“You need a nap” is most parents’ default response when toddlers get cranky—and not without good reason. After all, we know our young children need their sleep, and the change in their mood and behavior before and after a nap is remarkable enough to demonstrate the benefits of sleep. 

How much sleep, though, does your toddler need each day? What are ways to help them get the rest they need?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, children who are one to two years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours during each 24-hour period. This includes nighttime sleep and daytime naps. As a child approaches the age of three, they’ll likely move from a crib to a bed and reduce their number of naps to just one a day. 

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But what if your toddler has problems sleeping?

When children don’t get enough sleep, the Sleep Foundation shares, this can cause problems. Besides having a negative impact on your child’s mood, it can lead to issues with:

  • Alertness
  • Attention
  • Resiliency
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Motor skill development

Inadequate sleep for young children has even been linked to future health problems, including:

  • Allergies
  • Immune system issues
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

To help, the Clinic says, stick to the same schedule each day, including bedtime and waking up times. Plan naptimes that aren’t too late in the day. About half an hour to an hour before bedtime, start your nighttime routines, which can include dimming lights, participating in calming activities (perhaps a relaxing bath for your toddler), and story time. Set limits on how long you’ll read and let your child choose favorite pajamas and a stuffed animal for bed.

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Keep the bedroom dark except for a night light, as needed, with a comfortable temperature. Beds should be for sleeping only, not for playing or watching television.

So, what should you do if the foundational suggestions offered by the Cleveland Clinic aren’t enough?

Horizon Education Centers offer child care for toddlers at its Lorain and Cuyahoga County locations in Cleveland, Ohio.

Toddlers and Sleep Problems

Young toddlers, WebMD notes, may struggle with sleep because they’re still teething. Or, if the problem is new, they may not feel well or may be worried about changes in their life: a new sibling, for example, or a different caregiver. So, consider what may be different.

If you don’t come up with anything (or this problem isn’t really new), one strategy can include delaying bedtime for 15 minutes or so. This change may be enough for the toddler to become sleepier. 

Sometimes, a toddler falls asleep well but then wakes up in the middle of the night. You can reassure your young child that everything is okay and perhaps sing a lullaby, and then leave the room. Parents (and experts, for that matter) can disagree on the issue of simply letting a toddler cry themselves back to sleep. This may be a topic to discuss with your pediatrician.

Still other times, toddlers may experience nightmares and not know how to explain them to you. If you suspect this could be the cause, talk to them about dreams and how your toddler can wake up and create a new, happy ending to what they were dreaming. One expert suggests that, if a child dreams of monsters, you can tell them to imagine how the monster was made from marshmallows.

Baby Sleep Site discusses another sleep-related issue with toddlers. Some wake up super early! This may indicate it’s time to cut back on the amount of time spent napping or it may mean that you’ll need drapes that block out the morning sun in your toddler’s bedroom. You can also consider getting a toddler clock, one that includes symbols or lights to let the youngster know when it’s time to get up and when it’s time to stay in bed for a while. 

Quality sleep is crucial for toddlers—and these suggestions should help. If not, talk to your pediatrician to get the issues solved.

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