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PLAYING: Toddler sleep solutions

Toddler sleep solutions

Even with a well-established regular bedtime routine, there may be times when your toddler’s sleep is disrupted. Try these ideas to help deal with some of the common causes so you and your little one can enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep.

5 mins to read Dec 29, 2021

Help! My little one often drifts off in my arms when I read them a story at the end of our night-time routine. Before, I was able to transfer them to their crib and they’d go to sleep straight away. Now, when I try and put them down, they wake up fully and cry until I pick them up again. Is there anything I can do?
Try… Putting them to bed when you notice theyare getting tired, and before they fall asleep.  Settle them with their favourtie soft toy, and stay in the room to soothe them. Your toddler may be relying on being held while they fall asleep, and is having trouble falling asleep on their own. With you in the room, your toddler has the reassurance that you’re near, without needing to be held. Gradually shorten the amount of time you stay in the room. Keep checking on them if you need to. It might not work the first time, but keep trying to get into a regular routine and, over time, they’ll learn to fall asleep on their own.   

Help! It’s getting increasingly difficult to get my toddler to go to sleep when I tell them it’s time. What started out as a request for one more story has now progressed to about three more stories, a drink of water, and as many stuffed animals as they can fit in their crib! The list goes on. 
Try… Pre-empting some of their requests and working them into their regular bedtime routine to keep them happy. This behaviour is common, and a sign of your toddler becoming more independent. They’re developing a mind of their own, and learning how to test boundaries. Be sure to recognize what is happening and set limits on their demands. 

Help! After months of sleeping through the night, my toddler is suddenly waking up again. They are upset and cry out for me until I go into their room and pick them up. I really thought we’d gotten past this stage. How can I solve this, I’m exhausted? 
Try… Reassuring your little one that you are close by. One of the main causes of night waking is a change of routine, so think: has he been ill, have you recently travelled away from home, or are they in a new bedroom? If they’re in an unfamiliar environment, they might need some extra comforting. Try to resist the temptation of picking them up as they’ll then associate falling asleep with being in your arms and may struggle to do it on their own. If they’ve been ill, you’ll no doubt have given them more attention during the night than you usually would and they may have become used to this. Since their usual bedtime routine has been disrupted, gradually return to the pattern that was familiar for them.   

Help! My almost two-year-old still has two naps a day—I know I should probably reduce this to one, but I find those “bonus hours” when they’re asleep during the day really useful for getting chores done. Is this OK to continue? 
Try… Taking cues from them about napping. If they are still taking two naps and sleeping well at night, there is no need to make any changes. Some toddlers do cut down to just one nap a day at around 18 months, but there’s no right or wrong. 

Help! My toddler wakes up very early. They might think 5 am is a reasonable time to start the day but I'm not so sure! 
Try… Going into their room when they cry out to offer reassurance and check that they are alright.  They may be content to play with a toy for a little while, if they no longer seems sleepy. If you don’t already have them, consider installing blackout blinds, which may help your toddler sleep for longer, especially in the summer months when it’s lighter. Add up your toddler’s total amount of sleep in a day. If he is waking at 5am having had 11-14 hours’ total sleep in 24 hours, then he may just be an early riser. In this case, you may want to think about moving your bedtime earlier, if possible, to ensure you are fully rested. 

Help! I read that toddlers should be getting 11-14 hours of sleep a day. Mine definitely isn’t. Should I be worried?
Try… Following a regular bedtime sleep routine for your child, if you aren’t already. Remember that this 11-14 hours guideline is total sleep in 24 hours, so it includes daytime naps too. You might be surprised to find that they are getting more than you think when you add it all together. Setting a regular bedtime and getting ready for bed in the same way every night, will help your toddler learn what to expect. This could include having a bath, followed by massage, and getting into their pajamas. They could have a drink of water while you read them a story or sing a lullaby, and you could give them their favourie stuffed toy to keep them company. Finally, give them a big hug and a kiss goodnight. If your toddler has any special requests, you can work these into their routine too—as long as you try to do the same thing every night. 


  • Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, et al. National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health 2015; 1(1):40-43.

  • Kitsaras G, Goodwin M, Allan J et al. Bedtime routines child wellbeing & development. BMC Public Health 2018; 18 (1):386. doi: 10.1186/s12889-018-5290-3

  • Mindell JA, Williamson AA. Benefits of a bedtime routine in young children: Sleep, development, and beyond. Sleep Med Rev 2018; 40:93-108.


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