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Toddler Sleep

Toddler Sleep

1 to 3 Years

How much sleep does my toddler need?

All children are different, so when it comes to sleep, some toddlers will sleep more and others less.

From 12 months to 3 years, your child will need to sleep around 12-13 hours each day over a 24 hour period. This includes one long overnight sleep and one or two day sleeps depending on their age and needs.

Some children at this age won't need a day sleep. If your child is happy and displays no tired signs, they may be able to get through the day without a day sleep. You could also give them a shorter nap or some quiet time. 

What are the tired signs for a toddler?

Watch your toddler for signs of tiredness as they can quickly become an  overtired toddler. Some signs they're getting tired include:

  • Clumsiness
  • Being easily frustrated
  • Not being able to concentrate
  • Irritable or restless
  • Glazed, dull eyes
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Yawning
  • Clinginess
  • Demands for constant attention
  • Sucking thumb or dummy
  • Searching for their comforter

You could respond to these tired signs is by reducing stimulation. For example, you could put their toys away, talk quietly, close the curtains and turn off the lights. 

Name the feeling of being tired and tell them this means it’s time to go to bed and have a sleep.

How to get a toddler to sleep

It's important to introduce a bedtime routine to help your child wind down. Toddlers need a comforting routine each evening that signals it’s the end of the day and time for their long night-time sleep. 

An example of a 1 year old sleep schedule

Here's an example of a bedtime sleep schedule for a toddler. This sleep schedule will be similar to a 2 or 3 year old sleep schedule. A familiar, calming bedtime routine will usually help your toddler fall asleep more easily. Everyone feels better if they have good sleep and babies and toddlers are no different. Toddlers who have enough sleep can enjoy their day more and are better regulated. Toddlers still need adults to help them manage emotions.
  • 1


  • 2

    Bathtime including cleaning teeth

  • 3

    Change into pyjamas

  • 4

    A quiet story and loving cuddles in bed

  • 5

    Tuck them in with a comfort toy or blanket (this can help with separation anxiety)

  • 6

    Kiss them goodnight. Always make sure the cot sides are up and securely in place.

  • 7

    Your baby may wake at night but first, give them an opportunity to go back to sleep with some reassurance from you that all is safe.

What to do when your toddler won't sleep

If your toddler is struggling to fall asleep or they're upset, pick them up and give them a cuddle. Check their nappy then try again to put them to bed. 

You may need to sit in their room while they fall asleep. You can gradually move away over a period of weeks until they have the confidence to fall asleep without you. This is called the Gradual Withdrawal technique.

Step 1. Sit close to the bed holding your toddler’s hand. Give them plenty of comforting touch.

Step 2. Sit close to the bed and use your voice for comfort. 

Step 3. Start to move the chair away from the bed. Keep using your voice for comfort.

Step 4. Sit quietly in the chair using your calming presence for comfort. 

Step 5. Move the chair to the doorway, continuing to use your comforting presence and voice.

Step 6. Move the chair outside the door. Have a part of your body in sight and use your voice to reassure. 

Step 7. Leave for short times, telling your child you are doing something and will come back. Always come back and praise your child for staying in bed. This will build trust. 

If your toddler has some separation anxiety, you may need to sleep in the same room to reassure them. This is called Parental Presence.

Other strategies if your toddler won't sleep

If your toddler won't sleep and is distressed and crying, here are some responsive settling techniques to help you. 

  • Talk gently and calmly to reassure them. You could play some calming music or quietly say 'it's time for sleep’ to encourage a state of calm.
  • Sit close to the bed and be a comforting presence.
  • Touch, stroke or gently pat them.
  • Allow your toddler to touch you or you could hold hands. 
  • Give them their dummy or a comforting toy to hold. 
  • Cuddle.
  • Offer a drink of water.

Pause between each step and assess their response. Do they need more comfort or are they ready to find a space to find a sleeping position?

Children find repetition soothing, so try each step for a little while before moving onto the next one. How long it takes to calm your child will decrease as your child learns to self settle.

Transitioning from cot to bed

Moving into a bed is an exciting step in your child’s life.
  • 1

    Start by explaining to your toddler that they're moving into a big kid bed. 

  • 2

    Make sure their comfort toy from their cot is in the bed so they feel more secure to climb in. 

  • 3

    Praise your toddler for lying quietly and staying in their bed. 

  • 4

    If they get out of bed, gently and firmly walk them back, tuck them in and say goodnight. You may have to do this many times!

My three year old is still not sleeping through the night

We know how difficult it is when your toddler isn't sleeping through the night. Not only does it affect your sleep and how you function during the day but it can impact the whole family.

When you hear your toddler cry out overnight, here are some things to try. 

  • Pause, listen and work out if your toddler is awake or just noisy in active sleep.
  • If your toddler is awake, do they need your help or are they just grizzling or fussing? 
  • If they're crying and need your help, start with a calming voice from your bed. Reassure her “Mummy’s here”, then set a limit. “It’s still night time. Back to sleep”
  • Walk slowly to their room, use your calming voice from the doorway. Continue repeating the same phrase in a quiet, gentle voice.
  • Walk closer to the bed, be a calming presence.
  • Use gentle touch to calm, offer a dummy and give a cuddle if needed.
  • If your toddler walks into your room, calmly and firmly return them to bed.
  • You may need to sit by the bed to calm them.


Checking in with your own emotions

It is so hard when your toddler isn't sleeping. Emotions influence your behaviour but when you're not getting enough sleep, it can be almost impossible to manage those feelings.

When you're feeling stressed, try to pause and take a few slow breaths. This will help you calm, then you'll find it easier to work out what your toddler needs.

Your toddler relies on you to feel safe enough to separate for sleep.

Toddler sleep FAQ's

All children are different so when they stop napping will depend on their sleep needs. Some children may stop napping as early as two years old. Other will still need a snooze after lunch even up until they start school. 

From 12 months to 3 years, children need between 12-13 hours per day over a 24 hour period. Usually this is one long overnight sleep and one to two naps during the day.

Anytime. It is recommended that sheets and blankets are tucked in, not over the head or face. Children should be placed with their feet at the end of the bed, to prevent suffocation or overheating. See the safe sleep recommendations

Toddlers do often kick blankets off so an alternative is a safe sleeping bag with armholes or sleeves and a fitted neck, no hood, in the right size which can keep your toddler comfortably warm at sleep time. 

You can get them for different seasons and check the warmth of the sleeping bag by the Thermal Overall Guide (TOG) rating.

Pillows are not recommended for children under the age of two in Australia. This can increase the risk of suffocation and should be introduced with caution. 

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