How to Get a Toddler to Sleep

Three Methods:Establishing a Bedtime RoutineFostering Good Sleep HabitsEncouraging a Nap

Toddlers need about 11 – 14 hours of sleep per day, which may be divided between nighttime sleep and daytime naps. Sleep problems can occur at any age, so some toddlers may have trouble falling asleep. Kids also become more independent as they grow, so it is common for toddlers to start resisting naps and bedtime. There are several things that you can do to get your toddler to sleep. Keep in mind that if sleep problems are severe or if they continue despite your efforts to encourage sleep, you should talk to your child’s pediatrician.

Method 1
Establishing a Bedtime Routine

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    Create a bedtime routine picture chart. A picture chart can help your toddler understand his bedtime routine. You can even involve your toddler in making the chart to help him feel more empowered about the process. The picture chart should include images of pre-bedtime activities along with corresponding times when these activities will be performed. The bedtime activities should take no longer than 30 minutes (not including a bath).[1] Some sample times and activities that you may want to use in the bedtime chart include:[2]
    • 7:30 enjoy a bedtime snack
    • 7:40 brush teeth, wash face, and put on pajamas
    • 7:50 read a story in bed
    • 8:00 turn off the lights and go to sleep
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    Encourage quiet play about an hour or two before bedtime. Although you do not need to start getting your child ready for bed an hour or two before bedtime, it is a good idea to encourage your toddler to do some calm activities. Allowing plenty of time to start winding down your toddler will help make the process less stressful for you as well.[3] Some good ways to help your toddler wind down include:
    • Coloring or drawing
    • Playing with a doll
    • Reading a book to your toddler
    • Talking to your toddler
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    Set the tone for bedtime. About a half hour before your toddler’s bedtime routine begins, start setting the tone for bedtime. By setting a soothing tone, you will make it easier for your toddler to start getting sleepy. Some ways to set the tone include:[4]
    • Dimming the lights in the house
    • Playing some soothing classical or jazz music
    • Talking in a low soft voice
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    Give your toddler a soothing bath. A bath before bed can help to soothe your toddler in preparation for a good night’s sleep. Try using a soothing nighttime bubble bath for kids, such as a lavender scented one. Some people use lavender to help with insomnia, so the scent might help to soothe your toddler and help her fall asleep.[5]
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    Turn off all screens. Screens such as tablets, computers, and TVs may make it harder for your toddler to fall asleep and stay asleep. This is because the blue light that these screens emit can affect circadian rhythms.[6] To help prevent sleep problems from screens, turn off all screens at least one hour before bedtime and make sure that your toddler knows that this is a rule.
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    Give your toddler a high-carbohydrate bedtime snack. A high-carbohydrate snack before bedtime can head off requests for food after your child has already gotten into bed. A high-carbohydrate bedtime snack may also help your toddler fall asleep and stay asleep. Some good bedtime snack choices include:[7]
    • A piece of whole wheat toast with jam
    • A piece of fruit
    • A couple of graham crackers
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    Maintain the same bedtime every night. It is important to encourage your toddler to go to bed at the same time every night, even on the weekend.[8] Make sure that your toddler knows when it is time for bed and do not give in to requests to stay up later.
    • Do not move up your toddler’s bedtime if he missed a nap or seems sleepy. Your toddler may end up waking up a few hours later and have trouble getting back to sleep for the night.[9]

Method 2
Fostering Good Sleep Habits

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    Provide a security blanket or toy. Some toddlers may become anxious or scared after you leave the bedroom, so providing a special security object may help. Some good security objects include:[10]
    • Blanket
    • Doll
    • Teddy bear
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    Stick to text-only books. A book with lots of pictures in it may get your toddler excited and this can make it harder for her to fall asleep. Try to stick to text-only books that you can read to your toddler at bedtime.
    • Encourage your toddler to listen to the story as you read.
    • Try to read in a soft voice to help soothe your toddler to sleep.
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    Create an environment that will encourage sleep. A sleep-friendly environment will make it easier for you to get your toddler to wind down for the evening. Keep your toddler’s bedroom dark and quiet so that he will not be disturbed by outside lights and noises.[11]
    • Temperature can also influence your toddler’s ability to fall asleep. Make sure that your toddler’s bedroom is cool, but not cold.[12] Provide your toddler with some nice warm blankets, but do not heat the bedroom too much. Try to keep it at about 68°F (20°C).[13]
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    Deny last minute requests. It is common for kids to try to extend the bedtime routine by asking for another story or snack or something. To avoid making this a habit, it is important to say no if your child asks for something extra right as you are leaving the room.
    • Try to incorporate all of your child’s needs into the routine so there will not be any reason for last minute requests.[14] For example, you might make a drink of water and a trip to the potty part of the bedtime routine.

Method 3
Encouraging a Nap

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    Schedule naps well before bedtime. Napping too close to bedtime may make it harder for your toddler to fall asleep at night.[15] If you toddler is still taking two naps per day, then schedule these naps in the morning and afternoon. Do not allow evening naps. If your toddler is only taking one nap per day, then try to schedule the nap for late morning or early afternoon.
    • Limit naps to 90 minutes. Naps that go longer than 90 minutes may cause your toddler to be cranky upon waking.[16]
    • Keep in mind that your toddler may outgrow naptime.[17]
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    Watch your toddler’s cues. Your toddler will show some clear signs when she needs to take a nap. Watch for things like blinking more than usual, zoning out, rubbing eyes, acting cranky, and yawning. If you notice that your toddler is acting like she is sleepy, then it is time to encourage her to take a nap.[18]
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    Maintain the same nap place for your toddler. Encouraging your toddler to nap in the same spot each day will help your toddler to associate that place with sleeping. This association should make it easier for your toddler to fall asleep and stay asleep during a nap.[19]
    • Try designating a special pillow and blanket for napping. Encourage your toddler to use these items to nap on the sofa or on top of the covers in his crib or bed.
    • Do not allow your toddler to nap in the stroller, car seat, or a bouncy seat. The stroller, car seats, and bouncy seats are not safe places for your toddler to nap due to the risks of strangulation and suffocation.


  • Don’t forget to give your toddler a hug and kiss goodnight. A little bit of affection before bedtime can help to reassure your toddler and may even make falling asleep easier.[20]


  • Talk to your child’s pediatrician if sleep problems continue. Kids can suffer from sleep troubles such as insomnia, nightmares, night terrors, and snoring, which may affect the way your child feels during the day.[21]

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Categories: Childhood Health