How Much Sleep Does My Toddler Need?

a toddler sleeping in bed

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Few topics consume a parent's attention more than getting their toddler to sleep and stay asleep. Parents often wonder: How much sleep does my toddler need? How much do "normal" toddlers sleep? What's the best way to help my toddler get the sleep they need?

If you ask around, you're likely to get wildly divergent answers, especially if you compare notes with other parents. You may also find yourself shocked by the disparity in sleep times—and what it takes to make sleep happen. Some toddlers are racking up 14 or more hours daily, while others scrape by on only 8 or 9 hours.

It can be disheartening to hear about the sleep champs who happily tuck in 14 plus hours of combined contented napping and nighttime slumber, especially if your child is a less robust or cooperative sleeper. Take heart that many parents struggle to get their little one enough sleep—and some kids may just be wired for less sleep or less solid sleep to begin with. Some kids also tend to fall asleep easier, while others seem to fight it. (But that doesn't mean you can't tinker around to try some gentle sleep pattern re-wiring.)

Toddler Sleep Requirements

By and large, nine hours or less of sleep for a toddler who just turned a year old is not enough. Here's why—along with some general sleep guidelines for kids ages 1 to 2. 

12 months: 13 to 15 hours

At a year old, 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, growth, and development—and stable moods. If you're still skeptical, consider that an earlier bedtime usually doesn't mean that your child will wake earlier; instead, kids will often sleep longer.

18 months: 12 to 14 hours

Around the time your toddler reaches 18 months, they may no longer need two naps a day. You might find that your child is harder to get down for that morning nap or that it's getting shorter and shorter. If so, try moving the nap 15 minutes later every day and then adjusting lunchtime to right before so that you're only doing 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 pm to 1:30 p.m. instead. That single nap will probably only be between one to two and a half hours, but lengths will vary quite a bit between toddlers. Nighttime sleep tends to still stay around 11 to 12 hours at this age, bringing the daily total to around 12 to 14 hours.

24 months: 11 to 13 hours

Once your toddler turns 2, their afternoon nap will shorten just slightly to about one to two hours and nighttime sleep will slim down to around 10 to 11 hours. As a result, most 2-year-olds will get around 12 and a half hours of sleep a day.

How to Know If Your Child's Sleep Schedule Is Sufficient

It's important to note that there are some children who will naturally do better on less sleep and there will also be those who will need a lot more to function at their best. The same is true of naps. Some children lose that morning nap earlier than others and do just fine, while other kids stick with two naps or scheduled rest times until well into their second or even third year. The key is to tailor your child's sleep routine to their specific sleep needs.

Pay attention to your child's behavior for hints that they're not getting enough sleep. In general, lack of sleep can result in the following "I need a nap" cues:

  • Excessive crankiness
  • A child who seems clumsier than usual
  • An easily frustrated toddler
  • Difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • Resistance to waking up in the morning
  • Less alertness than normal
  • Rubbing their eyes

If you see these signs, it's time to take action to realign your child's sleep schedule to address any sleep deficit and get optimal sleep time back on track.

A Word From Verywell

In general, a routinely overtired child may need a sleep overhaul as over time sleep deficits can impact a toddler's health and mood. Plus, as we all know, tired kids tend to have less energy and feel more irritable, which isn't fun for anyone, least of all the tired toddler. Instituting a new sleep schedule to boost dream-time can work wonders.

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