How Much Sleep Does My Toddler Need?

Child sleeping in bed
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A reader asks, "How much sleep does my toddler need? He just turned 1 and sometimes I feel like he's not getting enough because he's cranky almost all day long and I have a hard time putting him down some nights. I'd guess that he's probably only sleeping about 9 hours total and that's with naps."

The reader is right to be concerned. Nine hours of sleep for a toddler who just turned a year old is not enough. Here's why, and some general sleep guidelines for kids ages 1 to 2. 

Toddler Sleep Requirements

12 months: 13 to 15 hours

Right now, your child should be taking two naps a day with one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The morning nap is typically the shorter of the two, but together those naps should add up to about two to three hours of sleep. In addition, your child should be sleeping about 11 to 12 hours a night. In total, that's a range of 13 to 15 hours of sleep each day.

When you think about that stretch of sleep at night, it's a pretty long one. Think about what time your child naturally wakes up and count backward from there. If your child wakes up at 7 a.m., then your child should be going to bed around 7 or 8 p.m.

This may sound too early for you or me, but for your toddler, it's imperative for optimal health, stable moods and normal growth and development. If you're skeptical and think your child will never go for it, you should learn how an earlier bedtime does not mean your child will wake earlier but will sleep longer instead.

18 months: 12 to 14 hours

Around the time your toddler reaches 18 months, he won't need two naps a day anymore. You might find that he's harder to get down for that morning nap or that it's getting shorter and shorter. If so, try moving it 15 minutes later every day and adjusting lunchtime so that he's only having an afternoon nap. 

If your child was sleeping at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., for example, the new nap might end up falling around 12-1:30 p.m. instead. That single nap will probably only be between one to two hours and nighttime sleep will still be about 11 to 12 hours, bringing the daily total to around 12 to 14 hours.

24 months: 12-1/2 hours

Once your toddler turns 2, his afternoon nap will shorten just slightly to about 1 to 1-1/2 hours and nighttime sleep will slim down to 11 hours. Most 2-year-olds need just 12-1/2 hours of sleep a day.

Why Sleep Schedules May Differ

Of course, there are some children who will naturally do better on less sleep and those who will need a lot more to function properly. The same is true of naps. Some children lose that morning nap earlier than others and do just fine.

Pay attention to your child's behavior for signs that he's not getting enough sleep. In general, lack of sleep can make your child...

  • Excessively cranky
  • Clumsier than usual
  • Easily frustrated
  • Have a hard time getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • Resistant to getting up in the morning

And remember: An overtired child is not a happy child, and over time will not be a healthy child either.

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