety of materials, from jersey cotton to bamboo-derived viscose. They’re also available in a variety of shapes ranging from those with a bottom resembling a sleeping bag to those having foot holes that allow for walking. Take care to choose the best option for your baby’s current sleeping conditions and moving capabilities.

What Should a Toddler Wear to Sleep?

Many toddlers have an opinion on what they want to wear to bed, so having options that both parents and child are happy with is a good idea.

By law, children’s pajamas must comply with the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s ruling (7) that they either be snug-fitting or made from materials that pass specific flammability tests. Check tags for chemical fire-retardants as these may irritate skin. When possible, select tight-fitting pajamas that still allow a full range of motion.

Short or long two-piece pajamas or footed onesies are a good option to keep your toddler covered and comfortable through the night. Footed sleep sacks can still be used at this age as well. Although infants less than a year old shouldn’t use blankets or soft bedding because of the SIDS risk (8) they pose, blankets can be introduced to toddlers.

Can Babies and Toddlers Overheat?

Yes, babies and toddlers can overheat at night. Any time you add layers to your child’s sleepwear, make sure to check that they are not too hot. The AAP recommends head coverings not be used to help prevent overheating.

Materials such as cotton, muslin, and bamboo-derived viscose are breathable choices for sleepwear. A good test to see if your baby is too hot is to feel their neck or upper back, just under their pajamas or swaddle. If they feel hot, clammy or sweaty, they are too hot and a layer should be removed.