Question: How Much Sleep Does My Toddler Need?
A parent asks:
"How much sleep does my toddler need? He just turned a year old 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."
Toddler Sleep Requirements at 12 Months
You're right to be concerned. Nine hours of sleep for a toddler who just turned a year old is not enough. 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 2-3 hours of sleep. In addition, your child should be sleeping about 11-12 hours a night. In total, that's a range of 13-15 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 backwards from there. If your child wakes up at 7:00 a.m., then your child should be going to bed around 7:00-8:00 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, learn how an earlier bedtime does not mean your child will wake earlier, but will sleep longer instead.
Toddler Sleep Requirements at 18 Months
Around the time your toddler reaches 18 months, he won't need two naps a day any more. 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 lunch time so that he's only having an afternoon nap. If your child was sleeping at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., for example, the new nap might end up falling around 12:30-1:30 instead. That single nap will probably only be between 1-2 hours and nighttime sleep will still be about 11-12 hours, bringing the daily total to around 12-14 hours.
Toddler Sleep Requirements at 2 Years
Once your toddler becomes a 2-year-old, 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.
Your Mileage May Vary
There are some children who will naturally do better on less sleep and of course there are those that 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. If your child is excessively cranky, seems clumsier than usual, is easily frustrated, has a very hard time getting to sleep or staying asleep, or has a hard time getting up in the morning, then chances are he could use some more sleep. An overtired child is not a happy child and over time, will not be a healthy child either.