When a child is 18 months old, it’s advised they get 11.25 hours of nighttime and 2.25 hours of afternoon sleep. By age 2, nighttime sleep drops to 11 hours with 2 hours during the day. Over the next year, their sleep average will drop to 10. 5 hours of nighttime sleep and 1.5 hours of daytime sleep.
Developmental changes. Toddlers’ language skills are rapidly growing, but at this age they can understand more than they can say, which leads to frustrations, especially at bedtime. Toddlers test boundaries naturally, and bedtime can become an ideal testing ground. Stalling and climbing out of cribs are common bedtime fights with toddlers. Even if parents do everything right at bedtime, there will be phases where you put your child down and they pop right back up. It’s a good idea to keep your toddlers in a crib as long as possible and avoid transitioning into a “big-kid bed.” Children who move from the crib too early don’t necessarily have the developmental skills to understand bedtime rules yet.
Fears and anxieties. Parents can also expect a second wave of separation anxiety at around 18 months. A nice, long, predictable transition to bedtime can help associate bedtime with quality time spent with parents and dispel lingering anxieties around bedtime. Starting in this age group, toddlers may also begin experiencing nightmares or night terrors for the first time. Beginning potty training at this age can also complicate bedtime.
Sample Schedule. A predictable routine and bedtime rituals can always help your toddler feel more at ease during developmental transitions.
7-7:30 a.m.: Wake-up and breakfast
Noon-12:30 p.m.: Lunch
12:30 – 1 p.m.: Start afternoon nap
5 – 5:30 p.m.: Dinner
6 -6:30 p.m.: Start bath/bedtime routine
7 – 8 p.m.: Bedtime
This schedule applies to generally healthy children with no growth or developmental concerns. Sleep schedules are based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Remember, you should always consult with your child’s pediatrician.
- Kim West, LCSW-C. The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight.
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